Let’s talk about baby & toddler food.
This blog post has been very requested. But just as a disclaimer I want to stress I am no expert in child nutrition, I just am a Mumma that believes homemade is the best & I am passionate about making nutritious, wholesome and delicious meals for my daughter.
I’ve always made LuLu’s meals, she has never had a meal out of a jar or a pouch, simply because if I wouldn’t eat it, why should I expect her to eat it.
Now you may think why on earth would I bother making homemade baby food, but the benefits of making my own baby food is huge for me;
- I know how, where & when it was made.
- I know exactly what is in the food, no fillers or preservatives that are commonly found in most baby food that are sold in the supermarkets.
- I know all the ingredients are fresh & healthy.
- I can change recipes to suit my daughter and her tastes.
- It is cost effective.
- It makes me feel good & satisfied knowing I am feeding my daughter the best I can.
First food ideas;
Now it’s up to you personally when you start feeding your baby purees or what to start with. LuLu was almost 5 months when we started giving her solids. We did start with farex for just a few days, but moved on to vegetable & fruit purees fairly quickly.
When beginning with fruit & vegetables we started off with individual purees, I would make a few servings and freeze them in ice cube trays or in the heinz freezer trays and then when I needed them I would pop them out & microwave them (or you can reheat on the stove). Just standard first foods, pumpkin, sweet potato, apple, pear etc. This was before I had my Thermomix so I would just use a stick blender to make it smooth after steaming the food, but I always left a few small soft lumps so she got use to texture & lumps. As she got use to 2 different foods, well then I would combine those 2.
When preparing fruits for your baby some fruit needs to be steamed (pears, apples etc) and some fruits that are softer (berries, melon, banana etc) you just add in and blend without needing to steam.
Making meals;After she was introduced to a variety of fruits & vegetables through purees I got to start thinking about meal ideas where I could combine a lot of veggies & some protein & also some pasta or rice.
For her breakfast/morning tea type meals, I would pre-make a combo of fruit that I could add to her baby cereal. I would freeze them and just pop it out when I needed one. These also work great to be mixed in with plain yoghurt. We would either do a berry mix or peaches, papaya & apple. I would always add at least one banana to each mix as I found the banana made the mix more creamy. I would make these in batches. You basically use whatever combinations you think taste great. (Frozen berries can help make this more convenient, but after the frozen berry issue in Australia I would highly recommend only using fresh!)
This mix is pear, apple & blueberry.
The first meat she started with was chicken & I poached that then stick blended. Chicken mince is also another way of incorporating meat into meals, but I do find it can cause the texture of the puree to almost be a bit grainy once it’s been blended. So instead I preferred poaching chicken breasts.
Tuna & salmon are 2 other meats she loves – after making her first tuna dish for her I thought for sure she may not like it as it smelt strongly of fish – but she loved it! I ended up eventually making a cheesey tuna pasta bake meal which became a strong favourite for her. Occasionally I would add in kale or spinach just to change it up. But tuna was always a fail proof meal for LuLu. We introduced beef to LuLu around 7-8 months and she loves all sorts of meat now! When making a lot of the meals to freeze I would either pop a piece of sliced cheese or sprinkle some grated cheese over the top of each little portion & when I reheated the meal the cheese would melt and it would add extra cheesiness.
|How I store all the meals, in ziplock bags that are labelled.|
Where to find recipes & inspiration;
- With dinner ideas I like the site/magazine ‘One Handed Cooks’ – they have some great inspiration. I tend to slightly change recipes to suit me, but they have lots of brilliant ideas. Some of my favourites are;
- Pick ‘n’ Mix Chicken & Corn Risoni
- Pick ‘n’ Mix Poached Chicken Puree
- Chicken Casserole
- Baby Bolognese
- Chicken, Sweet Potato & Spinach Puree
- Veggie Salmon Mash (you could also use tuna)
- Chicken, Pumpkin & Corn Risoni
- Beef & Vegetable Puree
- Veggie Beef & Rice
We used all of those recipes. I really love the pick & mix ones, you can literally add in whatever you like or have on hand. And you can use them from the point where your baby is ready to eat mixtures of food right up to when they are toddlers if you wish. You just adjust the consistency of it. I use to blend all of these meals to a slightly lumpy soft texture but obviously the older the baby the less blending needed. I also use to freeze these meals. To start off with I used the Heinz baby food trays, they are perfect portion sizes. As LuLu got older I used a clean muffin tray & would let the food set over night & then I would pop the little meals out and put them in a tupperware container in the freezer. The muffin trays were perfect portion sizes, I still use them if I happen to make her a bunch of little meals. (Sometimes it’s easy to have a few prepared meals stocked up in the freezer for easy lunches or dinners).
