So you’re a mom or a dad and you’re like: “What can my kid eat and how?” The answer is not always found (or at least it doesn't have to be) on the grocery store aisle inside these cute little pouches:
These pouches are nice and convenient and of course they make a great addition to our baby food arsenal (especially when travelling) but in fact, the much easier, cheaper, and (for us) happier, way is found on literally every other aisle but that aisle. The one exception might be the aisle with Kim Kardashian magazines and shaving cream….but maybe even the boobs and abs aisle (as we affectionately call it) has a hidden gem on it….speaking of soft lumps (see above).
I ask my fellow mammas all the time about their adventures in food a la bebe and many buy only prepackaged foods for a couple of reasons (1) They didn’t know another way existed (2) They don’t believe they have time to do otherwise or (3) pre-packaged feels safer because something like, “I don’t know what my child can eat.”
Answer: You’re child, unless they have some food allergy or something, can eat most anything. By the way - I say that with such (annoying) authority, but really I’m not a dietician. I am a psychologist who has read some stuff and given my one year old anything and everything to eat and so this last little “truth” is decided upon by experience, not expertise. Buuuuutt, if they are younger than 9 months, when food introduction is a little more sequential and intentional, here is a great little baby foods chart.
There is this wild rumor flying around American mommy circles that babies and children need blandish foods like baby puffs and rice cereal. I hate this rumor and further, do you know that none-such rumor exists in France where kids are chowing on pate and stinky cheese in preschool? Look it up.
But anyway, Puffs – those magical inflated rice cakes that come in a plastic carton located somewhere near the above pictured pouch, is an outrageously priced nothing food that we are willing to buy because it is marketed to babies. But if you will step away from the foods with cute chubby hands and big bird pictured on them, your world will open up right before you (and your wallet will thank you).
>>This might be a good point for me to take an aside: there are all sorts of good things on the baby aisle. Some of the foods are really interested and so fortified they could compete with the national treasury. My point is not to shame you for using those foods - I will not contribute to the mass of literature written to shame hardworking mothers for being either too much or too little. My point is that you don't have to bound to that aisle. With a watchful eye and minimal creativity you can really branch out and have a wild, fun food adventure with you little one.<<
So back to the main issue. My take away point – behind all this conceited, expertish jibber jabber – is really simple. It is also driven by this wonderfully eye-opening experience that I have been having with my own child:
Don’t let the food industry and the super moms of this world combine to make you afraid. Trust your instincts and listen to your child. Give him or her great food experiences and enjoy the ride. You are teaching your child something that, if done well with freedom and fun, will give them joy for the rest of their life!
Here are some things that just stinkin’ work for us. They are our family’s go to snacks, meals, and general baby-pleasers. Most are happy and whole and uber-importantly: EASY.
Grab and Go – We like easy, grab and go snacks just as much as the next family. These that are pictured are great but there are plenty of which I don’t have pictures. So in general, I am usually scanning labels for things like whole grains and vegetables. I try and make sure they are low sodium and low sugar. If anything has animal product in it, I try and make sure it is organic and free of artificial growth hormone.
Fruit – When you’re at the store, grab some fruit, anything will do. We love grapes. I usually take a few minutes every night to cut and quarter her grapes to throw in a little Tupperware. If the apples and pears look good then take those and shred ‘em right on the tray. I give the core for her to teeth on as well.
Yogurt – We like Greek Yogurt. It’s a way to get her accustomed to tart and tangy tastes. Also – there are a TON of different flavor yogurts.
I actually need to do a few separate posts about this. Master the art of prepping during the nap so that during your baby’s evening snack, you can throw all those things you chopped, measured, and braised into the pot! Would you guys be interested in a weekly meal that you can do this way? I’ll get on that! I have tons of recipes that I have enjoyed making with a baby on my hip (something I would have told you was impossibly annoying a few months ago).
