Welcome to this posting. Today I am going to discuss one of my favorite topics, food! I love food, I love trying new food, and I love my comfort food also. After a bad day, nothing relaxes me more than cooking a new meal or seeing my family gobble down one of their favorites. That being said, I will be starting out with first foods and ending with some quick and easy recipes to keep handy and that are also kid friendly. So bring your forks, spoons, and knives, and probably a snack since this is going to be a long blog.
Birth to One Year:
There’s not a lot going on for around months 0-5 except for the designated formula or breast milk. By this point you are probably either ready for your little one to try foods or will soon be. The reason why I say 5 months is that both of my little ones started out ready to try solids around this time. And when I state solids, I mean really liquefied food. Most parents start out around six months as that seems to be the norm but my little ones were guzzling breast milk and formula like it was going out of style and didn’t seem to be satisfied. With my first I was concerned but luckily my pediatrician said to go ahead and start since she seemed to be continually hungry. With my second, I just knew the signs and luckily they were the same as my first.
Now I was at a juncture where I was somewhat inexperienced as to what to give my little ones for their first meals. With my first I wanted to go all natural and thus bought fresh bananas, apples, and pears. Here’s where I felt I was in my middle school science fair again, trying to experiment on how to make this concoction palatable for my little one to eat for her first foods. I had a NutriBullet and had thought this would be easy seeing as my husband and I had always made smoothies. Yeah, easier said than done. First batch of bananas was a disaster. Too many bananas makes a real paste of things. Second batch of bananas came out like banana water. So what did I do? I combined both my banana types and voila, it worked. Now my current problem was I had enough banana mush to feed an army. So, I put it in large plastic freezer containers thinking I could just chip out what I needed. Turns out that was not such a great idea also. When you have a hungry, crying baby and you are trying to chip away at the giant banana Popsicle in order to heat it up to just the right temperature for her to eat, it hits you that this might not have been the best idea. With my second child, we lost our Farmers Market so thus I had to buy from the general stores and needless to say they didn’t have a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits. With her I would still try and puree her foods but sometimes Gerber was my best friend. Especially on those days when I didn’t have the time to defrost. To make a long story short, here are a few tips and tricks I picked up via through personal experience or extensive Google searching that I hope can help you out.
1. If you are dealing with fruit or vegetables that you know have the ability to make a paste such as bananas and avocados, start out with a half and add water a little at a time until it is just right.
2. When dealing with watery fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers and watermelon, it’s going to turn into juice unless you find the just right setting on your blender, NutriBullet, Ninja, or whatever you are using to puree. My recommendation is after you have tried a little whole milk yogurt with your little one and there is no allergic or intolerant reactions, add a little bit to these types of fruits and vegetables as they will help provide some bulk and protein.
3. Making a big batch is awesome. The only problem is dividing it out. For a cheap solution I recommend going to your local dollar stores and buying up some ice cube trays to pour them into, if you don’t already have any. Just run a cube under warm water until it an pop out easily and heat in a bowl to the right temperature. Stir and test temperature after heating just to be safe. I know that you can most likely order some ice trays with lids online also. These make for a better storage solution as you can store them in deep freezers and don’t have to worry about freezer burn. Another alternative is ordering food trays for babies. Yeah they are a bit expensive but might be worth it. Especially if baby is in daycare or has a nanny.
4. What about meats? Yes, try and give your little one some protein even if it is watered down. If your a little bit icky about blending meats, I feel ya. I went out and bought Gerber meats in jars and would serve that to my little one. It was easier than pureeing chicken, turkey, and beef in my NutriBullet. I did try to blend meats a few times and ultimately I never found the right settings to get the meat pureed just right for my little one. But trial and error again. A nice tip to keep in mind with meats, no seasoning until they’ve graduated to mixed foods and broths. They’re also not ready for salt, pepper, or any other seasonings quite yet.
