Sunday, June 2, 2013

My Baby's Done With Purees, Now What? Our Top 10 Favorites!

I've been asked to give advice about good baby/toddler finger foods a few times lately, so I decided to write a post about it.  Granted, I am no nutritionist, I am just a mama of an eating machine.  I remember the questions I had when Annalyn first started really wanting to feed herself, and honestly, there's no perfect answer.  Like any parent, I did what I felt was best for my kiddo, including lots of trial & error (after all, she is our "practice kid" as Michael puts it... aka first born).  We have our go-to meals/snacks, but now that she's eating table foods, we try to give her what we're eating, just cut into manageable pieces (at first, about the size of a pea).  This is a list of some of Peanut's favorites, but again, don't hesitate to give baby what the rest of the family's eating, too.  It's important to introduce him/her to the flavors you normally cook with so you don't end up with a super picky eater later on.  It's not all inclusive, but here's a few of our go-to toddler meals/snacks:

bring on the real food!
(I love throwback Peanut pics!)

1.  Cheese - shredded or cubed, cheese is always a popular addition to any snack or meal.  It's one of Annalyn's favorite foods by far.

she also loves cheese quesadillas

2.  Diced Fruit - Annalyn's favorites are bananas, apples (no skin at first), pears, mandarin oranges, and blueberries.  We try to use fresh when available, but I also keep some canned fruit on hand.  When buying canned fruit, look for fruit packed in water or fruit juice, not syrup.  It pairs great with cheese as a snack, or with a protein for a meal.  As Annalyn has gotten older (and more teeth), she's started eating whole bananas and apple slices.

3.  Mixed Veggies - Again, fresh or frozen works well here.  Like most people, Annalyn's not a big fan of the mushy canned stuff.  You can steam it on the stove in a little water, or in the microwave.  Peas, corn, carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, broccoli, and green beans are all good options, just be sure to cut them up for younger babies.  (on a side note, I found bagged, chopped butternut squash at Trader Joe's last week - so convenient!).  We usually start her meals with veggies while we get the rest of it ready.  That way, she's sure to get the good stuff in her first!
4.  Whole Grain Toast - Spread with peanut butter/banana, avocado/chicken/cheese, cottage cheese/fruit spread, etc., and cut into bite-sized squares.  This is one of my favorite lunch options - it's healthy, quick, and baby-approved.

5.  Pasta - Who doesn't love pasta?  Babies and toddlers are no exception.  Small pastas, like macaroni, stars, rice, and cut spaghetti are perfect for little hands.  Sauce options are endless - I usually make my own and include as many veggies/greens as possible. 

uh huh, it's a messy one... but she loves it!
6.  Beans - A good source of protein, beans are a great addition to toddler meals.  Annalyn especially loves baked beans.  One of her favorite eat-out meals is the Bee & Bee at Yats which is black beans and corn over rice.

7.  Ground Beef, Chopped Chicken - As baby gets older, include small pieces of protein with her meals.  Mix in with mac 'n cheese, avocado spread, etc., or just give pieces of meat with a fruit/veggie.

8.  Crackers/Dry Cereal - These are great snacks, and "appetizers" when on the go.  We keep a small stash of Goldfish and Cheerios in the diaper bag for when we go out.

9.  Smoothies - Although she's basically done with purees, Peanut still loves a good smoothie.  Lately we've been making up a big batch in the afternoon or evening as a family snack.  My basic recipe is a banana, about a cup or so total of 2-3 frozen fruits (blueberries, raspberries, peaches, mangoes), 1/2 c. greens (spinach, kale), 3/4 c. yogurt, 1 T. ground flax, and orange juice as needed to adjust consistency - blend it up, add a glass full of ice, blend again, then enjoy! (I usually put Annalyn's in her Silisqueeze or a sippy cup with a straw).
10.  Table Food - Again, I can't say it enough, but by a year old (or earlier if you, baby, and your pediatrician decide), baby can eat what you eat!  Cut it into small pieces and gradually give her more and bigger bites of what your family eats.  This will make the transition to family meals so smooth.  As parents (especially first-time parents), we get so caught up in "what to feed the baby" as if it should be something special and made just for them.  At some point, feed them what you are making the rest of the family for dinner.  (Babies never mind eating leftovers, either!) 

It's amazing what Annalyn likes to eat.  When we get Yats (creole food), she eats Yats.  When we get Mexican pizza with chorizo and peppers, she eats an entire slice.  She loves cut up meatballs, tacos, chicken curry, tikka masala, and numerous other dishes that we eat on a regular basis.  She even likes basil on her green beans, because that's how Mama & Daddy eat them.  Sure, she has her dislikes just like anyone else, but we continue to give her the foods/flavors we like and she's becoming quite the little foodie. 

Lately, we've been letting her practice with a fork and spoon.  Yes, it takes longer.  Yep, it's a mess.  But she gets such a sense of accomplishment and independence from it.

funny side note:  I put this headband on her while playing dress-up.
she called it a hat and refused to take it off all day.
yet she pulls out the little barrettes I put in her hair...

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