My modern parenting conundrum: I want to feed the kiddo well, but it is exhausting. There are only so many hours in the day, and I would rather spend some of them with my husband or alone (mind you, joyously and ecstatically alone in a bath tub with a great book and a glass of champagne).
But one of the most sobering declines documented in Changing Rhythms of American Family Life is the amount of time married parents spend alone together each week: Nine hours today versus twelve in 1975. Bradbury, who was involved in the UCLA study of those 32 families, says the husbands and wives spent less than 10 percent of their home time alone together. “And do you think they were saying, ‘Gee honey, you look lovely. I just wanted to pick up on that fascinating conversation we were having earlier about the Obama administration’? ” he asks. “Nope. They were exhausted and staring at the television.” (From All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting, by Jennifer Senior)
Despite all that, this blog is called Watch Mom Try, so try I do. A few notes about my food philosophy before we dive in:
- I am not into hassle. I will not spend hours prepping, and any prep has to be really, REALLY simple for me to do it. I want maximum health benefits with a minimum of work.
- My home is largely gluten free, soy free, and dairy free, for a variety of reasons—but that is a completely different post.
- I started feeding softer whole foods to the kiddo as soon as she could mush food with her gums, and tried to keep things varied so she would not be a picky eater later. It seems to have worked, but I could just be lucky to have a “good eater.”
- This list is really for kids with teeth, and we have been eating like this since the kiddo was about 1 (though I can’t seem to remember anything these days…). For easy baby food, see the end of this post.
1. Frozen Mixed Vegetables
This is one of my faves. Just pour a bag of frozen mixed vegetables (usually peas, corn, carrots, green beans) into little containers, and put back in the freezer. Put them in the fridge the night before, and they are ready to be tossed on a plate for your little one the next day. Easy. I would maybe put a little salt or apple juice on them the next day to make them a bit more palatable, but really, if she was hungry, she would eat them (but not the green beans though… she hated those). I tried not to provide snacks between our four meals a day (breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner), so she usually was hungry.
2. Canned Beans
This is also a stand by for me. I open the can, rinse them through a strainer, and then keep in a container in the fridge, ready to add to any meal, no cooking required. Black beans, specifically, are good for digestive track, blood sugar regulation, the cardiovascular system, are filled with antioxidants, and are anti-inflammatory, but we have done kidney beans and chickpeas too. Just watch out for giving too often, as they have a lot of sodium. Get around this by making your own batch in the crockpot then freezing. Read more here about the health benefits.
3. Canned Olives
Olives are filled with healthy fats, vitamin E, and iron, but careful with the sodium. Easy way to give a dose of healthy fat, which helps the body to absorb more nutrients from other foods. Read more here about the health benefits.
4. Nuts and Seeds
Too good for you to list all the reasons! I keep them in a jar on the counter, super easy to add them to a plate, bowl of oatmeal, on top of cereal, etc. Read more here about the health benefits.
Berries are so great, except for the fact that they go bad. :( I just pick up a container every time I go to the store when they are on sale. They contain tons of antioxidants, vitamins, and are low glycemic thereby giving sustained energy instead of a sugar rush, and they help you feel fuller longer. Read more here about the health benefits of berries, and here about low glycemic foods.
Probiotics and good gut flora are so important for good health, so we try to consume fermented foods when we can, such as miso and Kefir. Kefir was easy for the kiddo, as it was like yogurt she could drink with a straw. I used to buy the Costco packs of kefir when I was back in the states, and the kiddo and I would split one a few times a week. An added benefit of kefir is that it is dairy free, as opposed to yogurt. Read more here about the health benefits.
7. Chia Seeds
Again, too good for you to list all the reasons! And they don’t need to be ground like flax seeds to get the health benefits. I just kept these in a little jar on the table and sprinkled a pinch on at least one meal a day. Read more here about the health benefits.
8. Cocoa Powder
Did you know cocoa powder contains fabulous minerals and flavonoids? I just found this out. So I have been adding this where I can, usually to oatmeal in the morning. Mmmmm, dessert for breakfast…. There seem to be some easy rubs to prep for chicken too, along the lines of mole sauce. Read more here about the health benefits.
9. Other Veggies
For variety on the defrosted mixed vegetables we were doing, I started thin slicing veggies and keeping in a bowl in the fridge. The Simple Slicer from Pampered Chef has been amazing for this, as it has three thickness settings and is super quick to use and clean. Currently we do cucumbers and carrots (peels on, even faster to prep that way, plus there are vitamins in the peels), but you can do anything you want. Cucumbers have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits (read more here), and Carrots have eye health benefits and more antioxidants, along with cardiovascular benefits (read more here).
The basic idea is to feed the kiddo as many whole foods as I can, that require little to no prep, along with keeping the foods I forget about nearby to add to a plate last minute (like the nuts and chia seeds). For breakfast and lunch, I typically make some kind of protein (greek yogurt, scrambled/boiled egg, tuna sandwich, whatevs) then throw a bunch of the above items onto plate, and whatever else I had lying around fresh. I would just eat the same thing as the kiddo.
Every day, I would walk into the kitchen having no clue what I was going to put on a plate for her. Then just by opening containers and putting stuff on her plate, we would end up with a really nicely varied and colorful meal. And that felt great. :) And it was super easy, with virtually no prep and little to clean afterwards. Perfect for a hassle free mama like me. The only issue is that it can get repetitive and boring, but I exist to feed, not to entertain. I do more when I can, if I feel like it.
A Note About Baby Food
For this, I also took the easy and cheap route. I really had no interest in making my own baby food, but I could not overlook the fact that a bag of peas cost less than a jar or two of the same baby food. So I made baby food by cooking the produce (if needed), then blending it (adding juice, rice milk, or water if needed), then pouring into ice cube trays. I put all those cubes into labeled bags, then stored in the freezer. In little containers, I would put 3-4 cubes, and stack the containers in the freezer. Then each night I would put a few containers in the fridge to defrost for the next day. Easy, varied meals for baby, super cheap, and not too time consuming to do. I would cook one type of food a week, and eventually, I had WAY too much. It really was a lot easier than I thought, and no expensive equipment involved as I already had a blender and ice cube trays. I just had to buy a bunch of those disposable small containers so I only had to get out the bags of food and fill them a couple times a week.