Now that I have been a parent for three years, I finally feel like I am getting the hang of feeding our kids healthy food without being completely insane about it (seriously, I used to carefully cut (organic) sweet potatoes into identical pieces and painstakingly swipe a thin layer of (organic) coconut oil on each individual piece by hand. I don’t know why, but at the time it seemed absolutely necessary. My husband probably realized I was nuts but was too scared to say anything). Since then, I have seen my one-year-old try to eat an earthworm like a noodle and my three-year-old drink his own bathwater.
It seems there is a direct negative correlation between how gross things are around me and how much I let things stress me out. Nothing like a toddler to keep things real.
Making healthy food for your kids does not have to be time-consuming or expensive. These are the foods that we’ve come to rely on, because they are healthy and easy to make (emphasis on easy – you won’t find gourmet, complicated recipes here). These items are on steady rotation in our house, and make up the bulk of our diet. Of course there are vegetables and fruits and other basics not mentioned here, I’ve just included our most common meals with a few notes on preparation.
Eggs are such a convenient, versatile, healthy food. They contain, among other things, vitamin B12, phosphorus, riboflavin, and choline. In fact, eggs provide all of the B vitamins as well as vitamin D and iron. Whole eggs (don’t skip the yolk) are a complete protein – they contain all of the necessary amino acids. According to livescience.com, “They’re so good for you, in fact, that the World Health Organization uses egg protein as a standard for evaluating protein in other foods.”
They really are one of the highest quality proteins found in food, and they make an excellent meal for kids (and babies). My kids eat eggs almost every day (they’re an important part of their diet which usually doesn’t include meat), either fried, scrambled, or soft-boiled. I often add frozen veggies (anything little since boy # 2 is just one), or leftover vegetables like roasted cauliflower to their scrambled eggs just to increase their veggie intake. Hard or soft-boiled eggs are a great option when you’re on the go and need to bring a healthy, protein-packed snack.
My favorite way to scramble eggs (when I have a little extra time) is to sauté chopped garlic in a small amount of olive oil with salt and pepper (I’ll sometimes add chopped and seeded jalapeño peppers for me and my husband), and let that cook for a little while on low heat. Then add whisked eggs and cook it on low heat. When they’re just about cooked, I add some chopped fresh tomatoes (get rid of some of the tomato liquid before adding to the pan. Grape tomatoes are good for this because they’re a little less watery than the bigger ones). When the eggs are cooked, I’ll add chopped spring onion if I have it and more salt if it needs it. Since this takes a little more time (every second counts when you’re living with indiscriminate poopers), these “fancy” scrambled eggs are usually saved for days when my husband is home and can help with damage control. And really, just sautéing a little garlic to scramble your eggs in makes them significantly more delicious than “regular” scrambled eggs. And since we now know about dry shampoo, we can use the time we normally would to wash our hair to chop some garlic instead. Parenting is all about prioritizing.
Humans can be real assholes
While eggs are a healthy, easy option for all ages (we gave both our boys cooked egg yolks at 6 months), like any other animal product it is worth it to do a little research and figure out which brands are healthy and humane. Unless you live in a box that doesn’t get internet, you’re probably aware that modern animal farming practices in the US are generally pretty f*ing awful. If you’d rather not support this, try to support the guys trying to treat animals well and produce healthy products. The Cornucopia Institute recently released an egg “scorecard” (last updated June 2nd, 2016), which, according to their site, “showcases ethical family farms, and their brands, and exposes factory farm producers and brands in grocery store coolers that threaten to take over organic livestock agriculture”. They are a public interest group which researches agricultural issues, supports family-scale farming and ecologically produced food, and is basically working to expose and improve the sad state of the food industry. In the scorecard, they rate over a hundred different brands of eggs based on best farming practices and ethics.
In making our decision about which eggs to buy, we found this scorecard helpful and surprising. Apparently, buying Wholefoods 365 brand organic eggs is in many ways no better than buying the least expensive store-brand eggs you can find. I know that I have bought 365 eggs before, thinking it would at least be better than some (and surprised that they were so affordable). But egg-labeling is a very murky, misleading and frequently arbitrary practice; their claims of “organic”, “natural”, “free-range” and “cage-free” often mean something very different than what we think, and sometimes mean nothing at all.
So which eggs should you buy?