4. Can I start mixing foods right away? What should I mix first? When should I mix? What about mashed foods? I had all these questions also when my little one was ready to move on to more substance. The safe time for mixing or mashing, in my opinion, is when your baby has had a variety of foods with no reactions and also probably when you start seeing teeth. That’s usually around 9-10 months but it can be later or sooner depending on each child. When I mean mixing at this point I mean still pureed or very mashed foods except now you can probably get away with banana and strawberry, beef and potatoes with a little broth, mashed sweet potatoes, or any other combination you can think of. Start with two things you know your baby likes and get them use to mixed tastes. From there the world is their oyster!
5. Don’t forget that NO HONEY until one year of age due to botulism. That being said, I had a very sick little baby girl who couldn’t take meds yet and the only thing I could think of to help, besides the humidifier, Vicks, and steamy showers, was honey. I went to the store and saw that they had Agave honey. Now I do not know or did not see any ramifications regarding giving Agave honey to children under one but in our case with a daughter who was a giant snot ball, the Agave honey in some hot water, almost like a honey tea, really helped. Come to find out that a lot of those infant meds use Agave honey to help with congestion and cough, who knew?
I like to think that after a year, all bets are off. By this time their palate has developed enough to handle some spices, broths, honey, and any other things you might throw at them. The main thing is to be patient as all of this will take a lot of trial and error.
Toddlers and Preschool:
So your child either loves food, is a picky eater, or fluctuates from one week to the next. Welcome to the patience game. I think during these ages, you need patience for just about everything. From potty training to going to bed, from mac and cheese to pizza, it will all be different. For those lucky parents who’s kids eat whatever you serve, congratulations! For the most part, your child will probably defy you at meal times. There will be times you serve something that they will eat up one day and the next time you serve it they won’t even touch it. Or there will be times that they will never touch it because it is a certain color, it looks funny, it smells funny (to them), or they are just trying to be independent. If they miss a meal, it is OKAY! They will not starve and you shouldn’t have to serve (as they say) a Chinese menu for your kids to eat. I guarantee that if you withhold a meal because they will not eat it, the next time food comes around they will be more than happy to oblige by licking their plate clean.
Another issue I also had was how much food to give my growing kids. Thus why I broke down and bought small divider plates. They were worth every penny as it reminds me to serve fruits, veggies, protein, and all the other nutrients they need for three full meals a day. However, they do need snacks throughout the day. My oldest has a high metabolism so I usually have to give her 6 meals a day, 3 mini meals and 3 large meals. My youngest is not as active and thus she usually gets 2-3 snacks and 3 large meals a day. Snacks will vary with how hungry and active they are.
That being said, I LOVE squeeze pouches. They are great for on the go or when you are busy. You can buy snack squeeze pouches such as the ones from GoGo Squeeze which have a variety of pouches such as fruit and veggie mixes, applesauce and fruit mixes, and even yogurt mixes that you don’t have to refrigerate. If you are looking for all natural, BuyBuyBaby or other online stores sell reusable squeeze pouches as well where you can make your own creations to give and they ARE washable and reusable. They are very good quality and I do recommend them as well.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if your little one is still getting their teeth in, it is probably wise to cut things into small pieces until they start getting chewing down. I recommend that if you think that even at your adult age you could possibly choke on something, it’s probably worth cutting up for your little toddler or preschooler. If you see them chewing their food, try increasing the cut sizes and see if they can handle chewing that size. Just be patient. Before you know it you won’t have to cut up food anymore and you’ll be amazed that you can finally sit down to a hot meal.
All parents know the usual recipes that toddlers and preschoolers like such as mac and cheese, cheese pizza, hopefully chicken and rice, beans, mashed potatoes, and any other recipes of what I like to call, comfort food. Here are a few other suggestions to help try for those picky eaters.
