The following is a guest post by Stacie of One Hungry Mama. Welcome, Stacie!
Hi. I’m Stacie and I’m one hungry mama. I’m also a recipe developer and family food writer who comes via years as a child development expert in children’s television and, more recently, an organic baby food entrepreneur.
It’s a long story.
Though I’ll spare you the details, let’s just say that the winding road that led me here was lined with a ton of writing, hands-on parenting and more research than you can imagine. Also, it was traveled with other child development experts, nutritionists, pediatricians and even a nutritional anthropologist.
Though I’m still on the move (and expect more twists and turns), I’ve learned one of the best ways to help your children develop healthy eating habits: Forget dumbed-down “kids” food and share healthy, delicious “grown-up” meals with your children.
It’s that easy. No, wait. It’s not always easy. Far from it. But it is that simple. And important.
Food and Children’s Development
We parents know that everyday activities shape our children’s development. That’s why we carefully consider their toys, classes and media exposure. All too often, the demands of everyday life keep us from giving the same kind of attention to mealtime. But just like playtime, reading time, TV time and quiet time, mealtime offers constant opportunities to support our children’s physical, social and emotional development.
Growing up healthily depends on developing a hunger for foods that can sustain a healthy body, introduce us to new cultures and bring us closer to nature as well as each other. And simple acts like sharing meals, trying new foods together and collaborative cooking promote healthy development, whether physical (hand-mouth coordination!), social (manners!) or emotional (demonstrating independence!).
When we treat our children’s food as a separate entity from our own, we miss the chance to make good on these opportunities.
Tips for Easy Sharing
It sounds heavy, but it’s not. Just like choosing good books, classes or toys, it takes some time to figure out what you’re looking for. Once you do, it becomes second nature. Oh, and have I mentioned how much time you’ll save not making separate meals?
Here are some tips to help get you started on feeding baby while feeding yourself:
1. Stay the Course
When I said it wasn’t easy, I really meant that it can feel downright impossible. The ugly truth is that it’s easier to serve up kid faves like hot dogs night after night than to work on a delicious, healthy meal and have your child refuse it. But that’s what I’m asking you to do, because it will pay off in the long run.
And, in the short? Well, comfort yourself with the knowledge that your child is absolutely not at risk for starvation. Kids will eat when they are hungry.
2. Plan Ahead
Nothing will make you want to grab a box of mac-n-cheese like realizing it’s 5:30 pm and you have no idea what to make for dinner. A little planning goes a long way. If you can, make a menu plan on the weekend for the week ahead. If that’s not possible, set 5 minutes in your day to plan for dinner.
It’s too hard to make smart decisions when you’re rushing. Knowing what you’re going to make—even if you only have 20 minutes to make it—is half the battle.
3. Keep It Simple
The idea is to expose your child to fresh, dynamic flavors, not necessarily haute cuisine. Stick with whole, natural and (ideally) seasonal ingredients, and develop a small repertoire of tricks.
- Roast veggies instead of boiling them.
- Finish with citrus zest or shaved Parmesan.
- Get to know your spice rack.
These are a few fast, easy ways to bring out big flavor without compromising health.
4. Cook with Baby- and Kid-Friendly Ingredients
Research conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates a lack of convincing evidence that delaying high allergen foods beyond 4 to 6 months helps prevent allergies. If your child has no personal or family history of food allergies, you can consider a wide variety of foods—even whole eggs, fish and nuts—from the get-go. (Always speak to your pediatrician about what’s best for your child.)
Once you determine which foods your child can eat, plan meals around those ingredients. Think about it the same way you would cooking from a CSA box. Kids can either share in the final meal or, if you’d rather, set aside kid portions of appropriate ingredients as you cook.
5. Stock your Freezer and Pantry
This brings us full circle. Having a well-stocked pantry and freezer helps ensure that you can stay the course and plan ahead.
Pick two Sundays a month for big batch cooking. Chilis, stews, soups and hand-held pies (that can be made with pizza dough) are just a few kid and grown-up friendly meals that freeze well.
And your pantry? Always have fresh dried spices, eggs, cheese, frozen veg and fruit, canned beans, pasta, rice, broth and packaged (or jarred!) tomatoes. Here are suggestions for three meals to keep in your pantry.
Share your favorite grownup meals that your kids love, too. And visit One Hungry Mama for family recipes that can be shared with eaters 6+ months. Or start with one of my favorites, Beet and Quick-Pickled Raisin Salad.
Photo by One Hungry Mama
If you roast the beets and make the quick-pickled raisins ahead of time, this salad comes together in 5 minutes. It’s a great meal on its own for kids under 12 months. Pair with simply prepared fish, chicken or pasta for the rest of the family.
Beet & Quick-Pickled Golden Raisin Salad
(can be adapted for kids 6+ mos)*Photo by One Hungry Mama
- 10 large beets, roasted & cut into 1/4’s or 1/8’s depending on how large they are
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar (or, if you can get some, Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Vinegar)
- 2/3 c slivered almonds, lightly toasted until golden brown
- 1/2 c quick-pickled raisins
- about 4 Tbsp crème fraiche, you can substitute plain whole milk yogurt
- dill, for garnish
- Toss beets with oil, vinegar, almonds, raisins and salt to taste.
- Whip crème fraiche until soft and spoon into the center of a serving platter (or small amounts into the center of individual plates). Spread into a tidy circle using the back of your spoon.
- Neatly plate salad on top, showing an edge of crème fraiche. Garnish with dill.
*Note: Skip ingredients that your child does not yet eat in their portion (e.g., plate their salad before you add almonds if they do not yet eat nuts). Pulse baby portions (my baby ate dressed beets and pureed with yogurt, a few raisins, almonds and dill at 8 months) and cut older kid portions into age appropriate sized bites.
What’s your favorite thing to feed baby and yourself? Any tips to share?