So if you need a little inspiration for family meals or lunch packing as we head into the fall, check out all of the details of their plans right here.
This is an affiliate post but the opinions are my own.
So if you need a little inspiration for family meals or lunch packing as we head into the fall, check out all of the details of their plans right here.
This is an affiliate post but the opinions are my own.
The other night, I made the most delicious dinner of lentils with tomatoes and acorn squash, served over rice. It was perfect at the end of a long day filled with thunderstorms and it used up a lot of our in-season produce. But you know what? Neither of my kiddos wanted anything to do with it! Despite that, I still considered it a successful meal. Here's why the dinners you make that your kids don't eat can still be a win.
I love to cook and making meals for my family is a highlight of my day. I love playing with flavors and making use of the food in our fridge. But as we all know, feeding children often makes what would otherwise be fun turn into a downward spiral. Even if you love to cook—and even more so if you don't!—the sheer act of getting dinner onto the table every night can be draining. Kids don't always appreciate the flavors and textures that us adults enjoy and they are often resistant to new dishes, as I am sure you have experienced. But that doesn't mean that we need to serve mac and cheese or hot dogs at every meal, or that you have to wait until they go to college to make a dish you love. It simply means that the sides served at dinner need to pull more weight.
If you want to take the stress out of family dinner and make meals that make everyone happy, try this: Surround dishes that the kids might be on the fence about with a few sides that you are more confident they'll like.
Some people call this offering "safe foods", which works too. For this meal, the lentils were the only thing that was a "maybe" for the kids. I figured that the little one might be more likely to try them, but in the end, she seemed to dislike like the texture. (She currently doesn't like the texture of potatoes either...go figure!) L tasted one single lentil after I asked her to and she said a polite "no thank you". But both girls happily ate the rest of the meal and filled up on jasmine rice, cheese, and strawberries. (And each had enjoyed a cucumber before sitting down to dinner.)
My point? Even without the lentil dish that I was so excited about, the girls had a balanced dinner and were, at the very least, exposed to new flavors. No one cried, no one went to bed hungry, and my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our meal.
There is no rule that says that a child needs to eat every single thing on their plate in order for you to call it a good meal. Your child absolutely does not need to like everything on the menu for you to have an enjoyable dinner. And it's entirely fine to rely on accepted foods as a safety net when you're offering new ones. I know that there are loads of recipe sites out there that proclaim that this recipe or that one is the one that your toddler will inhale. It's really tempting to label recipes with that promise but you know what? Each of our kids is unique and you really just never know what they will eat on any given day. And that is okay!
Sometimes, we just need to reframe how we're looking at the foods we serve in order to come away feeling good about the meal. And I find that taking a deep breath and relaxing when the kids refuse something can go a long way. (Admittedly, I sometimes have to leave the room if the kids are being ridiculous by refusing something I know they like, but kids will be kids!)
I wound up having so much of the lentils that I stuck a quart into the freezer to reheat on another night. Maybe a repeat exposure will be just the thing to encourage the girls to give it another try...and if not, more for us parents!
Italian Lentils with Tomatoes and Rice
I made this dish as a way to turn pantry staples into dinner, and to use up produce from our CSA. Feel free to use purchased pre-cut squash to make this easier. You could also serve this as a pasta sauce. This recipe was inspired by this one from the NYTimes.
2 cups brown or green lentils
1 small acorn or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
6 cups water
3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 small onion, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 quart marinara sauce
2 cups fully cooked rice
Goat cheese, crushed red pepper, shredded basil for serving, optional
1. Add the lentils, squashed, water, garlic, onion, salt, and thyme to a medium pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender but still holding their shape. Drain if needed. (You may not need to.)
2. Stir in the marinara sauce and warm through. Serve lentil-tomato mixture with rice and optional toppings. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or let cool and store in the freezer in a freezer safe storage container for up to 3 months.
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Why Your Kid Might Not Be As Picky As You Think
Yummy Family Food
Divided plate and bowl are by Replay Recycled.
Bamboo and silicone spoon is by Avanchy.
Feeding little kids is tricky business to be sure, but it's quite possible that this "picky" eating thing isn't the problem you might think it is. Trust me, I know: There's the refusal to eat a meal you've made. Not wanting to eat foods they loved yesterday. Changing their minds about the foods they want in the middle of a meal. Having no appetite one day, then eating everything in site the next day. It can make a mama's (or dad's!) head spin. But in reality...
Toddlers, by nature, are very (very) fickle eaters.
This normal nature of selective eating can be intensely frustrating and unpredictable, and it can make us feel like we're chasing a moving target at the table. Plus, when you combine it with the love that our toddlers have for routine, the expected, and the known, it's easy to find yourself in a situation where your 16 month old only eats one very particular type of bread. Or your three year old refuses everything except crackers and cheese for lunch. Every single day.
Here's the thing: If you can realize that this is normal, expect them to bring this outlook to the table, and know that this way of eating isn't necessarily a problem in the long run, you'll be much better equipped to handle your own feelings about what they may or may not be eating.
Here are a few examples of how this could play out.
