Today is a dedicated rest day. I am making baby food and reflecting on nutrition from an early age. My (almost) 7 year old daughter eats tons of raw vegetables, fruit, and whole foods almost entirely. I really believe that it is mostly because of my approach to her food plan from the very start.
My disclaimer to this article is that of course I understand every situation is unique. Furthermore, I am not a nutritionist. Aside from basic whole food coaching, nutritional advice is outside the scope of my professional practice. I can only share my own experience and what has worked very well. Please regard this post as one of an amateur.
My daughter Jennifer eats raw vegetables and fruits by the pile. Mealtimes are easy- a main course such as perogies, a bunless (her preference) hot dog or veggie wiener, pasta with Parmesan cheese, chick pea salad, alongside a heaping pile of raw vegetables- baby carrots, sliced bell peppers, snap & snow peas, green & wax beans, cherry tomatoes, steamed broccoli & asparagus, etc. Food-on-the-go is as easy as chopped veggies in a ziploc on ice. When Jenny was a baby we started solids early, at about 4.5 months. She was showing a lot of interest and as a new mom I just followed her lead and my intuition. The idea of rice cereal struck me as very processed, nutritionally weak, then fortified. I decided to start with vegetables and fruit so I bought a couple of jars of solids. I tasted them before attempting to feed them to her and was surprised at how little they tasted like the actual food; so.... I started making my own.
Homemade baby food is easy. It's simple and wholesome. It is not mass prepared in a factory and packaged for long term storage. It is fresh, often seasonal, and the perfect precedent to the foods your baby will be eating. I fully believe that this is all important in laying a foundation for healthy appetites and wholesome palettes.
By shaping a child's palette with flavor you ultimately define the colors of a wholesome diet. A child who is not accustomed to sodium will be naturally adverse very salty foods. My daughter has likely never had an entire can of soda, nor does she like it. Why? Because we don't drink it, it isn't in her environment and when she is faced with the choice in an outside situation she generally opts for something familiar to her, such as a glass of apple juice or milk. But I digress into proactive parenting and leading by the ultimate example, and the fact that our kids eat what we give them, quite simply. Back to whole food.....
I can't imagine children don't love raw vegetables! They are crunchy, juicy and sweet- the perfect finger foods for little hands. They are clean and easy to eat. RAW vegetables. Too often children are presented with overcooked, sauced and prepared vegetables that are wet and runny and mushy. Rejecting this they develop a notion that it is the vegetables they dislike, when it may often be the preparation.
A good friend once asked me how in the world I got Jenny to eat so many vegetables. I told her I just offer them at every meal. She started simply offering vegetables to her 3 kids at every meal. At first they were left uneaten, but day after day, week after week, the vegetables starting disappearing.
In addition, we MUST set an example for our children by modeling healthy eating habits. When I was pregnant I bought a couple of bags of potato chips and it was amazing how quickly Jenny wanted chips every time we went to the store. Wow. I nipped that it the butt pretty quickly, you can be certain. Children WILL mimic our healthy choices. Snack on dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, crackers, popcorn. Having said that, Jenny's meals are not the same as ours. She won't eat runny wet food like the chana masalas we love, she won't touch any of my soups or recipes. Her meals are so simple to put together though, especially when I am prepared, that it is not a huge inconvenience to prepare her a separate plate at mealtime.
I started Seth on baby food at about 5.5 months. I had intended to breastfeed exclusively until 6 months, but at 5 months Seth was drinking 2 bottles of expressed milk on top of his daily nursing, and showing a lot of interest in our food. Again I followed his lead and my intuition. Beginning with vegetables and fruits, I have added small portions of rice cereal and oatmeal. There are plenty of excellent websites and blogs on homemade baby food. One of my favorites, Wholesome Homemade Baby Food, occupies a permanent spot in my list of Affiliates. I resource information online from great sites like this- I am NO expert. I am just a Mom making her baby's food at home. This is what his breakfast looked like today: Pear Puree, Blueberry Puree with Rice Cereal, Banana with Raspberry Puree
Again, I am no professional and I do things my own way, at my own risk. For example, I do not use sterilized water in my baby food, but rather filtered tap water. I use basic kitchen appliances, although I do boil all of my food storage containers before use (95% of the time).
I steam vegetables to a soft consistency, then blend them into a thick puree, adding water from the pot to thin as necessary. I usually leave it a bit thicker, knowing I can dilute it at mealtime. I transfer the puree into Baby Cubes. I store some in the fridge and the rest in the freezer; they are very convenient to thaw as needed, and even to take on-the-go.
Mixed Bean Puree Baby Cubes
Carrots Carrot Puree in Baby Cubes