At the end of the day, you can obviously just buy what your family can afford. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t buy “the best” eggs, or if you have to buy the least expensive eggs there are. Keep in mind that you’re still feeding your kid an egg instead of a donut, and you can feel good about that. For us, since eggs are such a big part of our diet and we aren’t spending much on other animal products, we can afford to spend a little more and buy eggs that have at least a “three-egg” rating on the scorecard*. The most cost-effective option we have found are the Pete & Gerry’s brand eggs, which we get at BJ’s for $6.39/18 eggs. Of course, pastured eggs from a local farmer would be an excellent choice, and you should definitely explore the options in your area. Check out the egg scorecard for some good options, and to see which eggs aren’t worth the extra cost.
*According to The Cornucopia Institute’s egg scorecard, “Brands with a three-egg rating are very good choices. Eggs from brands in this category either come from family-scale farms that provide outdoor runs for their chickens, or from larger-scale farms where meaningful outdoor space is either currently granted or under construction. All producers in this category appear committed to meeting organic standards for minimum outdoor space for laying hens”.
Ah, sweet potatoes. Sweet, delicious, somehow still healthy sweet potatoes. This root vegetable has been feeding my babies since they were able to eat solid foods, and I am forever grateful for this easy, healthy option. They have less starch than other carbohydrates, and they provide us with four essential micronutrients: vitamin C, thiamin, potassium and manganese. But mostly, a crazy amount of vitamin C, which among other things helps our immune system, teeth and gums, and helps our body absorb iron.
My favorite way to prepare sweet potatoes is to roast them with a little coconut oil. This way, I don’t have to stir anything on the stove, I just set the timer for 15 minute increments and move them around a bit each time until they’re done (usually after about 45 minutes, but it depends on how small you cut them). Also coconut oil works really well with the flavor of sweet potatoes. I used to roast them at 400 degrees, but I find roasting them at 350 for a longer means they get a little sweeter and there’s less chance of burning the ends (which I kind of enjoy but softer is better for babies).
I try to do quite a few at a time, because babies. Also they really do make an excellent outside or road trip snack, so if you make a bunch you can always grab them on the way out the door.
I use this pan, because it’s the biggest one I have
So, to roast sweet potatoes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash, peel and cut sweet potatoes (I usually do about 5 medium-sized sweet potatoes, because that’s what fits in my pan in a single layer). Sometimes I’ll cut them into french-fry shapes, sometimes I just cut them into approximately 1-inch chunks because it’s faster and still easy for baby to deal with, and it cooks quickly. Spread the pieces out in a single layer in the pan, add 1 tablespoon coconut oil (melt or soften first if it’s too hard), and mix that around until you think they’re all covered. Bake for 15 minutes, move things around with a spoon or spatula, bake for another 15 minutes, move them around again, and do this until they are cooked through.
One last quick note: if you cut into a raw sweet potato and notice some milky-looking stuff, that’s ok. It’s actually a good thing. After discovering this and calling my husband so that we could both go “eeeww – what is that??” (we are either perfect for each other or making each other worse), we googled the crap out of it and found out that it’s a milky sap called latex, and the fresher the sweet potato, the more white sap you’ll see. Seriously, as gross as “milky sap” sounds, the best sweet potatoes we’ve had have had lots of it.
I know this one is kind of obvious, but really, how great is it that one of the easiest vegetables to cook is one of the healthiest? And it freezes well, which means you can avoid the sad, shriveled, forgotten broccoli when you forget about the broccoli and feel like a bad grown-up, and just buy a giant bag of frozen broccoli instead. So many problems and meals solved. Also, broccoli is a source of vitamin K, C, B1, B2, B3, B6, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, folate, and fiber. Every time you see one of those “These Are The Ten Healthiest Foods You Can Eat!” lists, there’s trusty broccoli, always hanging around like an irritating relative that you can’t get rid of. But much better, because it’s actually pretty delicious and easy and doesn’t have long conversations with you that you have to pretend to be interested in, or make you watch bad romantic comedies starring Reese Witherspoon that you would never normally watch.
I make broccoli multiple times a week, and try to always have some in the freezer for an easy and healthy meal. Usually I will just sauté it with some chopped garlic, olive oil and salt and serve it with steamed rice or quinoa. Luckily our one-year-old happens to love broccoli (I swear he’s not a smug, irritating baby – he also really likes cookies and eating old dried up things that he finds on the floor), so I sometimes make him just broccoli by itself and he’ll happily eat that.