At breakfast, you offer cut up peaches, plain yogurt, and a little toast. Your toddler only eats the peaches and throws the rest onto the floor and smears the yogurt all over. You get frustrated because, well, such a mess! So disrespectful of your efforts!
-->It's entirely possible that your toddler isn't a big breakfast person and simply wasn't hungry for much more than fruit. You could try pushing breakfast back 20-30 minutes (if you have the time), drastically cutting back the amount of food that you serve so your expectations for the amount that they will actually eat are naturally lower, or even thinking of breakfast as a "snack" and the midmorning snack as "breakfast". They may surprise you and eat a ton at 9 am versus 7!
One night at dinner, you serve up a big bowl of the pasta that your toddler typically inhales. He eats some, but not as much as you think, and skips the broccoli that's on the side. Argh! Why isn't he eating as much as he normally does? He loves this meal!
-->Maybe he's tired or teething or simply had a big or later afternoon snack than the last time you made this meal. Maybe the texture of the broccoli just wasn't doing it for him today. Who knows! If we try not to compare our toddler's intake with previous meals and simply let it be what it is, we'll be able to accept that they're simply trusting their own hunger cues. Try not to push and don't coerce bites—which often turns into a power struggle at that meals and meals going forward, which is no fun for anyone—because it's really up to them to decide how hungry they are.
You put out a bowl of blueberries as a pre-dinner snack and your toddler eats them all and wants more. She wants more so badly that she turns into a sobbing mess. There literally aren't any more blueberries in the store and you try your hardest to get her to understand you. She doesn't and refuses to eat dinner.
-->Toddlers feel many things very intensely and this goes for their food preferences too. And the concept of running out of foods is still a little fuzzy to them, so in their mind, they simply want more and you aren't giving it to them. It's upsetting! Your toddler is not crazy for losing her mind. She's tired at the end of the day and is disappointed. She will not waste away if she skips dinner. She won't grow up to be unable to control her emotions as an adult. She'll go to bed, sleep well, and will likely be super hungry for breakfast the next day.
Your toddler only eats mac and cheese, yellow cheese, Cheerios, and bananas and you're losing your mind because you can't get her to eat anything else. Won't she be malnourished without eating a wider range of foods!?!?
-->It can often feel like our kids don't eat anything other than a few things, but I'd challenge you to keep a running list of everything they eat over the course of a week, not simply a day, and you might be surprised to see the list get longer than you expect. (And, hey, your toddler does eat mac and cheese, yellow cheese, Cheerios and bananas, which is something!) But if you do find that your toddler is relying on his favorite foods at most meals, try these simple tips to encourage her to try new foods.
Dinner is often refused, but your toddler routinely asks for a snack when it's time for bed. You usually give it to him because you don't want him to go to bed hungry, yet you hate that he's turned into such a picky eater!
Kids are smart and if they know that they can hold out for preferred snack foods instead of eating dinner, and buy themselves a bit longer before bedtime, they will do it! So you need to decide on a plan: Either make a bedtime snack a regular thing and choose healthy foods that aren't too exciting (fruit, cheese, plain cereal). Or, take it off the table as an option by explaining that the kitchen is closed after dinner, there will be no snack, and if you don't eat your dinner, you can be hungry for breakfast. And then stick to it so that it becomes the new normal. (My oldest actually uses this "I'll be hungry for dinner" a few times a week when she catches herself asking for a snack/delaying bedtime!)
Your toddler always, ALWAYS, wants the same snack. Like will not accept anything else. Why won't she eat a wider range of foods like she did when she was a baby?
Toddlers love routine and in many circumstances, this is a great quality because it helps them to make sense of the world as they move throughout their day. But when it comes to food, routines can quickly turn into set-in-stone habits that are crazy hard to break. I always joke that if I do something twice with my oldest, I'll have to do it everyday for the rest of my life...so keep that in mind with snacks and favorite foods. You can change up the snacks ever so slightly—try crackers with string cheese instead of cubed cheese, or quartered purple grapes instead of green—or simply don't serve the same foods for the same meals two days in a row. And remember to explain to your child what's going on and keep at it until it's the new routine. (You can also simply not buy the favorite snack food one week to prove to yourself that they will move on and eat other things!)
I think it's also important to remember how we feel when we have to eat something that we don't want. It kind of sucks, right? Here's an example from my life: Every Sunday morning my husband cooks us hash browns and eggs. This is hands down one of my oldest daughter's favorite meals and the little one usually loves it too. Unfortunately, I am not a savory breakfast person so this meal is a bit of an uphill battle for me. It really takes a lot of mental energy for me to eat it and I'm a mature adult! It gives me a lot of empathy for all the times that I serve my kids something that they don't really want. (I did recently convince my husband to make it for dinner and I happily dug in!)
As much as is possible, serve the foods you want your kids to eat and let them decide what of it to put into their mouths. They will not waste away if they don't eat a good dinner every night. They will not have stunted growth if they never touch kale until after college. You are not a bad parent if you can't get them to eat their broccoli! And as with all things kid-related, remember that this particular phase you're in with feeding your little ones will soon pass and they'll be on to challenging you with the next thing. They will not live on cheese crackers forever, I pinky swear. Stay calm, try not to take it personally, and remember: They're just being toddlers!!
