Monday, April 11, 2011

How to Feed Your Baby

Many moms have told me they don't understand how I am able to feed my baby fresh food for every single meal without buying baby food in jars. They are running out of creative ideas and I would like to share some of mine. Hopefully this will help other mommies give their babies fresh food for every meal.

First of all, you don't need to worry about introducing solid foods before the baby is six or seven months old when their gut is sealed. The digestive system is still very fragile and if you are able to exclusively breast feed they are getting exactly what they need.

Perfect first foods are avocados and bananas because they are naturally soft and don't require any smushing, but I don't think that's where parents are having problems. It seems like moms start to ask questions when the baby is about 12 months old. By that time the baby has been introduced to a wide variety of foods and the mom is kind of like, "what now".

The easiest advice is to feed your baby all the healthy foods that you are eating. If you eat big macs and cheese puffs every day then you are probably the exception to the rule. But if you can line up your diets to be similar, if not the same, it will make your life so much easier.

Even if the babies don't have teeth, they are able to chew quite a bit of food with their gums. Healthy foods include food that does not come out of packages or cans and is not processed. If you decide to make dairy and meat a part of your baby's diet, it is wise to consider delaying the introductions and those foods should be given in very small amounts since those are the hardest foods to digest.

Here are some ideas for a 12 month or older baby that is allowed to eat nuts. I know some people wait longer, but Max doesn't have any allergies and eats almost everything except for sugar, dairy (mama's milk only), and processed foods.

Quinoa is one of the most perfect proteins on the planet and is one of the healthiest foods. You could feed this to your little one every single day and it is always prepared in only ten minutes. You boil some water, pour in some quinoa, and then add any other vegetable you are in the mood for. We put everything from onions and kale, to broccoli and carrots. We cut up the vegetables to be really small and it would be easy for any one year old to eat. The best thing about this meal is that it is so delicious that you will want to make more than enough for yourself. By adding a little bragg's liquid amino acids, the flavor is to die for.

Oatmeal is a solid breakfast for parents and children. We like to put strawberries, blueberries, raisins, a scoop of all natural peanut or almond butter and a splash of cinnamon. Baby Max gobbles up a breakfast similar to this almost every single day and it is nice for us to be able to share the same bowl.

Another breakfast favorite or sweet treat substitution we love to share are shakes. It's almost the same as the oatmeal except it is cool and raw. I like to blend bananas, raspberries, almond or coconut milk, water, ice, almond butter, and oats. Max and I also drink out of the same cup and it is no trouble to share what I am already making for myself.

Our favorite dinner time foods are soups, stews, or big pots of beans with other random vegetables. Yes, it does take a bit of time to make the first initial pot of soup, but with some practice you can crank it out really quickly. And not all beans have to be soaked in advance.

Split pea soup can be cooked in less than one hour and requires no prior soaking. The split peas are so flavorful, that if you do not have a lot of time to cut up the fresh vegetables, you can keep the soup very bland with only one veggie. I like to make a vegan split pea soup with celery, carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes and usually some kale or chard. Just throw in whatever veggies you have and it's impossible to mess it up.

It is very easy to keep packages of split peas in your cupboard. Even if you have not had the time to go shopping, the peas will always be ready to go. Once you have your initial pot of soup, every time you go to reheat it you can throw another vegetable in it. When I go to reheat a pot of soup, I just throw a head of brocolli in the pot. That way you haven't cooked the life out of all the vegetables and are able to get more healthy benefits from the food you are eating. The reason I always add a very green veggie to the protein is because that is how the body is able to absorb more iron.

Pinto beans are another one of my favorites. It is so easy and I have been shocked to get tons of compliments as I have shared it with many of my friends. I don't use recipes so it's NEVER the same, but here's what I do to make veggie stew.

Soak pinto beans over night. (Or 16 bean soup that you find at Trader Joe's or any other kind of mixed beans). I always throw in a few jalepenos, an onion, and at least half a clove of garlic while boiling the beans for the 1st hour. The 2nd hour I start throwing in carrots, celery, maybe more onion and a little more garlic, potatoes or rice, and any other fun ingredients. The last 2 ingredients I put in are a stalk of kale and a stalk of chard. I turn the heat off as soon as the greens are soft so the vitamins don't all get cooked out. Sometimes I will do a mix of broccoli and cauliflower. Fresh basil is always good too. Then some salt, pepper and whatever seasonings you want to add. I like spicy and if it were just for me I'd make it much hotter. My secret ingredient is Bragg's liquid amino acids. You get it at whole foods and it is the best thing ever.

Now that I share all my food with baby Max, I never use more than a dash of salt in the main pot. Yes, I use jalepenos for flavor even if I'm sharing with the baby. If you put it in as one of the first ingredients, it is more for flavor than spice. But we joke around here that he was born drinking jalepeno-flavored breast milk, so it's no surprise that he loves cayenne and the likes. I'm not suggesting that for other babies!

A couple nights ago, I made an eggplant dish that Max and Marc both devoured. All I did was slice the eggplant and throw it in a big pan with a mixture of water and oil. I also cut up peppers and onions and added it to the mix. When all the food was soft, I put in some marinara sauce and after a minute, turned off the heat. It is so easy, healthy, and delicious and the key is to wash each piece of eggplant after cutting it so it will soak up more water than oil. Also when you add marinara or tomato sauce at the end, add a little more water to make it more saucy.

Other foods like homemade guacamole are perfect for parents and children. It's really easy to cut open some avocados and add some lime, onion, garlic, and tomato. You just cut up the veggies really small.

I hope this gives my mommy and daddy friends some ideas on what to feed the whole family at mealtime. The key is that you always have food on your plate that you can share with your baby (other than fish sticks and french fries...ugh!). And if you have to eat some junk food, just wait until your baby is asleep!

If you are really tired, just dump the food all over the floor for the baby to enjoy. This is an example of what happens when daddy is in charge at our house. Fortunately Max eats everything and is happy to clean the mess.

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