Monday, January 24, 2011

Good foods for babies and toddlers....

Last week a friend asked me for a list of some of the foods we fed Q as a baby, aside from the traditionals such as babyfood, oatmeal, yogurt, and cheerios. I typed up the list for her, and then decided I'd share on this site, too!

None of these foods are rocket science, but for me, at least, I had a hard time being creative on the spur of the moment when I had a hungry kiddo demanding something to eat. It's easy to reach for the old stand-by's (cheerios, Gerber snacks, etc.) and I don't have anything against these, but I do think it's important to expose little eaters to a variety of tastes, textures, and appearances through food. We also made a big effort to limit the amount of processed foods (and still do) we offer in our house, and mostly save these for "emergencies," when we need a snack in the car or we're running late to school and have granola bars for breakfast.

So....when I was feeding a beginning eater, I kept a list of possibilities on my fridge similar to the list I post below. That helped me expose Q to a huge selection of foods I might otherwise forget about. I truly believe that this is a big part of the reason she has always been and still is a great eater and eats pretty much everything (except lettuce, silly girl).
I really enjoyed one book: Feed me, I'm Yours. It had a lot of great suggestions on healthy, economical and somewhat unusual food ideas. Also, a lot of the ideas came from food I saw friends (or random people at restaurants) feeding their kids, or even ideas shared by other moms.

So those of you Mommies out there who are in the process of inviting your lil' ones to the exciting world of food, hope this helps!

(Bolded foods are appropriate for spoon-fed infants. Other foods are fingerfoods for babies beginning to eat on their own.)

My favorite "off the beaten path" baby foods:

*hummus (from the packaged foods in the deli section at the grocery)

*Pumpkin pancakes (I'd make a big batch and freeze them individually then break them up for finger food--perfect to take to restaurants!)

*canned pumpkin puree (you can buy a big can and divide it into smaller containers VERY economically--that's what I did with the pumpkin puree left over from making the pancakes.

*cooked beans--usually black or pinto and even lentils. I put 4-5 on baby's tray at a time for fingerfoods. (for spoon feeding I blended with some chicken broth or milk to get creamy consistency)

*refried beans (often thinned with breastmilk, milk or chicken broth or even water)

*couscous (smaller-grained than rice)

*brown rice (great finger food!)

*granola (this was our #1 finger food from about 7 months on--LOVED giving my little one the whole grains! Just keep your eyes open that it doesn't have honey or nuts at first.)

*microwave scrambled eggs (crack an egg in a bowl, stir it up, cover with papertowel making sure to tuck ends of papertowel under bowl so egg doesn't blow up all over your microwave)

*tuna--from the pouches--a wonderful protein-filled fingerfood that is easy for new eaters to self-feed once they're ready for meat

*toast (just plain toasted whole-grain bread) and english muffins

*sliced black olives

*sliced red, green and yellow peppers (and sometimes tiny-diced)

*slivered raw carrot

*diced tomatoes from a can (drained and rinsed)--did these in moderation as tomatoes are pretty acidic

*large curd cottage cheese (great for finger-feeding) (blended for spoonfeeding infants)

*raw, peeled and slivered or tiny-cubed cucumber, zucchini, yellow squash or butternut squash

*other cereals besides Cheerios--Life, Chex, Raisin Bran, etc.

*a steamed piece of corn on the cob--Q LOVED gnawing on these, especially when she was working on some teeth.

*around a year we gave her whole tomatoes, apples, pears, plums, and peaches. She loved them, and it was great for her to learn to master the "biting off" technique. This was a must for me, because as a preschool teacher I got tired of 4 year olds who couldn't eat an apple unless it was cut up and peeled. I determined I wouldn't let my child become one of these fruit sissies. :)

*anytime I cut up a juicy fruit like a pineapple or grapefruit I would freeze the juice in a little plastic baby food container--later took it out, let it soften a bit, and mashed it up with a spoon into an "icy" consistency. Q loved it, especially when teething. I spoon-fed her at first, and then later let her finger-feed or spoon-feed herself.

*frozen blueberries, strawberries (chopped), and even peas were a big hit--of course especially at teething time!

I learned two new ones from a friend this weekend--

She freezes both applesauce and yogurt cups. She then inverts a container on a plate and uses a sharp knife to dice the frozen yogurt or applesauce into small finger-sized pieces. Perfect for a baby who can't yet self-feed with a spoon!