**There are of course children who's selective eating actually is a problem and can have negative impacts on their growth and development. If you are worried about your child, talk to your pediatrician and/or a feeding therapist for professional advice. I also love the book Extreme PIcky Eating for anyone struggling with intense feeding challenges.
Once a year, I put my popular Yummy Toddler Lunches on sale as an opportunity for you to snag a great deal on a bundle of useful information—especially if you are one of the many parents who has to send food to daycare or preschool. It has ideas for everyone else too, with super simple tips for packing meals for on the go, but I find these ideas particularly helpful for the in the trenches nature of sending food for snacks and lunches day after day when it's so easy to run out of ideas...and steam.
There's no code needed to take advantage of the sale. For the next week, it will be half price, so $4 instead of $8! Remember, I only put this ebook on sale once a year so grab a copy while you can from now through end of day Wednesday August 9.
On a related note, I've been thinking a lot about how often the most successful meals and snacks I serve to my girls are the simplest. And I try to keep that in mind when packing lunches too. Because the last thing I want to do when I'm staring into the fridge at night attempting to pack a lunch is to have to actually make a recipe. And while I know that it's important to expose our toddlers to lots of flavors and to try to avoid them getting too stuck on their favorite foods—because they are so good at loving routines and then refusing everything else!— I also think that it's entirely okay if you keep things very straightforward in the lunchbox.
This isn't the place to try to cram kale into every bite or to make faces in all of the foods. I mean, go ahead if you love to do that, but you absolutely should not set the bar on that level. I strive to pack a combination of fresh foods that cover a range of food groups—but that first and foremost are easy for my little to eat, taste good, and are easy for me to prepare.
This lunch above is an example of that mindset. No, it's not earth shattering to pack peas in a lunchbox but you know what? T loves them and all I have to do is to pull them out of the freezer. There's nothing special about a leftover muffin or cheese. And I admit that lately, I've found myself looking forward to the day when she's up to the textures of a PB&J because it would be a nice option to have in the mix. Sure, there is some chopping involved with prepping some fruit, especially for younger toddlers, but I hereby give you permission to make things easier on yourself. Feeding your kids is not a competition. What you pack for lunch does not need to pass a test of creativity. Keep it simple, flavorful, and fresh, and I bet the kids will love it.
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85 Foods to Send to Daycare that Don't Require Reheating
Earlier this month, we went on a 10 day trip to Montana. We saw family, explored Glacier Park, and ate well—except the littlest one. She survived on mostly fruit and cheese and almost never ate dinner. For the first few days it really stressed me out and now that we're home and back into our routine, I thought I'd share our experience. So if you're heading out on a trip, here are 10 things you might not know are normal about feeding toddlers while traveling.
Almost immediately upon getting home, T started eating dinner, she's been eating all sorts of foods, and she hasn't had cheese at every meal. I am relieved that we didn't have an issue getting back into our normal routine and I bet you won't either. Relax while you're on the go and enjoy those new experiences with your littlest family members!
I often joke that Tula is currently living on berries and cheese and while that's not 100% true, it often feels like she's already so firmly committed to her favorite foods. Combine that with the fact that she simply doesn't love bready things yet—which is normal for many younger toddlers—and I sometimes get stuck for what to offer her for snacks. So working off of her love for blueberries and the sudden influx of zucchini at our farmer's market, I've started making these super moist whole grain muffins to share with her.
Typically, I make these muffins with buckwheat flour since it's naturally high in protein and fiber and it's an accessible and affordable way to make gluten-free baked goods. (You can just use whole wheat flour if you prefer!) Combined with mashed banana, chia seeds, and blueberries, these muffins are a yummy mini meal in a convenient package. Plus, the blueberries help to entice my toddler to try a food she might not otherwise be interested in.
To ensure that these are moist enough for newer eaters, you can spread on a little applesauce or plain yogurt and dice into small cubes. And offer regular sips of water.
Nutritionally, these muffins are a good source of fiber and protein—and have potassium and vitamin C from the fruit and veggies.
Zucchini Blueberry Banana Muffins
You can use 1/4 cup almond meal and/or 1/4 cup coconut flour in place of the flour called for to change up the flavor and nutritional profile if desired. You can also use this batter, thinly slightly with a little milk as needed, to make pancakes!
Makes 12 muffins
2 very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup grated zucchini, packed and squeezed dry (about 1 small zucchini)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons melted butter or coconut oil, cooled slightly
1 1/2 cup buckwheat flour or whole wheat
2 tablespoons chia seeds or ground flaxseed
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup milk (dairy or nondairy)
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and grease a muffin tin.
2. Mash the banana well. Stir in the eggs, vanilla, zucchini, and maple syrup. Stir in the flour, chia seeds, baking powder, cinnamon, and milk to combine. Gently fold in the blueberries. Portion into the prepared muffin tin, filling about 3/4 full. Bake for 22-24 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out cleanly. Run a knife around the edges to loosen and cool on a wire rack.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer in a zip top freezer bag for up to 3 months.