And seriously, get frozen broccoli. I used to think that there was no way to prepare frozen broccoli so that it wasn’t squishy or water-logged or tasteless, but you can.
To cook frozen broccoli so that it’s actually good: Use a big pan, we use a stainless steel wok. Sauté chopped garlic in olive oil over low heat until it’s cooked a bit (just 2 or 3 minutes, it will keep cooking with the broccoli for a while). Add frozen broccoli and give it a mix, add salt to taste. Over medium heat, cook the broccoli with an occasional stir, and put the lid on for about 3 minutes to speed up cooking time. Give another stir. While the broccoli is still a little bit frozen but soft enough to cut, I like to cut it into smaller pieces. I find this speeds up the cooking time and prevents it from getting soggy. You really don’t want to cook it long, so as soon as it’s not cold anymore, it’s good to go. Add a little more salt if it needs it.
If you’re making this for a baby with few or no teeth, use an immersion blender to blend it up for them. An immersion blender is easier to clean than a regular blender, and works great for soups or other mushy baby things. We use this one.
If you don’t want to or can’t use a blender, you could either just cut the very tops of the broccoli off for your baby (the buds? I don’t know – the tiny bits that make up the head. Not the stalk. The tiny broccoli balls! You know what I mean), or steam fresh broccoli until it’s soft enough to be mashed with a fork. I’ve done this with fresh broccoli but haven’t had luck doing this with frozen, unless I cut the stalks off. Or cook fresh broccoli with a long stem and just let them hold the stem and suck on/mash the top with their gums – we’ve don’t this with both our boys at 6 months and older and they loved it.
Also, you could of course just give your toddler (and anyone else with enough teeth) raw broccoli as a snack, but you’ll probably have more luck encouraging stubborn kids (and grown ups) to eat cooked broccoli.
Lentils and Beans
We have lentils and beans multiple times a week, and we usually cook a big batch so that we can have them for 2 or 3 days before making something different for dinner. They are super convenient and healthy, generally a very low-cost ingredient (especially when you consider how much protein they provide, and especially when you buy dried beans), and lentils particularly are a great, soft option for babies. It’s smart to always have lentils on hand because they cook pretty quickly (faster than beans) and don’t require pre-soaking. If you’re trying to decrease the amount of meat your family is eating, or just be healthier in general, I highly recommend including them in your diet.
An excellent source of protein and fiber, a 1-cup serving of lentils also provides you with 90% of your daily recommended amount of folate, 37% of iron, 49% of manganese, 36% of phosphorus, 22% thiamin, 21% potassium, and 18% vitamin B6. Also riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper, and selenium. I’m not sure what all these things do, but this sounds very impressive for a little legume (and it is impressive. These are actually important things that humans need. For living).
We usually either get black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, or pinto beans (or really just whatever looks good at the time, there are no bad choices. Except maybe jellybeans. 🙂 :). All fiber and protein-rich options, they also provide iron, zinc, folate, potassium, B vitamins, calcium, and other stuff. You get the point: they’re really good for you and you should eat them. Also they don’t have a strong flavor, so it should be pretty easy getting even picky kids to eat them (there are a bazillion different was you can prepare beans). If your kid refuses to eat them no matter how you prepare them, they’re probably just trying to break you by being really irritating. This is a test. Do not let them win. Do not give in and feed them a bowl of rabbit-shaped crackers instead, they will take this as a sign that they are in charge and before you know it everyone will stop wearing pants altogether and all the furniture will be pushed together to create one giant, sharp-cornered jungle-gym which will also serve as a place to sleep and go to the bathroom. (I’m pretty sure this is what would happen if our boys were in charge.)
We always choose dried beans over canned, to avoid whatever it is that they line cans with and to keep the cost down. Also after doing this a while, you will realize that they really do taste better this way. Don’t be intimidated, there’s nothing difficult about preparing dried beans.
To Prepare Dried Beans
Soak the Beans:
Soak your beans overnight, or for at least 6 hours and up to 12 hours (there’s some variation in soaking times between bean types), making sure to leave 2 inches of water above the beans. You can soak them in plain water, or add salt to season a little and decrease cooking time (salt breaks down their skins). If you use salt, add 2 tablespoons course kosher salt or 1 tablespoon fine salt per pound of beans. When they’re done soaking, discard the water and rinse them a few times before cooking (this helps with their infamous gassy powers). Get rid of any shriveled or very ugly beans. And then cook them.
