After 8 months of being a baby-chef-apprentice I feel ready to share with you some of what I have been learning from this eager, food-loving,
honest daughter of mine. No job I’ve had has ever been so fulfilling, so demanding and payed with giggles and cuddles alone and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Introducing foods to her is not only a joy from the obvious nourishment it gives, but from getting to share my passion with her and see it excite her in the way it does me.
Ever since she was a tiny baby, she has been fascinated in watching us eat (well, I am always either cooking or eating, so no suprises there!) She would watch me intensely at just a few months old putting things in my mouth and would love to touch foods even before the day she first popped something in. That day, we were sitting on the beach with a punnet of strawberries and without us even paying much attention she stuck one in her mouth and responded with as much shock as glee as she explored the new and intense flavours going on in her mouth. Your first tastes beyond milk must be a big deal, right? Imagine never having tasted before?! It must be wild discovering that everything tatses new and different and interesting! From that day on she has been offered something different alomost every day. My passion is food and trying new things, so sharing this with her is instinctive and natural to me. Having a little person around at all times wanting to be fed is a constant experiment with instant and completely honest feedback! My food philosophy around feeding my baby is simple: If I wouldn’t eat it, why would I feed it to her? Keep it simple. Real food. Lots. Nothing refined.
So what is she eating now? Fern has just turned 1 and is eating more and more all the time. Having said this, she still breastfeeds alot, and gets most of her nutrition through me so keeping my own nutrition up is key. I have continued taking a pre-natal and lactation supplement ever since becoming pregnant, and if I ever miss a few days I feel drained. During spells of teething, she sometimes goes off solids completely and just wants to nurse all day and night, so keeping up my own energy levels through eating well is key! Though she is eating more and more all the time and her preferences change constantly too. She is not one to want to eat the same thing each day, which I am neither so I am happy to offer her something different each day.
I have never made Fern anything especially for her. She eats with us and has a little bit of most things we eat. I don’t salt our meals during cooking, which has actually been a great habit to install as we just add enough to taste at the table now. Fern has grown up enjoying strong flavours through spices and herbs, and will happily eat a spicy coconutty based sauce and porridge with lots of ginger. I feel that eating as a family and watching us eat the same things as we are giving her makes her more willing to eat than if we tried to give her something completely different. She has also always been quite reluctant to eat from a spoon, preferring instead to feed herself using her hands or use the spoon herself, which is fine by me. If she eats, I don’t mind how it happens, as long as she is enjoying it and most of it goes in!
So what are her absolute favourite foods? I’ve made a list of her favourites that she will always go for that are easy to have on hand at all times. Things like the crackers can be made in big batches and keep for ages in a container. Plus all of these foods are fantastic snacks for a hungry mumma to have on hand. Win win!
Cucumber- Basically the best baby food ever. Soothing for sore gums, hydrating, builds strong hair and nails, easy to eat and hold and tastes great. I buy organic ones whenever possible. I often nibble off the skin leaving her to the soft juicy center which is her fav.
Spirilized veggies- this is my top tip on how to get your little ones to eat their veggies. Spirilize. Everything : ) When courgettes, carrots, squashes, even radishes are turned into long, spaghetti-like strings they instantly turn baby-cool. Courgette noodles are one of Ferns favourite foods, especially if I coat them in pesto and let her sit on the floor with a big bowl and turn my back on the mess ; )
Seeds- She’s crazy for seeds! We have jars of various seeds on the table at all times and she is always pointing at them and asking for more. Big seeds like pumpkin and sunflower I chew up for her or grind them into butter. I sprinkle shelled hemp seeds on porridge and cooked grains and add them to our smoothies. Chia seeds are great for making puddings with, which she also loves and are packed full of Omega fats and protein. We’re always snacking on seeds!
Sweetcorn- I newly discovered this as one of her absolute favourites. It will keep her quiet if we ever fancy a peaceful dinner! Now that she has all of her incisors, she can chomp around a whole cob of corn, cut into smaller chunks. It looks like it feels like heaven on her forming gums and gives her something to really get her teeth into. Out of season, I buy frozen corn-on-the-cob which has a million times more flavour than air-frighted out-of-season corn. Local and seasonal is always best!
Super-grains- These being: Buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth and millet. I tend to cook a batch of one of these each day to make up part of one of our meals. Fern loves these mixed with pesto, hummus or some mashed root veg.
Pesto-By this is mean any leafy green/herb blended with a nut or seed, lots of olive oil and lemon juice. Not the store-bought varieties which would have lots of salt and dairy in them. Pesto is ridiculously easy to make at home and can be made out of almost anything green (even broccoli stems!) My go-to pesto is a bunch of kale or spinach leaves blended with 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds, 1 small clove of garlic, 1 cup oil and the juice of 1 lemon. I blend it up and keep it in a jar in the fridge ready to mix into her grains or wholewheat pasta. I’m always found putting it on everything I eat, and usually add a sprinkling of salt to mine.
Sprouts-Again, the perfect baby food. The fine hairy type like alfafa and radish sprouts are easy to eat and full of enzymes and protein, The larger sprouts like mung and aduki taste like peas and can be eaten raw once they can chew their food well or lightly cooked in with the rest of your foods. We eat sprouts, Every. Day.