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My littlest is about 14 months old now, so I’ve been deep in the mode of packing food for daycare for about 6 months now. We’ve gone through phases as she’s learned how to eat and while I’m sure the food I send for her will continue to change and vary as she grows as a toddler, it seemed like a good time to do another post on foods you can send to daycare that don’t need to be reheated.
My original post on this subject has lots of ideas, but I have more to share today. Know that I’m writing this post with the experience of feeding my younger toddler in mind, but you can of course adjust these ideas for your own child, no matter their age.
I know that many daycares won’t (or can’t!) reheat food and they need to have foods that are easy to serve since they are often feeding many kids at a time. Some of these ideas may seem odd to serve cold or at room temperature, but sometimes, finding more options for daycare food just requires a shift in what you think is normal. Because many foods that we traditionally eat warm are actually fine cold!
I typically send two snacks and one lunch in one container simply to keep things contained, and because I know that our care provider is portioning out the food onto a highchair tray. Adjust how you pack the lunch as needed.
All sorts of beans are great for lunches. They are already in a perfect finger food package and can be seasoned in all sorts of ways. Rinse and drain any canned beans to remove excess salt and pat dry with a paper towel. Then try:
Chilled or room temperature pasta is a great lunch option—just think of it like pasta salad. The only issue is that it can sometimes firm up when cold, so be sure that you add enough sauce (or olive oil) to keep it moist and easy to eat. Try:
You can try any of these ideas with couscous and cooked rice or quinoa.
While hard-cooked eggs are a frequent lunch component, there are other ways to serve up eggs—and most you can do way ahead of time.
SHREDDED CHICKEN, TURKEY, OR BEEF
Some toddlers don’t love the texture of meat and poultry, but often it just needs more moisture. We like shredded meat and poultry best since it tends to be easiest for little ones to chew/gum, though you can move onto diced pieces as your toddler grows. You can moisten any of these with lemon juice, olive oil, toasted sesame oil, mild salsa, marinara, lemon-tahini sauce, roasted mashed sweet potato, or pesto.
We’re big fans of plain yogurt, but it’s not always easy for a toddler to eat with a spoon. Here are a few ways we like to serve it up for daycare.
While oatmeal is traditionally a breakfast food, it’s also a super option for lunch or snacks. For toddlers who prefer to feed themselves, I like to serve it thicker so they can pick it up in chunks.
Cinnamon, vanilla, and shredded unsweetened coconut
Cinnamon, vanilla, and a little peanut or almond butter
¼ cup applesauce, mashed roasted sweet potato, or mashed banana
¼ cup chopped berries
2 tablespoons snipped raisins or dried cherries
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, snipped kale or spinach, and a dash olive oil
Store future servings in airtight containers for up to 2 days.
Fruit is of course a great option for mealtime and here are a few of the ways that I like to pack it for daycare or a day out of the house.
I find that I have to regularly remind myself of other veggie options besides frozen peas. Here are some of my go-tos.
You can see my Master Snack List here, but here are a few easy ideas to round out packed food for a day.
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You guys, the final issue of Yummy Family Food is ready and I'm so happy to share it with you! In it are 10 dinner recipes, each of which have 5 simple variations so you can make them with what you have on hand or according to the preferences of your own family, and 5 simple sides. They make the most of fresh, summer produce and yet remain kid-friendly. My family's favorites included the Zucchini Pizzas and the Shrimp and Veggie Pasta, and I can't wait to hear what your little ones love!
We just got back from a somewhat epic road trip from Iowa to Pennsylvania and I must admit that the biggest wild card of the adventure was how our little one would do being in the car for that length of time. It was 14 hours each way, and she's always on the move, so I had a feeling she'd get sick of being strapped in after a while. I was right—but I also found a few ways to keep her happy, entertained, and well-fed along the way.
So if you're heading out for a road trip with your family, whether long or short, or you just need some new ideas to make traveling easier with your toddler, here are 10 tips that worked for us on this recent trip.
And as with all things toddler related, try to be flexible, silly, and open to new adventures. I mean, who knows what fun will come your way while out on the road!
The awesome containers shown above are the Seal Cup Trio from EcoLunchbox and their Splash Box. They are stainless with silicone lids, so they're completely plastic-free, and they seal and keep foods well contained when on the go. (Added bonus: The trio set nests when empty to make for easy storage.) I've had the chance to try them out and they've quickly become new staples in our house.
These products will be arriving in many Target locations this weekend, so check to see if they're available in your area with their store locator! (They're also offering a discount on purchases if you submit proof of purchase through their website.)
P.S. We also loved listening to Wow in the World and the "Disney Stories" playlist on Spotify with our older kiddo.
There have been a few nights lately when I've just had no motivation to cook. And I'm quite sure that I'm not the only one who's ever felt that way! So whether it's your busy schedule, warm weather, or just the general laziness of summer, here are 50 simple ideas for dinner for those nights that you don't want to do any "real" cooking. I polled my amazing Instagram community for ideas, I added a few of my own, and I would love to hear additional ones from you!
