In the Baby Blogosphere you'll find no shortage of articles on baby food. Parenting sites offer lists of the "best foods for your baby" seemingly once a month. And entire blogs are devoted to "baby food recipes" and the new practice of "baby-led weaning" (a more apt name might be "puree avoidance"). All of these are well and good and I delved into each of them with Baby #1. But now that I'm onto #2, I don't have time to cook actual "baby recipes" or even to putter around with baby-led weaning (plus, my father remains convinced that many of his patients are creating unnecessary choking hazards with BLW... I know: 'gagging is different from choking' - but I eventually concluded that I don't like to gag on my food so I'm not into it for my daughter either). In any case, at this time I'm only interested in baby foods that:
- Make as little mess as possible;
- Are as portable as possible;
- Are as quick and easy to put together as possible; and
- Are still as healthy and natural (unprocessed) as possible.
(1) Oatmeal + Oat Bran + Milk.
Why It's Great: Adding Oat Bran to your standard oatmeal and making it with milk means two major things. First, no mess - it's not runny at all while you're feeding. Second, it's thick enough not to boil over in most microwaves, depending on the bowl. Just take your 1/4 cup and scoop it half full with Oatmeal, then finish with Oat Bran (use Quaker for both - and get Old Fashioned Oats, they're healthier). Then fill the scoop twice again with whole milk and microwave 1-2 minutes. Chill in the freezer if you need it right away.
Why It's Healthy: It packs protein, calcium, and whole grains (even soluble fiber). I went straight to this with Baby #2, no rice or oatmeal "baby cereal" this time.
What To Add: Add fresh diced fruit if you've got some good stuff on hand. Otherwise, you can sweeten it with a fruit puree (prunes are nice to avoid constipation) or with YoBaby Yogurt - which I find to be too sweet by itself.
(2) Fresh Mozzarella.
Why It's Great: No prep, no mess, no staining, easy to gum - even for toothless babies like my 8 month old.
Why It's Healthy: Great source of protein - much better than the baby food purees that include ground meats - and high fatty content is good for baby's developing brain.
(3) Petit Suisse Montebourg
Why They're Great: Okay these are a little pricey. But especially if you need to feed baby on the go, they're so worth it. They're actually fresh cheese - not yogurt - so they're thick and fluffy rather than runny (no mess) and they're high protein so they'll fill your baby up. They're also just the right size.
Why They're Healthy: Each small container packs nearly five grams of protein and 24% of the recommended daily value of calcium... for a mere 67 calories! We should all be eating these!! Whole Foods carries them but we get them cheaper at a local place.
(4) Berries, berries, berries.
Why They're Great: Just rinse and eat. Blueberries are so perfect for taking on the go, and you can just smash them a bit with your thumbnail as you feed them so they're not a choking hazard. Raspberries can be ripped in half for smaller bits. Strawberries need to be cut up ... unless they're the tiny home-grown kind!
Why They're Healthy: Superfoods, hello!
(5) Scrambled Egg (& Spinach and/or Quinoa)
Why It's Great: So easy to make (and "chew"), and keeps well. Just throw some spinach (and quinoa, if you have it - can top with cheese as well) into the egg you're scrambling. Easiest way to scramble an egg is to take a chilled stick of butter and lightly run it over the bottom of the heating pan. Crack the egg, and push it gently around with a spoon or spatula a few times as it cooks.
Why It's Healthy: Eggs are no longer reviled for their high cholesterol content. That's because we've found that dietary high blood cholesterol is caused by diets high in saturated fat, not cholesterol - you can read more about it here. Eggs have almost no saturated fat and are packed with nutrients - they're a good source of protein too. They're often featured on those "best baby food" lists mentioned above.
(6) Del Monte "Peas & Carrots"
Why It's Great: My toddler and now my baby eat these like candy - seriously, my toddler asked for these as a snack the other day. Can opens easily and you can store it in your refrigerator with out a top on, if you're in a rush.
Why It's Healthy: These do have some added salt and sugar but that's fine by me because (a) I harbor no belief that my children will love 100% plain veggies as adults, no matter what I do; and (b) Um, my kids are filling up on veggies - anything else they'd fill up on would likely also have some sodium and/or sugar and ... NOT be veggies.
(7) Cottage Cheese
Why It's Great: It's a no-prep super high-protein main course, and my kids both love it.
Why It's Healthy: Check out the nutrition info - it's higher in protein than Greek yogurt. It's a nice way to get protein while you're eating other fruits, veggies, and grains.
(8) Mashed Avocado (and Miralax for any constipation!)
Why It's Great: Ripe avocados can be easily fork-mashed. Add a little water and you've got a Superfood for your baby. Add a little Miralax if your baby is having constipation - it's safe and natural, not a "laxative."
Why It's Healthy: Avocados have an insane amount of heath benefits, just do a quick google search!
(9) Mac and Cheese Add-Ins
Why It's Great: Opening a can of black beans or tuna is an easy way to ramp up the nutritional value of this childhood staple.
Why It's Healthy: Black beans are not only high-protein, but they're one of the few foods out there high in soluble fiber - the only kind of fiber that actually lowers your blood cholesterol. Sometimes I stir in a little salsa or avocado when I make mac and cheese this way too. And I don't think I need to rehash the health benefits of tuna. As far as what kind of mac-and-cheese, I usually use Annie's Whole Wheat Shells With White Cheddar. But I've found that Kraft Whole Grain Macaroni and Cheese works better for adding tuna. Boxed mac-and-cheeses are pretty high protein. They're high in sodium and I'm certainly not arguing that they're the healthiest thing, but I think it's fine on occasion especially if you serve it with fruit and veggies.
(10) Raw Apple Sauce
Why It's Great: Well aside from the fact that my mom and I came up with it and coined it with such a "now" sounding name, it's SUPER healthy and my daughter goes CRAZY for it! All you do is take your favorite apple (Pink Ladies or HoneyCrisps please!) and put it through the food processor. Voila. A thousand times easier than making your own apple sauce. Plus it's less messy; my daughter won't waste a bite of this stuff!
Why It's Healthy: Apples are one of the very best things you can possibly eat. It's no joke what they say about "an apple a day." And keeping it "raw" instead of eating it in the "sauce" form means you get to keep all the benefits in the skin, and all the benefits from eating it in its natural, unprocessed form.
All right, those are my faves. I started this entry quite awhile ago and my daughter is about to turn 1. If you have favorite EASY and healthy baby or toddler foods, I'd love to hear them!