Green smoothies- In the first few moths of solids, Fern would devour smoothies like they were going out of fashion. Now she has days where she loves them and days where she gives us her defiant ‘Noooyw’ (no) and pushes them away. Either way, we love them so we make one every morning regardless of whether she wants some or not. You can see my green smoothie recipe and read more about her first foods here.
Hard-boiled eggs- Eggs are the perfect food (make sure you always choose free range and organic where possible) and can be added to foods to up the protein. I give Fern hard boiled eggs as part of her lunch and she will usually eat half, or I scramble one into her grains.
Flax-crackers- I make my own in a dehydrator to keep as much of the living enzymes intact but you can also make them really easily in an oven. Flax seeds are great for regular bowel movements and are high in essential fats and protein.
When it comes to recipes, like I said I barely ever make anything separate to what we eat at home for Fern. Luckily, I don’t cook with refined sugars or grains or eat anything I wouldn’t want her to eat so that’s not a problem. However, I’ve tweaked a few of my recipes to make them less sweet and super easy to digest, like this Breakfast cake. Here are some ideas of some of her favourite meals, followed by a recipe for a simple Baby Soul Bowl (Because bowl food is all the rage nowadays, baby gotta have one too!)
Breakfast: Slices of apple, cucumber and grapefruit to pick on (family dipping bowl). Creme-O-buckwheat or porridge with almond milk and Hemp seed sprinkles. A family-sized green smoothie. Buckwheat pancakes. Avocado on wholegrain toast or crackers. Smoothie bowl with homemade granola (she mainly just picks out the chunky granola pieces from this ; )
Lunch: Soul bowl (see below). Egg-fried- grains with peas. Bean salad. Scrambled egg in coconut oil. Socca-pancake with avocado. Veggie muffins.
Dinner: Whatever we are having given in bite-sized pieces. Leftovers from lunch. Rice and beans. Flaked sustainable fish and homemade chips in coconut oil. Chickpeas in tahini sauce. Coconut milk noodle soups. Spelt pasta with pesto.
Snacks: Flax-crackers. Fruit. Cucumber rings. Dried figs/raisins. Mini-energy balls. Smoothies.
Luise from Greenkitchen stories has written a great article on her toddlers favourite foods here which is great, as well as this fab post on a healthy start, full of brilliant points. I also found this article really interesting, on how to encourage healthy eating habits to your children. I am all for the idea of not having ‘bad’ adult foods that your child is not allowed in the house, and rather making the whole family eat wholesome healthy foods so nothing is off limits (other than some dark chocolate and red wine!)
Baby Soul Bowl
I can hardly bring myself to call this a recipe. Rather a selection of various ingredients put together in a bowl. See my post for my own Soul Bowl for more ideas behind bowl-meals. Use what you have in your fridge and just remember to mix a selection of veggies, protein and grain. Adjust quantities depending how old/hungry your child is ; ) All of the ingredients can be prepared in advance and just spooned into a bowl or tupperware for an instant meal.
1 cup super-grain (quinoa/millet/buckwheat/amaranth) rinsed
2.5 cups water
1 egg/ handful cooked chickpeas/ lentils
Spirilized courgette/ carrot/ butternut squash
Cucumber slices (plus any other raw or cooked veg that they like)
Cook the grain in the water for 15 minutes until all of the water is absorbed. Stir in the lemon juice and spoon a portion into your bowl. The rest can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days, or added to your own lunch!
Whilst the grain is cooking, bring a small pan of water to the boil and carefully drop in the egg (you can do more than 1 if you want to make extra). Boil for 1 minute before taking the pan off the heat, covering and leaving for 12 minutes. Then strain off the hot water, rinse off in very cold water to cool the eggs and set aside (perfect hard-boiled eggs every time!). If you are using pulses instead of egg, you can warm the cooked chickpeas or lentils through.
Whilst the cooking is going on, spirilize the courgette/carrot/squash into a bowl and squeeze over some lemon juice and olive oil. Give it a light massage with your hands to soften it slightly. Add a handful of spirals alongside the grain in your bowl.
Slice some cucumber slices (de-skinned if preferred) and any other veggies of choice to the bowl. Lightly steamed broccoli, cauliflower or sweetcorn are all good too.
Peel the egg and slice in half and add to the bowl. If using pulses, put a few spoonfuls in the bowl.
Put a few teaspoons of pesto on top of the bowl. You can stir it into the grain if you like. Fern likes it mixed but also likes to dip everything into it, so I keep some on the side too! Sprinkle hemp-seeds over the whole bowl.
Get ready to serve and be open to mess! Fern likes to spoon-feed herself the grains, nibble on the egg and pulses and suck up the noodles, so I let her do that in what ever manner she pleases. An open mind and acceptance to a bit of messiness is a useful attitude when it comes to mealtimes I feel!
Whoa that was a long post! I’d love to hear some of your little-ones favourite foods. Let’s share! I’m all for ideas and would love to hear about your triumphs and failures in the first- foods department. I look forward to sharing more of our favourite meals with you again soon.
From our messy dining table to you..
Jo and Fern xx