Of course, everyone's idea of "easy" and "cooking" is different, so there's a range here. Some do require cooking and some are assembly only (and others rely on leftovers being stored away in the freezer), but all are relatively straight forward. Keep this list on hand for those nights when everyone needs to be fed, but you want to make your life a little easier.
What do you guys make when you don't feel like cooking?
A few weeks ago we celebrated baby Tula's first birthday. It's so hard to believe that her first year went by so quickly, but we were more than happy to celebrate her with a big batch of Banana Cupcakes!
I'm pretty committed to the idea of simple when it comes to entertaining so I did my best to make her first birthday party special, but also easy. I was extra emotional about the milestone so the last thing I wanted was to be stressed out about the food at her party, particularly the cake. Her favorite foods include dairy (cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, and more) and fruit (particularly blueberries and bananas), so I used that as my inspiration for her cupcakes. I knew that using a base of mashed bananas would provide natural sweetness and going with a simple cream cheese frosting seemed like a must—it would have pleasant creaminess without needing cups of powdered sugar to pipe perfectly. And I knew she'd love it given her adoration of dairy!
This banana cupcake recipe has minimal added sugar, but was sweet enough to be enjoyed by the range of ages that came to her first birthday party. And while I have to be honest and say that the cake base does veer towards muffin territory (it's not as light as my Lower Sugar Vanilla Cupcakes), no one seemed to mind much—especially not the birthday girl.
So if you have a little one with a special day coming up and you're looking for a lower sugar dessert option, these Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting are a great option.
Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Be gentle when combining the wet and dry ingredients to avoid over-mixing the batter. (If you want to serve these as muffins, simply omit the frosting.) You could try using whole-wheat pastry flour if you prefer.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes about 12
Cream Cheese Frosting
Beat together 1 package cream cheese (softened at room temperature), 2 tablespoons butter (softened at room temperature), 2-3 tablespoons honey, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla with a hand-held mixer. Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes.
One of my most favorite recipe development assignments ever was putting together a collection of recipes for new and expecting mamas for the May issue of Delicious Living. In it you'll find:
Each recipe is designed with nutrients to nourish a mama—though my family loved these foods too and they've been in regular rotation for a few months now. Check them out right here.
As baby T recently crossed the one year mark, I started thinking a lot about how I want to feed her in the coming year. Having gone through this phase once before, I know what's ahead in the toddler years: Increased opinions, fickle appetite, definite preferences, and a sometimes challenging demeanor at the table. On the one hand, it's so amazing to see our babies turn into opinionated little people. On the other hand, toddlers can be very hard to feed!
I've already noticed that T has definite food preferences and she'd gladly eat cheese and berries multiple times a day if I offered it. Some foods she doesn't like due to texture, as far as I can tell, which at the moment that includes most meat and bread products. And there are times that she's simply exploring her world, dropping one bite and eating the next. And this brings me to what often trips people up when feeding toddlers.
If you only offer the foods your toddler likes because you're pretty sure they will eat those foods, other foods become less familiar. Your toddler's diet will narrow to those few foods and unfamiliar foods may become a tough sell—both because it's hard for them to imagine how they will taste and because your toddler is used to getting the foods they like most at most meals.
So on the one hand, yes, you're feeding your toddler and making sure that they aren't going hungry. But on the other, catering to their early preferences sort of sets them up to be picky, which no one wants!
I'm not going to pretend that even if you offer your toddler a wide range of foods, that you'll be guaranteed to have a child who eats everything you offer. Because your little one is their own person and they will have opinions about their meals no matter what you do! Some of that just is what it is and isn't necessarily worth pushing back on. I mean, life is short and maybe it's okay that they really only like one kind of cheese or cracker, or to drink from one specific sippy cup. But I do think that if you can continue to expose them to lots of foods—alongside, in addition to, or alternating with—favorites, you can help to avoid an extremely narrow list of accepted foods.
Which brings me back to my girl. Right now, she's 12 months old, so she's still (mostly) in the honeymoon phase where she'll at least try what I give her. So here are the goals that I'm going to keep in mind:
I fully expect that we'll run into feeding challenges in spite of all of this, but it definitely makes me feel like I'm going into toddlerhood with my eyes wide open!
For the past month, we've had the occasional sweltering day and our fair share of spring colds. Because of this, we've been enjoying freezer pop season sooner than I expected—and trying to fill up on probiotics to help our bodies fight off the yuck—and the girls couldn't be happier about this coping mechanism! These Mango-Kefir Pops are one of our favorite both because they are so easy to make and because they are downright refreshing.
Kefir, if you're not familiar with it, is a probiotic-rich fermented dairy drink—which is a complicated way to say that it's basically like drinkable yogurt with a bit more tang. It has beneficial components, just like yogurt, and is a good source of calcium and protein. It's particularly delicious when paired with mango or berries since the sweetness of the fruit helps to smooth out the somewhat sour flavor. My older daughter won't drink it on it's own, but she loves it when it's frozen into a pop.
