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Carrot Rounds with Parmesan

We’ve hardly been able to get Isabella to eat lately. She’s gotten pickier, more easily distracted, and independent to a fault. Sitting at a table for any length of time and – gasp – being fed by Mommy or Daddy seems downright frustrating to her. For us, it’s an exercise in futility.  She’s been waking up early and napping terribly, due in part, I’m sure, to being hungry.

I’ve always said I’d rather have her eat two bites of some whole, nutrient-rich food instead of a stomach-full of something processed, or sugary, or whatever. But, when she’s whining and hungry it’s SO tempting to give her whatever I have, right away. I’ve found that the best way to get her to eat lately is to give her something she can eat without help, ideally as she wanders around the house. Finger foods are the best way to get something in her, which means she finds herself eating graham crackers and Pirate’s Booty more often than I’d like to admit.

Today I came up with something that’s quick – almost as quick as opening a package of chips – and just as delicious. At least, Isabella seemed to think so. Best of all, it’s healthy and not super messy.

Carrot Rounds with Parmesafinger foods for kids

  • 1 or 2 medium carrots
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
  • salt  to taste

You’ll need a pot with a tight-fitting lid and a steamer basket.

Peel the carrots.

Cut them into 1/4 inch thick rounds and throw them in the steamer basket.

Put about an inch of water in the bottom of your pot, maybe more depending on what kind of steamer you have. You don’t want so much water in your pot that it’s bubbling into the basket and actually boiling the carrots. Steaming actually preserves more of the nutrients compared to boiling.

Steam for 5-10 minutes to get the carrots to their desired tenderness. I go shorter now that Izzy has molars to chew with.

Transfer the carrots to a small bowl. Dust with parmesan cheese and a little salt and toss to cover.

I like to just set the bowl out and she picks and grazes as she plays – and so do I!

 

What finger foods – healthy or unhealthy – do your kids love?

The 3-Day Rule

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When introducing new food into your baby’s diet, always follow The 3-Day Rule.

Offer the new food at least once a day for 3 days.  If a new food is irritating your little one’s system, it can take up to 3 days to show up as a symptom.

Offer the new food earlier in the day, for breakfast or lunch.  If baby has an uncomfortable reaction (like gas) you’re less likely to spend the whole night awake helping her deal with it.

Watch for symtoms of an allergic reaction.  Common symptoms include but aren’t limited to:

  • nausea
  • vomiting or spitting up
  • rash (anywhere on body, but especially around mouth and in diaper area)
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • runny nose
  • changes in stools (amount, odor, color, frequency)
  • changes in energy
  • changes in mood

Let her rest for 3 days.  Some of these symptoms are also associated with teething, so follow your gut.  If you notice any symptoms that seem unusual for your child, cut the new food from their diet immediately and pay careful attention for the next 3 days to see if those symptoms disappear.  You can re-introduce the new food after all symptoms have subsided to rule out the possibility of another factor like teething or a cold.

Introducing Meat and Poultry

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There are a lot of opinions out there on how- and when- meat should be introduced into your baby’s diet.  I’m going to share my philosophy, but my intention is not to provide medical advice.

Introducing meat and poultry into your child’s diet has everything to do with iron.  There are plenty of articles out there about how even breastfed babies aren’t able to absorb as much iron from breastmilk when they begin eating solid foods because of the way the iron in breastmilk bonds to the proteins in solid food, so red meat is an important first food to make up the difference.  However, in all my research, I wasn’t able to find any studies or solid research to prove this.

It is true, though, that baby’s iron stores will begin diminishing around 6 months of age.  Some pediatricians will prescribe iron supplements and iron-fortified foods (like cereal, which should not be given prior to 8 or 9 months of age), but this unfortunately has a counter-productive effect.  Iron supplements and iron-fortified foods actually interfere with the body’s ability to absorb iron, so baby actually gets even less with supplements.