Cook the Soaked Beans:
Dump your soaked beans into a big soup pot and add water to cover them by 1 inch. You can add what you like to flavor the beans, I usually add an onion sliced in half so I can easily fish it out later, a bay leaf, roughly chopped celery stalks and carrots, a few garlic cloves, and salt – basically some of the same things I would use to make a vegetable stock. Be careful not to add too much salt, the beans absorb the salt as the liquid reduces. You can always add more later if you feel they need more. You can also cook your beans in stock or broth instead of water, just again make sure it’s not very salty. Or keep things really simple and just simmer your beans in salted water with nothing else. Just know that if you do take the time to add a few herbs, spices, aromatics and/or stock, your beans will be tastier.
So add what you want to the pot along with your beans and the water or stock, making sure there is at least 1 inch of liquid covering the beans, and bring everything to a boil over medium-high heat. Then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and for the rest of the time keep the heat to low. If you turn up the heat and the beans cook too fast, the skins will burst and you’ll get mushy, unevenly-cooked beans. I find soaked beans take from one hour to three hours at a simmer – the time varies depending on the age of the beans (older beans take longer), the type of bean, and the size. Lentils can cook quite quickly (as fast as 15 minutes for red lentils). Make sure to add liquid as the beans are cooking, they should always be covered with liquid.
How to know when beans are done:
I usually start checking if the beans are done after about an hour of simmering. Spoon a few out to taste them, if they’re tender and cooked through to the center then they’re done. Let them cool in the cooking liquid (if you drain them before they’ve cooled their skin will shrivel and break apart). Save and freeze the liquid (it freezes well up to 6 months) It’s a yummy, healthy bean and vegetable stock that’s great on it’s own (especially for babies and toddlers) and a good soup base to have on hand. If you’re not going to eat all the beans that same day, keep them refrigerated in their cooking liquid. Or you can marinate them – after you let them cool in their liquid, drain them, mix them with salt, pepper, herbs and olive oil, and keep them in the fridge.
If they’re mushy then you cooked them too long and you’re horrible at making beans and you should probably just give up and make a sandwich. 😉 jk. If you happen to overcook your beans (and you probably won’t if you check after an hour of simmering and frequently after that), they’re probably still tasty and definitely still healthy, and easy for a baby with no teeth to eat (you can even just turn them into a puree with that handy immersion blender I mentioned).
What to do with your beans once they’re cooked
Oh so many possibilities.
For Rice and Beans: sauté chopped garlic, onion, celery, peppers, and carrots (or whichever of these things you have or want) in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and then add the cooked beans. I often add cumin, turmeric, sometimes curry powder, and usually a little marinara or other tomato sauce to the beans or lentils. Sometimes I’ll skip the cumin, turmeric and curry powder and just chop up a bunch of fresh cilantro and parsley and add that instead. Just add the veggies and spices that you like, a little at a time, and taste until you’re happy. Serve this with steamed brown or white rice, or quinoa, or just enjoy them by themselves (only then it wouldn’t be “Rice and Beans”, just “Beans”, but that’s ok. Either way they’re delicious).
For soup: make bean soup by sautéing chopped garlic, onion, celery, and carrots in olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper, and adding either water or broth (you can use that bean veggie broth you saved) to your sautéed veggies and beans. Cook and season this until you’re happy, (since you’ve already cooked your beans this shouldn’t take very long) and add any spices or vegetables that you like (i’ll often add frozen spinach at the end of cooking, partly because this helps cool the soup down enough to feed hungry kids as quickly as possible).
For Lentils and Rice: Always rinse uncooked lentils before cooking them, checking for any little stones. Then, since they haven’t been cooked yet, sauté the same veggies mentioned above and add the lentils and enough water or broth to cover them. Bring them up to boil at medium/high heat, then reduce to a simmer and gently cook them for about 20 minutes. Make sure they’re always covered with liquid, they will absorb.
Tomato & Onions with Beans and Fried Eggs: I’ll have fried eggs on top of pretty much any beans, no matter how they’ve been prepared, but one of my favorite ways is to slice a whole onion into thin strips, sauté that for a little while on low heat with some chopped garlic and olive oil, and add a good amount of marinara or tomato basil sauce to that. I’ll turn that low, add a little salt and pepper and some water, and simmer until the onions are how I like them – tender and a little sweet. Then I’ll add the beans (I particularly like any white bean for this dish) and then serve it with fried eggs on top. We’ll have this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and with beans already soaked and cooked in the fridge or freezer, it comes together in about 15 minutes.