These freezer pops are simply two ingredients blended together and they're open to a wide variety of interpretations. Add in a sprinkle of shredded coconut or chia seeds, blend in some baby spinach, or even some oats. And be sure to serve on a very hot day—or pretend it's a hot day with an indoor picnic!
Mango Kefir Freezer Pops
Fresh or frozen mango cubes
Plain, unsweetened kefir
Blend the mango and kefir together in a 1:1 ratio depending on how many pops you want to make. Typically, I do 1 cup of each. You can add a little honey or maple syrup if your fruit isn't particularly sweet, though mango is usually sweet enough on its own. Freeze for 4-6 hours or until firm.
You can also serve this in a cup straight from the blender as a smoothie or use yogurt instead of kefir if you prefer.
Freezer pops shown are the Zoku Mini Popsicle Molds, which are a perfect size for little ones.
I'm so excited to introduce my newest ebook, Yummy Baby Food, today! It's no secret that I'm passionate about helping others to feed their families well and the past 6 months of introducing baby Tula to solids reminded me of a very important thing: Those first few months can be a real challenge! From textures and flavors to the simple order of feeding her different foods multiple times a day, feeding a baby can feel like a full-time job. And a stressful one at that.
Plus, I found myself having to block out some of the noise I was hearing online about feeding little ones. Because while it's true that a baby should eat lots of nutritious foods from the start, I feel really strongly that we don't need to source unusual cuts of meat, track down expensive ingredients or supplements, break our food budgets buying 100% organic ingredients, or make complicated purees with foods we don't ever eat ourselves. And we don't need to measure our baby's milestones against any others because just as one baby may crawl before another, each baby progresses through the phases of eating solids at her own pace.
Deep down, I knew that I just needed to focus on whole foods, prepared simply, and to let my girl participate in meals from the very start with opportunities to feed herself. And to take her preferences in stride—and to keep offering her a variety of foods no matter what she threw onto the floor during a meal. But I was also being reminded each day how hard that can be and how important it is to have shortcuts (ahem, pouches) in my back pocket.
Yummy Baby Food is the result of that experience. I want parents everywhere to be able to relax about feeding their baby, to stop worrying about labels of feeding styles, and to follow their own baby's lead. And to have the tools to prepare simple foods and meals for little ones, whether they are brand new to solid food or are a more advanced eater of finger foods.
While there are recipes included here, this isn't a glossy baby food cookbook—there are plenty of lovely options already on the market to cover those bases. Instead, this is a quick-start guidebook to help you get going, reset when a problem arises, and to give you new, doable ideas for the day in and day out nature of feeding little ones.
The guide is filled with practical advice that doesn't require you to find unusual or expensive ingredients or spend hours cooking. As my youngest was going through each phase, I took photos so you can see what tiny hands look like when holding certain foods and trying to self-feed in these early months of eating. This guide is, I hope, a reminder that while questions will definitely arise during the first 6 months of feeding your baby solids, the answers are often simple and completely doable.
Inside the 60 page ebook you'll find:
And here's what a few early readers had to say about Yummy Baby Food:
To celebrate my sweet baby's first birthday this week, I'm offering the ebook at a discounted price of just $5 from now through the end of the weekend. After that it will be $8.
Since the baby has started eating more finger foods, I've been trying to expand my range of pancakes since they are such a perfect meal or snack option. Plus, with a soft and tender texture, they are a perfect way to offer up all sorts of wholesome ingredients in an easy-to-eat package. These Sweet Potato Coconut Pancakes are a recent favorite since they are tender, filled with protein and Vitamin A, and store really well in the fridge.
I almost always have something like this on hand to offer up throughout the week. We like these plain, topped with a little yogurt, or spread with nut butter. (They also make a great breakfast-for-dinner option alongside scrambled eggs and bacon!) I made these without nuts, gluten, or dairy, in the hopes that they'd be accessible to some allergy kiddos, though if you can't do eggs, try one of my other pancake recipes since they are key to holding the mixture together.
If you don't have coconut flour, you can try whole wheat. Just know that you might need to add an extra tablespoon or two to make the batter thick enough since coconut flour is very thirsty!
Sweet Potato Coconut Pancakes
You can roast the sweet potato up to 3 days ahead and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. Wash and dry the sweet potatoes and poke with a paring knife. Place into a baking dish and roast for 45-60 minutes at 400 degrees F or until very soft. Double this recipe to make a larger batch if desired.
Plate shown here is from Brinware.
All toddlers, not just the ones who are lower on the growth curve, need fat in their diet to help them grow. In fact, fats should make up half of a baby and toddler's daily calories until the age of two for proper brain and body development, so it's important to include healthier fats at most meals and snacks. Fats help our bodies absorb crucial nutrients like Vitamins A, D, E, and K, and are key in building our central nervous systems. But like all things with feeding toddlers, this can get tricky if (ahem...when) your little one has strong opinions about what they eat! And, of course, it's also too easy for us parents to obsess about whether our kids are getting the nutrients they need.
