Last week, I had dinner with my close friends Melissa and Jessi, both new(er) moms like me. Considering all three of our daughters were born within five months of each other — CE is 10 months, MK is 13 months and KG is 15 months — it’s not surprising that our conversation centered on their amazing growth and development. As the mom of the one in the middle, it was especially fun to reflect on where MK was just three months ago and get a preview of where she may be in two more.
We talked about our girls’ (and our) favorite children’s books and how quirky and odd some of them are. We chatted about how we’re balancing our personal and professional lives. But we spent the bulk of our time sharing strategies for feeding our growing girls well. The consensus: It’s takes time and effort to put healthy meals and snacks together, but it’s worth every second.
Here are a few of the ideas that got passed around:
- Have plenty of beans on hand: black, cannellini, northern, garbanzo, butter, etc.. One of my quick, go-to meals for MK is cannellini beans sauteed in extra-virgin olive oil with finely chopped onions and a little garlic, then seasoned with rosemary. She eats them up, and I love it because beans are a great source of protein.
- Serve the beans with rice — together they’re a complete protein.
- Serve soups over rice. Jessi’s KG loves black bean soup over rice, while my MK really enjoys tomato basil or pumpkin alphabet soups with rice.
- Try sauteing fine-cut greens like spinach and kale in a little olive oil; sprinkle them with nutmeg — the subtle sweetness appeals to the little ones.
- Roast broccoli tossed in olive oil and seasoned with sea salt until they start browning. These little trees have a nutty flavor and are a fun way to serve veggies to the kiddos.
- Substitute mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes — with a little butter and milk, these are a more nutritious alternative.
- Roast kale tossed in olive to make crispy kale chips (see the Experience Life recipe here) — all three of our girls love this one!
- Serve fruit as a dessert: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches. These all come at the end of our meals (I do have to keep them out of sight until then or MK will refuse to eat any else).
- Try alternatives to peanut butter: Jessi’s KG has a peanut allergy so her family is now using sun butter. I personally prefer almond and cashew butters over peanut butter, and MK doesn’t know the difference.
- Sometimes you gotta mask the veggies: MK is sometimes hesitant about eating peas and beans by themselves, so I mix them in with Greek yogurt and she gobbles them right up. Tricky? Maybe. But she watches me put the peas in the yogurt, so I don’t feel so bad about it!
Here are a few of the baby/toddler cookbooks we like (keep in mind that many of the recipes in these books can be easily adjusted for the adult palate by sprinkling with a little sea salt before serving):
- Cooking for Baby: Wholesome, homemade, delicious foods for 6 to 18 months by Lisa Barnes: Divided up by age-appropriate foods, I’ve made several dishes from this one, including baby’s rice cereal, zucchini puree, sweet pea puree, blueberry sauce (great mixed with baby cereal or yogurt), green beans with mint, whipped cauliflower, baby’s egg yolks, avocado-cheese spread, fruity smoothie, root veggie medley, pumpkin soup with alphabet pasta, pumpkin pancakes and carrot cupcakes (Maddy’s 1st birthday treat!). LOVE THIS BOOK.
- Baby Love: Easy, Healthy, Delicious Meals for Your Baby and Toddler by Norah O’Donnell and Chef Geoff Tracy: Jessi’s favorites from this one include the chicken soup, Parmesan risotto, whole-grain pancakes and zucchini muffins.
- The Big Book of Recipes for Babies, Toddlers & Children by Bridget Wardley and Judy More: Also a favorite of Jessi’s. Her absolute favorite recipe from this one is chicken with rice and leeks, which I can’t wait to try myself.
What are your favorite strategies for feeding your kids healthy? What are your favorite cookbooks?