Beans and lentils are also great with some chopped fresh veggies in a bean salad. Or on top of toast. Or they really are delicious just by themselves, or with a little sautéed garlic, fresh lemon juice and olive oil (we often have chickpeas like this). The other night we were in a rush but luckily I had frozen black beans in the freezer – I defrosted them and gave them to my one and three-year olds with some avocado. This took about 5 minutes to prepare and I felt good about what they were eating.
You can even make a dessert using really sweet adzuki beans, which I haven’t done yet but will and will report back, a quick search proves it will probably be delicious (check out these finds here: http://www.foodhighs.com/2014/07/22/must-see-red-bean-paste-dishes/). Or make your own hummus – here is a good recipe from thekitchn.com
A couple more things worth mentioning
Since it takes some soaking and cooking time (although very little prep or active cooking time), it’s worth it to make a big batch of beans when you do. They can be used for so many different things (soups, salads, topped with eggs, purees, burritos, simple beans and rice), and they also freeze well. Anything that is healthy and freezes well and is soft enough for a 1-year old to eat easily makes it into our Top 5 Foods to have on hand for kids and babies.
To freeze your cooked beans:
Label some freezer-safe bags with the type of bean and the date you cooked them. Drain your beans from the cooled cooking liquid and add your beans to the bags (2-cups of beans is a good amount – about the same you get in a can). Keep them in the freezer and use them within 6 months. To defrost them I just add them to a pot with some water, warm them up slowly, and then drain the water out.
We usually make broth/stock with chicken bones, because they are generally less expensive and they cook faster than beef or pork bones. Of course you can just make a vegetable stock, which cooks really fast, but if you’re looking for the health benefits that come from a bone broth then this is the way to do it.
It’s really easy to make chicken broth. You can either use bones right after roasting a chicken, or just keep chicken bones in your freezer for when you want to use them. Add some vegetables and aromatics, season a little bit (if you want to), and that’s it.
Or, if you’re looking for actual instructions, here’s how to make chicken broth:
Get a big pot (4-6 quarts), and add the bones and carcass from one chicken (using bones from a roasted chicken usually makes the broth extra tasty, but we just have frozen “soup” bones that we buy at Whole Foods since we don’t usually eat meat). Cover the chicken bones with water by about an inch and simmer on very low heat for 2-6 hours. Add water if the bones become uncovered. Spoon off and discard any foam that floats to the top of the stock. Add roughly chopped veggies and herbs (I usually add 2 onions, 5 stalks celery, 1-2 carrots, 2 bay leaves, 5 whole garlic cloves, a couple slices of ginger, whole pepper corns, and fresh parsley stems), make sure everything is still covered with water, and continue to simmer for another hour or two at low heat. When it’s done, strain the broth and let it cool. You can refrigerate this up to one week (I store it in a big mason jar) or freeze it indefinitely (I find these silicone ice cube trays good for this:)
Broth is a super healthy and convenient food to have ready-to-use in your fridge or freezer. Use it as a base for soups, or even just make a quick egg-drop soup for you and your kids for a quick, protein-rich meal.
Egg-drop soup: I’m sure you can get really fancy with this, but all we do (and both our boys love it) is warm up the broth till it’s hot (over medium/high heat) and carefully break off a bit of egg shell (basically break off a bit of the narrow part of the egg shell) so that you can shake the egg out without the whole thing coming out at once. Before adding the egg, give the hot broth a stir so that all the liquid is swirling around as you add the eggs, then shake the eggs in one by one and keep stirring (I usually do 3 eggs when I make this soup for our two kids). This will make strands of cooked egg that our kids really enjoy (this maybe doesn’t sound very appetizing, but it’s basically just long pieces of poached egg). I usually add a little turmeric, cumin and a little black pepper to the soup, but you really don’t need to add anything. Since the broth is hot when you add the eggs, they’re cooked almost immediately. If my kids are being really impatient or we’re in a rush, I’ll add a bunch of frozen peas or just some ice to cool it off quickly, and then it’s done. This is a great meal for a baby since it’s easy to digest and doesn’t require teeth, and it really is tasty.