(Quick side note: It seems common for pediatricians to tell parents that they need to "fatten up" their toddler, so if that happens the first thing I'd check is whether your child is on their own growth curve. If your little one has always been in the 5% percentile for weight and haven't suddenly dropped off their curve, they might be growing exactly how they are meant to. And if they eat and drink well, have lots of energy, and your gut tells you that they're genetics are at play with their body type—maybe they look exactly like you did as a child—then I personally wouldn't go too far off the ledge with adding extra fats into all of their food. Talk to your doctor about your specific concerns if this is a situation you find yourself in. And remember that the growth curve goes from 0-100, and kids that fall anywhere on that curve can be healthy!)
The key with fats and kids (and all of us really) is to focus on the healthier ones—which generally speaking, are the ones found naturally in foods like nuts, seeds, plants, fish, and grass-fed meats—and less on ones that show up in packaged foods. This follows my general approach to feeding: Surround your family with more fresh, whole foods, and less packaged snacky ones when possible, but don't make yourself crazy doing it.
You can study up on all of the different kinds of fats and know the ins and outs of which ones are better for you and your kids if you want to, but I find that that approach can be confusing for many people. Instead, I like to focus on actual foods, rather than tunnel-visioning on macronutrients, since it's much easier to wrap my head around what to buy at the store. I don't have to remember the difference between omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids or what ALA means. Instead, these are the types of fat-containing foods that I like to feed my whole family.
Beef, grass-fed if possible
Cheese (shredded, sliced, cheese sticks)
Chicken, dark meat
Coconut, unsweetened shredded
Cottage cheese, 4% fat
Sunflower seed butter
Yogurt, full-fat plain
Wild salmon, fresh, frozen or canned
Besides the dairy, meat, and fish, I think of everything on this list as a garnish and add it in smaller amounts to the foods that we eat. This adds a range of nutrients, including fat, and helps to make the meals that we eat more filling and satisfying. (And, yes, delicious.) Of course, you don't need to stock all of these foods in your house at once and there will be days when your toddler only wants the peanut butter or cheese or yogurt and that too is okay. Try to keep the bigger picture in mind and think of their intake over the course of a week, rather than bite-by-bite. Buy different foods at the store from week to week, like chia seeds one week and sunflower seeds the next, to easily add in some variation.
I add a small amount (usually 1/2-1 teaspoon) chia, flax or hemp seeds to smoothies, overnight oats, and oatmeal. We have peanut or sunflower seed butter sauces over noodles, rice, or veggies. I regularly make Thai curry with coconut milk, or I sometimes also use coconut milk as a base in soups. We spread nut and seed butter over toast and pancakes. I roast veggies in olive oil, saute in olive oil or butter, and buy whole milk and dairy products whenever possible. And my girls love freezer pops made with a blend of equal parts plain kefir and mango chunks.
We also eat grass-fed beef when we can get it (and when I can find it at an affordable price) since it tends to have a better ratio of healthier fats. And I try to make fish a few times a month, though that tends to be a challenge where we live since there aren't always great options. (Salmon cakes continue to be a go-to meal for us though.)
This of course is not a completely comprehensive list, but hopefully it gives you a place to start if you've been concerned about this topic—and if your toddler has been refusing some of the healthier fats you've been offering him.
P.S. Schools and many conventional pediatricians still recommend switching to low-fat or fat-free milk after a child turns two, but you may not want to do that. A 2013 study found that kids who drink low-fat milk tend to be heavier. And a 2016 study found that kids who drank milk with higher fat content had higher levels of Vitamin D and lower BMIs. Just something to keep in mind!
This is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice. Always contact your pediatrician as needed.
With simple ingredients and a quick method, this yummy berry smoothie is a great option for breakfast, snack time, or even dessert. It packs in Vitamin C, potassium, fat, and fiber for a balanced mix of nutrients that will keep your toddler's belly full and their energy levels stable (well, as much as is possible with a toddler!). You can even freeze it into pops!
As baby T approaches the 1 year mark, I've been working to expose her to a variety of flavors and foods. Smoothies were big on my list since I never gave them to my older daughter and now she's sort of afraid of them...though she did tell me recently that she thinks she'd like one if it had apples and cheese in it. Anyway, a few times a week, I make a smoothie for T and I to share. This often happens at breakfast, but I sometimes also send one with her to the sitter or freeze them into little pops for an afternoon snack on a warm day. She's taken to drinking from straws really well and seems to love sucking down the flavorful mixtures.
I know that it can be tempting to try to pack in all of the nutrients to every smoothie—and trust me, I've made a few that have gone over the deep end with ingredients and have wound up not tasting all that great—it's definitely better to keep smoothies for little ones simpler. There's no reason to add 10 ingredients when just a few can make a nutritious meal option, and there's no reason to feel like you need to have a pantry full of hard to find ingredients to feed your toddler well. I do try to include fat and some protein in the mix, but otherwise, I keep things straightforward. And know that you can vary this idea as you like, changing the fruit or add-ins depending on what you're in the mood for or what you have on hand.
If you blend up a smoothie and it's too thick for your little one to drink through their sippy cup or straw, you can simply stir in a little water or additional liquid to thin it out.
