Coming up with new ideas for meals can be hard, and it is really easy to get stuck in a rut. Believe me, I know. I try very hard to make Grace three real-food meals a day, but often come up short on ideas and time. In the past month I have started to collect different recipes in the hopes to vary her meals as much as possible. It is very important to me to expose her to as many different flavors and textures as I possibly can in the hopes of continuing her good eating habits.
We have been lucky up to this point as Grace eats what we eat. She loves spicy foods, garlic hummus, green vegetables, beans, and salmon. The only foods she has not tried are honey, due to the botulism risk, shellfish, and peanut/tree nut products. Even though there is no history of food allergies in our family I am terrified of Grace having a nut allergy. I have introduced almonds, but still do not have the courage to try peanuts. At the rate I am going we will be standing in the ER parking lot when she tries her first bite of peanut butter, and I really, really do not want to be that mom.
To help give you some ideas of healthy meals for your little ones I took pictures of everything I made for Grace to eat this week with a couple of exceptions. Enjoy!
How Do I find Time to Make all of These Meals?
- Make a conscious effort to offer healthy meals - Nutrition is very important to me in my own life, and I try very hard to be conscious of what I put into my own body. I believe that good nutrition helps keep a person healthy, both physically and mentally, so naturally, it is important to me to cultivate Grace's palette towards healthy and nutritionally-rich foods. We have all heard the statistics on heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and childhood obesity. These statistics coupled with the fact that children learn their eating habits early in life are what keep me motivated to continue busting my butt in the kitchen everyday.
- Find a great resource - I get ideas for meals from all over the web, but I love Little Grazers website. I found it when we began baby led weaning with Grace and have been using their recipes ever since.
- Cut corners where you can - I make most of Grace's food from scratch, but I do rely on frozen vegetables quite a bit. It is much easier to throw some frozen vegetables in the microwave for 30 seconds instead of steaming a whole head of broccoli, especially when your child is screaming for food.
- Make meals ahead of time - I often throw lunch for the next day in the oven when I am done making dinner. It cooks while we eat, and the next day I have lunch waiting in the fridge when we return from running our errands.
- Embrace Leftovers - Leftovers are a great way to ensure a healthy quick meal. When I make pancakes I always make a big batch and have Grace eat them throughout the week for quick breakfasts before classes. I just throw a pancake in the toaster and it is heated in a minute or so. Grace also eats a lot of hard boiled eggs. I can make a bunch at a time, and they are a quick and easy source of protein.
How I Got My Child to Eat What We Eat.
When we first introduced Grace to solid food at the age of 5 months we did so following the baby led weaning method. The premiss behind baby led weaning is that children learn healthy eating habits by being in charge of their own food. Instead of spoon feeding a child purees, you give them large chunks of table foods that they can pick up, lick, and explore. The child is completely in charge of their meal. They decide what to eat, when to eat it, and when they are done. The hope is that they will become less picky eaters and learn to follow their own body's cues when they are full. Because baby led weaning has a heavy emphasis on self-feeding the child gets to practice their hand eye coordination, chewing, and motor skills before their traditionally fed counterparts. This allows them to to eat a variety of table foods at a younger age. Grace will eat anything I put in front of her now without gagging. Having her eat what we do makes meal time so much easier, especially at restaurants.
What About Formula and Snacks?
We offer Grace water with every meal. She is working on using an open cup unassisted. However, she does get three 8 oz bottles of formula a day as well; one when she wakes up, one at nap time, and one a bedtime. Grace set this schedule for herself at around 8 months, I had nothing to do with it. Until then I fed on demand. Remember that formula or breast milk is still the child's main source of nutrition until they are a year old.
We also offer Grace snacks though out the day when she signs for food or seems grumpy for no particular reason. Here is what we normally offer for snack:
- Mixed Vegetables
- Sprouted Grain Crackers and Cheese
What Does a Typical Week Look Like?
Breakfast: Cottage Cheese and Oatmeal Berry Pancakes with Whole Milk Greek Yogurt
Lunch: Bean and Cheddar Cheese Enchiladas with Avocado Slices
Dinner: Buffalo Chicken, Quinoa, and Mixed Vegetables
Breakfast: Sprouted Grain French Toast and Strawberry and Banana Pieces
Lunch: Avocado, Tomato, and Cheddar Cheese Quesadilla with Steamed Broccoli
Dinner: Chicken and Beef Fajitas (We went out for Mexican food so I did not get a photo)
Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs and Leftover Pancakes
Lunch: Black Beans, Avocado, and Brown Rice
Dinner: Tortilla Crusted Tilapia, Avocado, and Quinoa with Cilantro
Breakfast: Sprouted Grain Toast Topped with Almond Butter and a Banana
Lunch: Whole Wheat Tortilla with Garlic Hummus and Black Beans
Dinner: Barbecue Chicken, Smashed Potatoes, and Broccoli
Breakfast: Cauliflower and Cheese Bites and Hard Boiled Egg
Lunch: Salmon, Brown Rice, and Mixed Vegetables
Dinner: Chicken Curry with Brown Rice, Mixed Vegetables, and Unsweetened Coconut
Breakfast: Sprouted Grain Panini with Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil, and Hard-Boiled Egg
Lunch: Whole Wheat Pasta Topped with Cheddar Cheese, Black Beans and Mixed Vegetables