About 6 months ago, I discovered banana/egg pancakes that are literally just bananas and eggs. Bananas and Eggs! With a 6-month old and a 2.5-year old, I was so eager for this recipe to work. And it does. And they are delicious, and easy to make, and grain-free. And the kids eat them. At least once a week they have them for either breakfast or lunch, and they love them. There are a bunch of recipes for them online (which is kind of silly as they only require two ingredients), and this is the one I read before figuring out what we like best. They explain how to make them and possible add-ins, and it’s perfect so I felt no need to rewrite it. I will say I actually prefer cooking them at medium/low heat, but maybe just because I don’t like the pancakes as dark as the author. I usually add a pinch of salt, some cinnamon and vanilla to the batter. If you have fresh blueberries, add them. I haven’t tried these with frozen blueberries, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how well they turned out with fresh. I usually serve them to my kids just as they are since they are already sweet from the bananas, but will sometimes add a little maple syrup. Although they never miss it when I don’t, so there’s really no need for the extra sugar. Also, it helps to freeze ripe bananas in freezer bags so that you have them on hand if you feel like making these pancakes or smoothies.
How to make banana/egg pancakes:
We don’t eat much dairy in our house, mostly because I’m not convinced that it’s very good for you. Occasionally our kids will have plain greek yogurt with honey and frozen blueberries or yogurt kefir, and sometimes they’ll have cheese, but it definitely isn’t a big part of their diet. I don’t buy any nut or soy milk alternatives, but I did find out how to make coconut milk online, and it’s really, really good. You just need unsweetened, shredded coconut and hot water.
You will need:
- 4 cups of hot water (not boiling, but very hot)
- 8-ounce package of unsweetened shredded coconut (I use this one)
- Nut milk bag/cheese cloth (nut milk bag is easier to wash)
- Medium mixing bowl
- Something to store it in (I use big mason jars)
- Pour the coconut into the blender, and add the hot water.
- Let the coconut sit in the water for about 5 minutes before blending.
- Blend on high until it looks milky (usually at least 3 minutes). (The blender my husband got me and I love http://amzn.to/2bZlbQ4)
- Pour the mixture through a mesh strainer/colander
- Put the wet pulp in a nut milk bag or cheesecloth and squeeze over a medium sized bowl until no more liquid comes out.
- If you want you can add flavors, like 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, berries, honey, cocoa powder. It is delicious on it’s own, but if you feel like changing things up these are all good options.
- Store the coconut milk in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to four days or frozen up to 3 months. The cream will separate when refrigerated or when it thaws, just shake it up or stir before you use it.
This is another really simple recipe, and I find it particularly helpful if my kids have upset stomachs. Just wash and peel a few red apples (I usually do 4), cut them into slices and remove the cores, put them in a pot with some filtered water (enough so that the apples are mostly covered), and turn up the heat. I add cinnamon, ground or fresh turmeric, a little ginger if I have it, and a tiny bit of black pepper (this helps your body absorb the good stuff in turmeric). This may sound odd but it’s good for you and my kids really enjoy it. You could, of course, not add anything to the apples and water, or just cinnamon if you want to go the more traditional route. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down and simmer until the apples are soft enough to mash with a fork (5 minutes should do it). Before you mash the apples, if you think you added too much water just strain some out and you can give this to your kids as juice. You can also change things up and add some frozen or fresh berries. We usually bring this homemade apple sauce on road trips because it’s healthy and the kids like it, and it can be eaten cold.
Most days we will have oatmeal for breakfast, because it’s quick and healthy and soft enough that our 1-year-old can eat it. I either make it in the morning (after boiling water it doesn’t take more than 5 minutes to cook), or I make overnight oats at night so there’s even less to do in the morning (mornings, amirite?).
When I make it in the morning, I just boil 2 cups of water (add a pinch of salt), add 1 cup of rolled oats, and cook for 5 minutes. When it’s done I add honey (about 1 tbsp), cinnamon, 1 tbsp coconut oil, a teaspoon of vanilla, about half a cup of chia seeds and about a cup of frozen blueberries. The blueberries aren’t just really good for you, they also help cool down the oatmeal so that you can feed your kids as quickly as possible and they’ll stop yelling before you’ve had time to make coffee. Everyone wins.
Sometimes I add frozen cherries, which both kids love – just let them thaw a bit and cut them in half or smaller for babies, to make sure there are no pits. Avoid heating the frozen cherries up, they’re best not completely defrosted (but soft enough to be safe). Warmed-up frozen cherries are squishy and not as sweet.