Simple Blueberry Smoothie
I most often serve smoothies alongside something that my littlest one can self-feed, so you may need to adjust the serving depending on whether this is served as a full meal or not. You can also use a frozen banana and fresh blueberries, or frozen versions of both. Frozen banana will create a slightly thicker smoothie.
Makes one adult and one toddler serving
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 ripe banana
1 cup lightly packed baby spinach
1 cup milk (plant or dairy milk works fine here)
1 teaspoon ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter, optional
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on high for 30 seconds or until very smooth. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge and use within 12 hours. (Shake before serving.) Or, freezer into popsicle molds and freeze for 4-6 hours or until firm.
You can use strawberries instead of blueberries, chia or hemp seed instead of flax, and/or plain yogurt instead of the milk.
From an early age, we've tried to foster independence in the kitchen with L. She's had access to her own drawer for a while now, has a few dedicated tools for helping us to cook, and recently added a set of super cool Puj Phillup Cups to her collection. And I am sure that her little sister will follow in her footsteps as soon as she can. Because this is a product that we truly love—and the company has some awesome perks to share with you guys including a $200 gift card to their shop and freebies with any orders for the new cups—I'm so excited to partner with Puj Baby to help them launch their newly redesigned Phillup Cups today!
The cups have been a parent and kid favorite since 2015, but they’re now stronger and have a lower everyday price. The 4-pack is launching today on @indiegogo for $25, but you guys can also get a free bonus cup, a choice of activity cards (including yummy toddler smoothie recipes that I developed for them!), and free shipping, so be sure to check it out! AND:
**One of you will WIN a $200 shop credit to puj.com and three of you can win a 4-pack of the cups for your own kids! All the info you need to enter is at the bottom of this post.**
We have two of these cups hanging on the side of our fridge, right where L can reach them. Which means that whenever she says that she's thirsty, I can remind her that she can help herself to a drink with her cup and the little pitcher that we keep on the table filled with water This helps me feel like I don't spend the entirety of my days fetching things for my darling kiddos, and it helps her to feel capable and independent. Win-win!
Here are a few other ways that we try to teach independence in the kitchen:
Now, having a little one who helps themselves to drinks and is very involved at the dinner table does sometimes result in extra messes—because drinks are inevitably spilled and rice is sometimes dropped all over the table. And there are times that they want to do something on their own and you're crunched for time. But the "I can do it" air that surrounds their attempts usually makes this all worth it in the end.
I don't often tout products like this, but we've been using the cups for a few months now and really love them. (We also use one as a rinse cup in the bathtub and have one by the sink for water. I love that they are fun, yet don't have kid characters on them!) They are bpa- and pvc-free and are made from food-safe (and dishwasher-safe) polypropylene. The silicone hooks are super strong and easy to hang and each cup has a grippy silicone bottom designed to resist tipping and sliding (which, as you know, is very helpful with little ones!).
And now for the fun part!
To enter to win a $200 credit to puj.com or one of three 4-packs of their new cups:
I'll announce the random winners that following weekend!
Good luck and learn more about these awesome cups right here.
This post is in partnership with Puj. We've lived with and tested these cups for months and truly love them. There are affiliate links throughout, but the opinions are my own.
As my littlest one has firmly entered the finger foods stage and almost always insists on feeding herself, I've been trying new recipes with her in mind—like these Lentil and Carrot Burgers. They are easier for her to eat than plain lentils (though she has tried to pick up lentils one at a time which makes for a rather endless meal!) and have a nicely balanced mix of ingredients. Plus, with flavors similar to falafel, they are super yummy for the rest of us too!
I played around with this idea for the past few weeks and seriously streamlined the method. I also adjusted my original plan so that these are nut, egg, and dairy free. And while you do need to use the food processor to grind up the batter, the recipe comes together entirely in the food processor and then the cooking method is entirely hands off so you can go play with the kids while dinner cooks. We like these vegetarian burgers on rolls, alongside a grain (like rice or quinoa) or even as a snack on their own. And I like to send one, diced, in the baby's lunch to her sitter's when there are leftovers—or add a few to a spinach salad for myself
I often make these in the morning and let them sit in the fridge all day. They are totally fine after a quick reheat in the oven or microwave. (They can get pretty soft when reheating, so err on the side of less time reheating, especially if using the microwave.)
Nutrition: These burgers have fiber, protein, iron, and B vitamins from the lentils and Vitamins A and C from the carrots.
Lentil and Carrot Burgers
You can top these with melted cheese to serve if you'd like. Simply add a little shredded cheese on top for the last few minutes of baking. We like them topped with ketchup or a simple Lemon Tahini Dressing and hot sauce for the adults.
2 cups lentils, prepared according to package directions
2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
1 small onion, halved, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup bread crumbs or flour (regular or gluten-free)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.
2. Place all ingredients except the breadcrumbs or flour into a food processor. Process until very smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container as needed, for about 1 minute. Pulse in the breadcrumbs or flour. Use a 1/4-cup measuring cup to portion into burgers and/or a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon to measure into mini burgers. Place onto the prepared baking sheet and flatten slightly into rounds.
3. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm with rolls, with a side of rice or another grain, or over a salad for mom and dad.