If you’re still breastfeeding, good news- the iron in breastmilk is extremely bioavailable, with up to 50% being absorbed by your baby’s body.  If you’re using formula, your baby absorbs quite a bit less (as low as 10%) so the solid foods you offer are extremely important.  Red meat isn’t the only food you can offer your baby that’s high in iron, so if you’re a vegetarian, there are plenty of viable sources of iron available. Be sure to include plenty of these foods, particularly if you are not breastfeeding:

  • red meat (beef, lamb)
  • poultry (chicken, turkey)
  • fish
  • tofu
  • legumes
  • peas
  • avocados
  • dark leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, chard)
  • broccoli
  • ancient grains (amaranth, quinoa, millet)
  • sweet potatoes and yams

I suggest introducing chicken first, then red meat, then fish.  But regardless of the when, the how remains the same:

Tenderize It

You need to break down some of the tough-to-digest fibers in meat so that baby’s body can digest it easily.  One way to do this is to place the cut of meat between two sheets of wax paper and really pound it, down to a ¼-½  inch thickness.  Or, try marinating the meat first.  Many cultures marinate their meat in milk or yogurt (the lactic acid in the milk helps tenderize the meat) before cooking.  Marinating or simmering in apple juice is another great option if baby has issues with dairy.

Don’t Dry It Out

If you’re cooking meat for a baby, the method you use is probably the most important factor.  You’ve got to keep the meat from drying out- that means no sautéing, grilling, or frying. Stew is an ideal way to cook meat, and it’s one of the easiest methods for you.  You could also put a cut of meat and some veggies in tin foil, wrap it tightly, and bake it- the steam will stay inside the foil packet and keep the meat moist.  Simmering in broth is another easy (if not boring) way to cook meat.  If you’re good at making really tender roast chicken or pot roast (I’m not), make one for the whole family and just set some aside for baby.

Puree It

Multiple studies have shown that the iron in meat is more readily absorbed by your baby’s body when it’s pureed to a very fine meal.  And, if your baby is relatively new to solid foods, they’ll prefer a thinner, smoother consistency anyway.  My daughter, at 16 months old and equipped with as many teeth, still won’t eat red meat by itself and is suspicious even when I blend it roughly with veggies.  If you’ve cooked your meat really well, it should blend up fairly easily in a food processor.  The key is to blend a little bit at a time with enough liquid to get it really smooth.

Keep It Real

Don’t even think about giving your baby hot dogs or bologna or salami or any meat that’s been processed. Seriously.

Introduce It With Known Foods

If this is baby’s first time eating poultry, meat, or fish, introduce it mixed with other foods you already know he likes and digests easily.  Need a few ideas?

  1. Beef stew with barley, peas, and carrots
  2. Chicken with brown rice and yams
  3. Lamb with rosemary mashed potatoes
  4. Wild-caught salmon with quinoa and asparagus
  5. Turkey with white beans and cranberry sauce
  6. Ground beef with spaghetti, tomato sauce, and parmesan
  7. Wild-caught tilapia with spinach and roasted pears

When introducing new foods always remember to follow The 3-Day Rule.

We don’t eat meat very often, so I haven’t posted any meat-based recipes yet.  But I hope to get a few posted soon!  In the meantime… Any questions on how and when to introduce meat and poultry into your baby’s diet?

When can my baby eat nuts and eggs?

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This is one of those topics that is difficult to get a definitive answer on.  Depending on who you ask, potentially allergenic foods (like nuts, eggs, and fish) can be introduced into baby’s diet anywhere from 6-36 months.  That narrows things down, right?

A few recent studies have shown that there’s actually no benefit to delayed introduction of potentially allergenic foods in terms of keeping your children from developing allergies.  In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their policy statement to reflect this:

“Although solid foods should not be introduced before 4 to 6 months of age, there is no current convincing evidence that delaying their introduction beyond this period has a significant protective effect on the development of atopic disease regardless of whether infants are fed cow milk protein formula or human milk. This includes delaying the introduction of foods that are considered to be highly allergic, such as fish, eggs, and foods containing peanut protein.”

Give me a minute to get my objections out of the way here-

  • Solid foods should not be introduced before 6 months of age.
  • Ideally, babies should get their nutrition from breastmilk only for the first 6 months.  If this is not possible, a dairy-free formula is the best choice.

There.  I feel better.  Moving on…

Many parents will read this and think, great, I can start giving my baby everything we eat!  The advice that most traditional pediatricians will give about delaying the introduction of these allergenic foods is based on the idea that introducing an allergen too early may actually cause your baby to develop an allergy to that food.  These recent studies, and the statement from the AAP above, suggest that it doesn’t actually work like that, which is good news.  The new idea is that if your child is going to have an allergy to eggs, it’s going to be there whether you give them eggs as a baby or not.