As a side note, both my kids love eating frozen blueberries still frozen, and I find this is especially helpful when they’re teething. As long as the blueberries are small enough and you’re keeping an eye on your kids (and only when they have some teeth), I sprinkle some frozen blueberries on their trays and they eat them just like that. They love this, and when they’re particularly troll-like in the mornings before I’ve finished getting breakfast ready, I give them some frozen blueberries and chopped up frozen cherries and enjoy the silence as they happily chew on frozen fruit that turns everything purple (it’s best to let them do this in just diapers).
If you remember to do this at night, you will have one less thing to do in the morning. And if you have kids, anything that means one less thing in the morning is worth taking notes on. But I took notes so that you wouldn’t have to (and also because I’m a compulsive note-taker), so you can just see how to do it here:
All you really need to do is combine raw rolled oats with liquid, season it, stir it, and leave it in the fridge overnight. Use at least double the liquid per serving of oats (2 cups liquid for 1 cup oats), and add more liquid if you like your oats more liquid-y. Don’t use steel-cut or instant oats for this, it won’t work. Use old-fashioned regular or rolled oats.
I like to use chia seeds in my overnight oats, because I like the texture and they’re good for you. They also absorb a lot of water, so if you use a lot of chia seeds, add more liquid.
1 cup rolled oats
2 cups water (or almond/coconut milk)
4 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey (or 1 mashed, very ripe banana)
1 pinch salt
toppings: nuts or seeds, coconut flakes, fresh fruit
- Mash the banana if using, until there are no big lumps (as smooth as possible). Stir in the chia seeds, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.
- Stir in the oats, liquid, vanilla and maple syrup/honey (if using).
- Cover this and refrigerate your oats overnight (or at least 2 hours). These are the containers we use: http://amzn.to/2cH7ubp
- Give everything a mix in the morning, and add more liquid sweetener if you want. Also add the toppings you want, like nuts, seeds, coconut or fresh fruit. One of our favorite ways to finish cooked or overnight oats is with toasted coconut, toasted sliced almonds, and fresh, ripe mango slices.
Last few notes: if you find your oatmeal is too liquid-y, add a tablespoon of chia seeds, give it a stir and put it back in the fridge for a little while. If it’s too thick, just add more liquid and stir.
We buy wild-caught sockeye salmon at BJs, and try to have it at least once a week. It’s a good price, and it’s from the US. We avoid buying any seafood from Asia (this article addresses some of the reasons why this is a good idea: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-10-11/asian-seafood-raised-on-pig-feces-approved-for-u-s-consumers).
Again, I keep this really simple. Simply take the frozen filet out of it’s packaging and put it in a frying pan. Add water until it covers the fish, and add a little salt and a dash of olive oil (sliced garlic or garlic powder works well in here too). Err on the side of under-salting as you can add more later. Put the lid on the pan, turn the heat to medium, and when it reaches a gentle boil (small bubbles) turn the heat down to medium/low. Avoid cooking it at high heat as it will quickly overcook. Poach the fish for 5-10 minutes (check on it after 5 by poking it to see if it’s still frozen). If you think it might be done, take it off the heat and check inside, it doesn’t take long to cook. Sometimes it’s more pink than I’m comfortable serving to my kids and I just add it back to the hot cooking liquid. When it’s for my kids I break it apart into bite-sized pieces because I usually find one or two small bones. Served with a little avocado or sliced cherry tomatoes, this is a fast and healthy meal to feed your kids (it helps to give your babies fish so they are less likely to refuse it later). For people better at chewing than your typical one-year old, I like to serve poached salmon with sliced bell peppers, cucumber, fennel, avocado, and tomatoes, with a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Easy, healthy, no-blending-necessary food options for those of us with few teeth:
- Bananas (mashed with a fork if no teeth)
- 2-ingredient pancakes (!)
- Roasted, steamed, or sautéed sweet potatoes, butternut squash, kabocha squash, acorn squash
- Steamed carrots (mashed if necessary, I give my baby with 6 teeth steamed carrot sticks that are soft enough to squash between your forefinger and thumb)
- Cooked apple or pear slices soft enough to mash with fingers
- Apple sauce
- Steamed/poached wild-caught fish (very small pieces that don’t require much chewing)
- Frozen or fresh blueberries (thawed and/or smashed if no teeth)