Although I would describe my food philosophy for my two year old son as ‘vegetable-focused’ whole, un-messed-with, unprocessed, nutritious foods, I’ve recently been eyeing those packaged puree pouches of fruit and vegetable blends in the supermarket as if they were the squeezable solution to all my problems.
My second child you see, is ready to start to start solids (at 6 months old) and those oh-so-convenient packaged combinations of things like organic mango, kale, greek yoghurt and banana sound just wonderful to a time-starved mom with two kids; unfortunately, they are packed with sugar (carbohydrates and concentrated fruit juice).
Now, I’m a fan of Alice Waters, Dan Barber, and Michael Pollan who by the way wrote that, “modern civilization has sacrificed much of the quality of its food in the interests of quantity and shelf life,” in The Defense of Food. And still, the thought of having to thoughtfully prepare yet another meal for yet another child - on top of cooking for myself - seemed like it was going to be a lot of extra work. However, if there’s anything having two kids has taught me, is that it’s all about getting organised. Which is why I put down the pouch, and decided to re-think our family meals and see if I could stream-line some of them in the interest of saving time, without sacrificing nutrition or the good food culture we strive so hard to build at home.
The trick I’ve learned, is to pick a base you want to work with (any ancient grain makes a great choice), a superfood you want to sneak in (chia seeds, broccoli or kale), and lastly something to hold it all together (think foods that blend well such as pumpkin, sweet potatoes, tofu or even cheese). And with those three categories in mind, you can pretty much cook up simple, healthy meals for you, your toddler and your baby!
Here’s one of my go-to recipes for a light lunch at home: (Everything is extremely fuss-free but if you want to speed things up even more you can use a Munchkin Fresh Food Grinder and a Phillips AirFryer).
Amen to Avocado
1 avocado, 1 apple, 1 cup plain yogurt, 1 cup instant quinoa, one chicken breast (cubed), olive oil, sea salt.
- Slice apples and place into a saucepan with water (to the level of almost covering the apples), bring to boil and then steam slices for about 15 minutes. Mash or puree with a fork.
- Scoop out about half the avocado, and mash or puree with a fork.
- Mash about two tablespoons of avocado and applesauce together and serve to baby.
- Prepare a single serving of instant quinoa, with a splash of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.
- Air-fry or cook the chicken cubes and add half to small bowl of quinoa.
- Mash another two tablespoons of avocado and applesauce, and this time mix into yoghurt as a topping.
- Scoop topping onto bowl of quinoa and chicken and serve to toddler.
- Stir-fry quinoa with olive oil (salt) and remaining chicken.
- Cut leftover avocado into slices and place on top of quinoa and chicken
(you may want to add some chili oil to taste).
- Stir applesauce into yoghurt and put into fridge for dessert.
All it takes is a carefully constructed list of food that fit into all three categories: Base, Superfood and ‘Blenders’, and the ability to try out new combinations (just like a weaning baby!) to cook health-consciously for you and your kids.
I also recommend drawing inspiration from books like, The Wholesome Baby Food Guide: Over 150 Easy, Delicious, and Healthy Recipes from Purees to Solids by Maggie Meade and Grain Power: Over 100 Delicious Gluten-Free Ancient Grain & Superblend Recipes, by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming (bestselling authors of Quinoa Revolution).
I know it’s easy to be disheartened by the heavily-marketed convenience that surrounds all of us, but just remember that packaged foods are engineered to keep us coming back for more and that additives and artificial sweeteners are insanely bad for us and our babies and best left on the shelves. I know how busy life can get as a new mom, so always remember that the goal isn’t to create nutritionally-intricate Instagram-worthy meals; but rather to keep it simple, healthy and freshly-prepared as much as possible!