- Another great source for recipes for babies & toddlers are the free little books that are often given to you in sample bags or handed out at the nurses clinic or pharmacy. The recipes in those they can either be used just as they are or you can just use them as inspiration and alter them to suit your taste.
- Talking amongst friends is really great, you find out what recipes are great & what ones aren’t so awesome (but keep in mind everyones tastes & children are different). I was fortunate enough to have a friend that also made most of her daughters meals as well, so we would share ideas & recipes.
- The internet is also overflowing with wonderful recipes for children! Two of my favourite websites are;
One Handed Cooks
But by searching for yourself you will find sites that are your style & what you like.
- If you have a Thermomix there are endless ideas online for recipes for kids as well as the wonderful book “Cooking for your baby & toddler” by Louise Fulton-Keats, I own this book and love it. I’ve made a lot of meals out of it! (She also has a version of this recipe book available that doesn’t require a Thermomix and also on her website she has some wonderful recipes listed!)
- Pinterest is a treasure trove of wonderful ideas, I have a board full of baby & toddler food ideas, you can find it HERE.
For the past few months the breakfast LuLu has been enjoying is a healthy porridge mix I made, it has LSA, quinoa & chia seeds sprinkled through it. Occasionally I throw a few different types of nuts into the Thermomix and blitz them and stir that through the mixture as well. I like the fact she is getting a little bit of nuts into her diet everyday. Some days though she only wants a banana and some toast. We just roll through the stages and adapt & change her meals as it suits her.
I think being adaptable is vitally important in parenting, well in our parenting style anyway. Babies & toddlers change daily so being able to be in a mindset where you have to accept sometimes they will love what you give them – whether it be food or activities & some days they will hate it. I always have back up meals in the freezer in case LuLu doesn’t like what I serve her and if worst comes to worst normally she will happily eat a banana or some avocado.
I do struggle sometimes with lunch ideas for her as she isn’t a fan of sandwiches at all, so each day is something new. For a super easy go to lunch I have a supply of healthy pasta sauce I’ve made in the freezer and that over some pasta with cheese & a side of avocado is normally always a winner. She loves avocado! This is the pasta sauce recipe I use, HERE.
In my freezer I also have a good little supply of homemade sausage rolls that are loaded with veggies & also some healthy mac & cheese. She isn’t a huge fan of the mac & cheese sometimes, but other times she loves it! I find these meals super convenient lunches or for quick dinners when it is just LuLu & I at home when Trent is on night shift.
Other good lunch ideas are zucchini slice, healthy muffins, scrambled or boiled eggs, leftovers from dinner the night before & sometimes if we are having a treat day we just pop some potato gems in the oven and share a few ‘tatos’!
LuLu is now 20 months, for the past several months she has eaten what we eat for dinner. I just make a toddler sized serving for her. Sometimes I have to alter her meal slightly. For example; if we were to have cajun chicken which is a spicy type of chicken we BBQ I will just BBQ a plain section of chicken for her, but she eats the same salad as us.
For a few more dinner ideas; LuLu enjoys scrambled eggs, homemade pizza, risotto, roasts, steak, pumpkin soup, fried rice, chicken alfredo, crispy chicken & sausages (I buy our sausages from our local butcher that have less preservatives than supermarket ones). But mainly whatever I eat, she eats. That also applies for our venison that we hunt. LuLu enjoys her bambi burgers & steaks.
Dessert; If we do dessert it is a healthy greek yoghurt. She has occasionally eaten those yoghurts in the pouches but they are a rare treat if we are out shopping. They are loaded full of sugar & preservatives so normally I steer clear of them and pack some yoghurt in a Tupperware container and keep it in her freezer lunch bag and she has that instead. I did make some custard the other night for the first time & she enjoyed a few spoonfuls of that!
Snacks; With snacks I try to regularly bake a healthy treat and keep that on hand, whether it be banana bread or healthy muffins or cupcakes. Trent eats them as well for work so it’s good for all of us.
A few of the recipes we’ve used & loved for treats are;
- Carrot Almond Cupcakes.