When it comes to meals, Daniel and I really don’t hold back. If something is very salty or spicy, we save that spice for last and pull a bit aside for Lois. Otherwise, she eats what we eat. In fact, I would say she eats better than us because of a few simple prepping techniques. In other words, when Daniel and I don’t have anything to eat, Lois almost always has something in the freezer.
Easy Meals for baby that can pack for lunch –
(Again, feed the baby what you eat but here are some last minute throw-togethers. You can keep the ingredients for these staples in your pantry)
Carnitas – Slow cooked pork with some yummy avocado and tomato? Yes please! We throw the meat in front of her, tear up an interesting corn or flour tortilla and let her stuff her face. When she eats all of one thing first, say the tortilla, wait before you give her more. Lois eats one thing at a time, complains a bit, and then adventures on to the next thing. That wait period is important. If she finishes most then she gets a bonus extra of something.
Mac-n-Cheese – We like Annie’s organic mac and cheese because they have interesting cheese flavors. I usually use half the powdered cheese, adding cheese of my choosing with a little extra milk. For Lois I’ll throw in a package of Tuna and half a cup of green peas. These stuff keeps well for a couple of days.
Breakfast – If you make a good batch of steel cut oats whenever you get the chance, they will keep for almost a week. Add any kind of fruit sauce or yogurt or straight fruits for a delish and well-rounded breakfast.
Cream of Broccoli soup – Add potatoes and cheese and cream and your baby will eat any vegetable, I think. Mine will. I’ll post a good recipe that you can make like a mommy.
Posole – I mean, chicken broth, Chicken, a can of tomatilla salsa (they say chop your own tomatillas, but why), and hominy? Too easy not to eat. Our favorite is Cooking Light’s version.
Salmon – the easiest of the meats to prepare. Cook it anyway but raw, baby. The easiest? EVOO, Lemon Pepper, Cavendars Greek Seasoning, under the broiler….Opa!
Quesadillas – And don’t you dare just put cheese in there. You can make Caprese quesadillas with fresh tom, basil, mozzarella, and balsamic. Cut into bits for the baby. BLT quesadilla anyone? Be creative.
Chili – keep a ton of beans, some meat, some canned tomatoes, and some paste in the cupboard (except the meat) and you can have chili in a few minutes. Add some noodles Cincinnati style and your baby will turn her face and your floor into a work of art.
SIDE DISHES –
Again, pretty much everything goes. Here are the items I keep stocked. In the case of baby, sometimes several sides make a meal. Am I right?
Canned black beans – Simmer with some cumin and a bay leaf.
Frozen veggies of all sorts and shapes – steam them with onion powder. Add garlic salt.
Sweet potato – Obviously. Next Sunday, peel a ton of sweet potatoes, boil them until fork tender. Cool. Cut in half. Individually wrap in cheap sammy bags (the kind that don’t zip), put in large freezer bag. Go to, Go to, Go to!
Uncle Bens prepared rice – messy, but you can get some awesome long grain and wild rice combinations that will make your baby say yum.
Fresh Veggies – Cut into bites, add some oil, lemon pepper, garlic salt. Bake at 350 until done. You can cook seriously any vegetable this way. So I just pick what looks nice at the store. You guys know about steam-in-a-bag things, right? This kind of feels like a momma no-brainer.
Broccoli – A word about broccoli. Lois does not like it. So I cook it at least twice a week every way that I can think of. She is getting used to the flavor and now will eat what is on her tray. The best is with melted, Italian cheese – like an asiago, parm, or pecorino.
Haricots Verts – Or as we know: Green beans with almonds. Grab a bag of fresh haricot verts and steam al dente – or a little longer for the baby if you please. Combine 1 T butter and 3 T sliced almonds in a large skiller over medium heat and cook about 3 minutes or until butter is slightly brown. Add beans to pan, toss to coat, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and pepper. Lois loves these because she likes to hold the bean like a carrot and eat it like she is a bunny.
You know – I am now getting the sense that this post is far too long.
Lets throw a “To be Coninuted” atcha…..