Monday, February 7, 2011

My top 10 favourite toddler foods

I'm a creature of habit when it comes to organising meals. It takes less effort and helps me to feel organised, even though I'm usually not.

I thought today I would share with you a few of my favourite toddler-friendly foods. These are the ones I find myself returning to often because L enjoys them, they're easy to prepare, and I know she's getting loads of nutritional value from them.

1. Scrambled eggs
We have scrambled eggs most mornings. They take about five minutes to whip up, and I know they're a great start to L's day.

Did you know eggs are one of the only foods that contain naturally occurring Vitamin D - something we don't get enough of in New Zealand with our ozone hole making it dangerous to spend much time outside in the sunshine.

I choose to spend more to get quality organic free-range eggs. Since breakfast is such an important meal, I want to get the best I can afford for L.

Tests show that eggs from truly free-range chickens contain balanced levels of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. I've read that it's important to get a good balance of these two fats in your diet, as they can inhibit each other and we tend to eat too much Omega 6, thus cancelling out the benefits of Omega 3. (Eggs from cage-raised chickens have far less Omega 3 than their free-range counterparts.)

2. Kefir smoothies
I feed L a kefir smoothie most days. She either drinks it fresh or eats it as an ice-block that I've made from a previous day's leftovers.

I pack so many wonderful foods into her smoothies and she gobbles them up because they taste delicious.

The kefir itself is wonderful because it colonises L's gut with friendly bacteria that push out any bad bacteria and help L absorb nutrients from the other food she eats. Another great thing about kefir is that kefir grains feed on lactose, so the milk kefir you're left with has less lactose and is easier to digest than regular milk.

And then there are the other things that go into her smoothies, which at the moment include raw spinach or silverbeet straight from my garden, avocado, banana, blueberries, raspberries, stone fruit and honey.

How else would you get a toddler to eat raw spinach and be happy about it?

3. Dried fruit
Dried fruit like raisins, dates, blueberries and cranberries are a great snack when we're out and about. I keep a little container in my purse and feed them to L if she gets hungry.

I buy organic raisins because conventionally grown grapes have a lot of pesticides on them, which don't go away when the grapes are dried into raisins.

I also try to buy dried fruit that doesn't have sulphites in the ingredients label. Sulphites are the food preservative that keep your apricots bright orange, but they're not good for our health and have been linked to asthma, among other things.

3. Frozen peas
Frozen peas are such an easy way to get a few extra vegetables into L's diet. She loves eating them, can feed herself with relatively little mess, and I don't have to cook them.

4. Cheese
L has about ten words, and cheese is one of them. She loves it. When she was younger I would grate it for her; Now she has more teeth I give it to her in slices or cubes. Cheese is another super-food, full of calcium, good fats, vitamin A and protein.

5. Gurnard
This lightly flavoured fish is quick to cook and easy to eat, which is great since L has been a bit slow going on the teeth front. I simply dip the fish in a mixture of flour, natural sea salt and pepper, and then lightly fry it on both sides in butter. Beautiful.

6. Fresh fruit
We're big on fruit around here. In autumn it's all about the feijoas, in winter it's oranges, tangelos and mandarins, in spring it's strawberries, strawberries and more strawberries. Now that it's summer, we eat lots of stone fruit in all its juicy glory.

We also tend to eat apples and bananas all year round. For a long time L would only eat banana in smoothies, but now she's started to request it on its own too. She loves apple, but finds it hard to chew so I sometimes grate it for her, otherwise I peel off the skin and then let her at it.

7. Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes are another little pocket of goodness that are easy for L to eat, as well as delicious and nutritious. Happily for mum, all I have to do is rinse and serve. If they're from our garden, she gets to pick her own and I don't have to be involved in the process at all (other than by guiding her away from the green ones.)

8. Yoghurt
Sometimes we buy little pottles of yoghurt from the supermarket, but most of the time I try to make my own yoghurt at home to keep the additives and sugar out of it. L likes it mixed with frozen blueberries for a yummy and antioxidant-rich snack.

And you know yoghurt contains probiotics (the opposite of antibiotics) which feed the good bacteria in your gut (placed their by the kefir smoothies mentioned above). That's a happy little cycle I like to encourage.

9. Home baking
If I bake it myself, I know what it does and doesn't have in it. I can keep out the preservatives and refined sugar, soak the grains (like in this banana muffin recipe), or add in vegetables (like with these zucchini chocolate chip cookies).

This week we made spicy fruit sourdough bread from a recipe my good friend Jodie sent me. I love this new recipe, so will be sure to share it with you on Wednesday.

10. Whatever we're eating for dinner
I try to give L what we're having for dinner so that I'm not preparing two separate meals. Most of the time this works, although her lack of molars makes it difficult for her to eat hard foods or tough meat.

And if all else fails, I open up an Only Organic jar of some meaty/vegetable risotto, tip it into a bowl and let Lily at it. She tries to use a spoon, but most of the time she ends up scooping it up with her hands.

Note: I don't heat this in the microwave - I try to avoid using the microwave as much as possible. L eats her jars of food at room temperature and doesn't seem to mind at all. If I did heat them up, I'd just have to wait for them to cool down again, and what's the point in that?

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