- Anzac Biscuits (I also throw a handful of sultanas into ours)
- Banana, Hazelnut & Honey Bread
She also loves the little packs of sultanas & also dried apricots. We try to keep her snacks healthy, mainly fruit and a healthy baked treat occasionally. We do also sometimes let her eat the baby muesli bars but I personally am not a huge fan of them. But sometimes when we are out that’s all I’ve got on hand. I am currently on the look out for a recipe to try and make my own, so if I find a good one I will be sure to share it! Afternoon tea is always a little fruit salad that she enjoys after her nap while watching Play School. I change the fruit to what is in season, at the moment grapes, blueberries, strawberries & mandarins are the fruit of choice.
Drinks; In the way of drinks she only has water & milk (cows milk & breast milk, up until recently. I just weaned her a few days after she turned 20 months). She does occasionally have a healthy smoothie if my Mum or I make one, but that’s it. Shortly I will start letting her have some homemade juices, but flavoured milks & store bought juices are just loaded with garbage and offer no nutritional benefit so I see no sense in giving them to LuLu.
That ultimately is my theory when feeding my daughter, if it is pointless garbage I am not going to feed it to her. I want everything I am feeding LuLu to be good & nutritious. I am not going to introduce to lollies & chocolate “just because”, of course in time she is going to realise that sweets exist and then we can enjoy them in moderation, but while I control what she eats I want it to all be good & healthy. Clearly some of the foods she eats have sugar, everything has sugar – fruits have natural sugars. But she doesn’t need to consume excess sugar in my opinion – nor does she need to fill her body with fillers, dyes & preservatives. Now that she is nearing 2, I am relaxing a tiny bit with what she eats, under 1 I feel I was very strict about her diet. Even up until recently I was very cautious on what she eats, but now I am more open to letting her have the odd biscuit or chip if I am snacking on one.
Feeding LuLu good and nutritious food is something I am very passionate about and I enjoy sharing my knowledge (not claiming to be an expert) with other Mummas. I am not judgemental to parents who use store bought baby food, everyones lives are different & maybe you just don’t have the time to cook baby food. I do have the time though & that’s why I think for myself using store bought food for her first foods was totally unacceptable, for me. I had no excuse not to make it. So from her first foods it was just a gradual procession into making all her meals & I am so glad I have. It is very satisfying to me to know exactly what my daughter is eating and when & how it was made.
It has also made me adjust what Trent & I eat, now that LuLu eats what we eat for dinner, I am more conscious on making sure our meals include a decent serving of vegetables and we are eating healthily.
A basic change I made to most of our “meat & 3 veg” meals is swapping mash potato for mashed sweet potato. Sweet potato is delicious & flavourful and is also packed full of good stuff. We eat it most nights if we are having a steak, sausages, chicken etc. Of course we still enjoy a good regular mash potato on some nights, but sweet potato mash is a favourite now in our household.
LuLu is a normally great little eater, sometimes she is a bit fussy or picky but I think a lot of that is too do with her teeth & also working out what she likes & doesn’t like. She is currently cutting molars so she’s a bit picky with what she wants to eat, so when she is a bit irritable I just offer lots of food and let her pick & choose.
Our most recent obstacle with eating with LuLu was she was very restless in her highchair, so we have packed the highchair away and now she eats all her meals at a little table we bought from Ikea. The change was instant, in her highchair she would have a few bites – get frustrated and restless and not eat until we got her out. But the first meal she had at her new little setting – she ate perfectly. So at 20 months she transitioned from highchair to her own dining chair/table set up & for us it works perfectly.
I am aware that the way I feed my daughter may not work for everyone & some find it ridiculous. But it works for us, I am more than happy to put in the extra effort to feed her wholesome & nutritious meals that are good for her.
My goal in writing this is to give other parents some ideas on meal recipes for their kids & maybe inspire 1 other parent to make their baby’s meals themselves instead of buying them at the store. I think we are responsible for our children’s nutrition and while we can I think we should introduce them to as much healthy food as possible and use this time to make sure they eat very well. Today I was looking back to find photos of different meals I’ve made LuLu since she started solids and wow the change in her appearance and also her development is astounding – this is another huge reason why I am so glad I make all her meals myself, they are developing constantly at this stage in their lives, they grow & change every single day, they are learning so much & their bodies are growing – giving them good food as fuel is incredibly vital.
So I hope you took something away from this post, I hope it possibly made you also feel passionate about feeding your child the best you can & everyones best is different. I have the time & means to dedicate myself to LuLu – that is a choice we made & one I am so proud of.
If you have any questions or comments for this post please leave them in the comment section or contact me on any of my social media listed below! I post a lot of what I cook during the week on my social media, so if you want any ideas please make sure you follow me!