BUT.  Just because feeding a certain food to your child won’t cause an allergy later in life doesn’t mean that their little bodies won’t be sensitive to it right now.  It’s important to remember that your child’s gut flora and enzymes are still developing and their digestive systems may not be able to handle some potentially allergenic foods.

I recommend waiting until your baby is a full year old to begin introducing things like tree nuts, eggs, soy, dairy, and seafood.  I also recommend holding off on peanuts until your child is at least 3.  (Peanuts aren’t actually nuts at all- they’re legumes- and they’re prone to a certain kind of mold, one reason that so many children have issues with them.)

When you do begin to introduce potentially allergenic foods, remember to follow The 3-Day Rule.  Introduce new foods one at a time and watch for any kind of reaction that might indicate a sensitivity or allergy.  Symptoms to look for include sneezing, spitting up, runny nose, rashes (particularly around the mouth or diaper area), changes in stools, or changes in mood.  If you suspect that a certain food is causing a reaction, stop offering that food and see if the symptoms clear up.

Every baby is different.  Following a a schedule to the letter is less important than doing what works for your kids (although, I suggest checking out my guidelines as a great starting point).  Do your little ones eat any of these potentially allergenic foods, or have allergies?

Green Pea Hummus

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As I’ve mentioned, my daughter loves hummus.  We all do, so I make at batch every few days, and we snack on it with fresh veggies and corn chips or put it in wraps.  But hummus is one of those things that’s easy to get tired of, so I’ve come up with lots of different variations on the classic recipe.  I tried one yesterday that was too good not to share- green pea hummus.  It’s a sweet, vibrant alternative to traditional hummus.

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Basic Hummus

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Izzy has been hummus-crazy lately. At 16 months she is eager to “feed herself,” and I’m always surprised by how much she likes spicy, flavorful food.  Hummus fits the bill perfectly so she eats it almost every day.  I just sit her in the high chair with a little plastic bowl of hummus and a few cut-up veggies like carrots, cucumbers, or bell pepper.

It’s incredibly messy, which is obviously part of the appeal, so I’ll sometimes strip her down to her diaper and put a bib on her.  I’d rather not worry about how messy she’s getting and just let her experience her food. You’ll never hear me say, “Don’t play with your food!”

I have a growing list of hummus variations but I figured I’d better post a basic hummus recipe first.

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Zucchini and Potatoes with Fresh Basil and Parmesan

ingredients for zucchini and potatoes baby food

I think fresh grated parmesan cheese is WORLDS better, but my grocery budget this week was a little tight. Sad.

This is a new one to me.  I got some beautiful zucchinis for free and thought, what could I do with these?  I had some fresh basil on hand and added some potatoes to bulk it up.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 medium zucchinis
  • 2 small yukon gold potatoes
  • 4-6 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Be careful with the basil; start with a little and taste it.  I LOVE basil and could eat it in everything, but good fresh basil is pretty peppery.  The strong flavor might be too much for some babies if you put a lot in there.

Cut the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes and toss into a steamer basket or double boiler. Steam potatoes for about 10 minutes.  Since potatoes are starchy, they need a head start on the zucchini.Here’s how you make it:

  1. Meanwhile, cut the zucchinis into 1/2 inch thick half moons and add to the potatoes.  Steam another 5 minutes or more until tender.  It’s important that the zucchinis and potatoes are roughly the same size so that they cook evenly.
  2. Allow veggies to cool for a few minutes.  Put steamed veggies in your food processor along with basil leaves and parmesan cheese.  Blend well.  Add water to bring to a thinner consistency if desired.
  3. Taste!  Add more basil or cheese if you want to.

zucchinis, potatoes, basil, parmesan cheese homemade baby food

If you want this to be gluten-free, just make sure you get straight up parmesan cheese.  Some grated cheeses are coated with starch, so carefully check the ingredient list or get a block of solid parmesan.  You could easily exclude the cheese to make this dairy free.  In my opinion, there are few things that aren’t improved by the addition of cheese, and most babies do fine with cheese even if they are sensitive to cow’s milk.

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