1. Cream of Chicken over rice:
1 can cream of chicken soup
some leftover chicken or cook up some chicken with a little seasoning of choice and dice up small
(optional) can add veggies such as broccoli or any other to this, would recommend finely dicing to mix it in
cheese to garnish
combine cooked chicken and soup mixture (and veggies)
cook till soup is boiling, then simmer
pour soup mixture over rice
garnish with cheese of choice
serve with other veggies or fruit
2. Homemade Pizza
Mini pizza crusts
Toppings: mushrooms, olives, pepperoni, ham, turkey, bell peppers, mozzarella, cheddar
Top pizza crusts with pizza sauce
Top sauce with toppings (have kids help assist as they’ll most likely eat it if they decorate it themselves)
Top with cheese (again have kids help)
Bake for allotted amount
Serve with a side salad or use the leftover toppings to create a veggie tray for family
3. Cheesy Enchilada Casserole
1 can cream of (whatever) soup
(optional) shredded or diced chicken, beef, turkey, etc…
1 small can diced (mild) green chilies
1 can diced tomatoes
1/3 cup sour cream
lots of cheese
Mix diced chilies and tomatoes together, puree half and save other half to mix in
Mix cream of (whatever) soup, pureed chile sauce, and sour cream, meat (optional), and the other half of
the tomato/green chile mix together
In a square baking dish/pan pour a little of the sauce mixture, then coat with cheese, then add the corn
tortillas to cover bottom
Keep stacking with sauce, cheese, and tortillas until at the top
Cover with remaining sauce and lots of cheese
Serve with corn or veggies like bell peppers
4. Easy Pasta
1 can diced tomatoes
Mix cooked pasta, diced tomatoes, and a little Italian dressing
Top with cheese
Note: if want protein add a little bit of chicken
5. Easy Pasta Salad
Veggies: Bell Peppers, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Carrots, Olives, Pickles, or any other leftover veggies
Meats: Ham, Turkey, Pepperoni, or any other leftover meats
Dressing: Italian, Caesar, or homemade
Cheese: Parmesan, Mozzarella, or any leftover cheese
Combine pasta, meats, cheeses, dressing in a LARGE bowl
Chill and serve
If in doubt, steam veggies. You can steam just about any veggies. I like to add a little butter and maybe
some garlic salt and pepper or any seasoning your kids enjoy. Remember, they need the fat so it doesn’t
hurt to add a little butter.
If all else fails, make a smoothie to make sure they are getting enough fruits and veggies. I use my kids
favorite yogurt and fruits then I sneak in kale, spinach, or any other vegetable that blends well. Sometimes
I add a PediaSure if my kid is lacking in vitamins instead of mixing with whole milk. Nice part is you can
make this thick to also put into a reusable squeeze pouch.
School Years and Up:
The nice part about the above recipes is you can add more spices, seasonings, and even hotter options such as jalapenos and hot green chile to spice things up.
That being said here are a few other favorite recipes that the kiddos might like, or even adults:
Grands! Mini Chicken Pot Pies
Sloppy Joes Sandwich:
Nice thing about this is that you can add or take away whatever you might like.
Nice to pair with a salad and mashed potatoes.
1 box ziti – only use half
1 jar pasta sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
mozzarella or Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 325 or 350
Mix cooked ziti, pasta sauce, sour cream, and chicken together
Pour half mixture into square baking dish
Top with cheese
Pour other half
Top with lots of cheese
Note: for kid friendlier version, nix the chicken and use cheesy pasta sauce
Quick and Easy BBQ Meatloaf:
Again, great with salad and mashed potatoes.
Any fish is easy to make whether fried or baked. Just add some lemon and seasoning while cooking and instant meal. Serve with rice and veggies and this will be a great, wholesome meal.
If you have an Instant Pot, just throw in meat of choice, diced carrots, diced potatoes, diced onions and garlic or dehydrated onions and powdered garlic, seasoning, and broth of choice and instant stew.
If you shop at Target, a lot of their Market Pantry brands have additional recipes on the box that have really helped me out when I need last minute ideas.
The main thing I try to tell all parents is don’t be afraid to try new recipes that sound good for the whole family. If you try a new meal that the kiddos don’t like, the next night make something they will gobble down. I would span new meals every two to three days to make sure the children have a big dinner or two before possibly skipping one. Personally, when dealing with children, I believe anything with cheese will be a hit.
I hope all of this has helped to provide food for thought!
If you have any other suggestions please feel free to add them in the comments as I’m always looking for quick and easy meal ideas and new recipes to try. These are just a few but they are hopefully a good start.
Bon a Petite!