5 healthy Dinners for Babies and Toddlers
It’s that time again where my toddler, Tommy and I show you some fun & healthy meals we’ve been eating. I say “we” because just like the breakfast post, these are healthy dinners for the whole family. If you missed 5 Healthy Breakfasts for Baby, be sure to check it out here.
There’s really no reason why kids should be eating any differently than we do, and if you’re reading this post, I’m guessing your goal is for your family to eat healthy most of the time. I was never a fan of a “kids menu” and never will be. Why should kids have to resort to French fries and chicken fingers at a restaurant while we order off the “real menu”? The same goes for your at-home meals. If we don’t introduce the healthy foods now, (mostly by setting good examples), it can potentially set us up for a tough situation later on.
Obesity and Type 2 diabetes are skyrocketing in children. So much so, that the Diabetes Journal has called it an “emerging epidemic”, and the CDC (center for disease control) is predicting that 1 in 3 children born in the United States in 2000 will likely develop type 2 diabetes sometime in their lifetime unless diets are severely improved. Exercise just isn’t enough, and it makes it more difficult when fake foods are being marketing on our televisions, videos, billboards, and grocery stores from minute to minute. What we as parents CAN control, is what we put on our tables every night. But we must stay educated, patient, consistent, and seemingly passionate through the process. Afterall, if we are excited about taking good care of ourselves, our children will be too.
Here are a few general notes about my main courses:
Keep it simple- I tell my adult clients all the time...as far as prepping meals go, if you complicate it, you will not be consistent with it. It's just the way our human minds work, so in efforts to save time in the kitchen, I try to serve Tommy what we’re eating (or at least a version of what we’re eating). Example, If I make a huge salad for myself for lunch, I’ll save him some components of the salad…(avocado, butternut squash, fruit, hardboiled egg, cheese, cut up chicken etc). I always try to keep his meals as similar to ours as possible. This will make things MUCH EASIER for you too in the long run.
Go organic- (especially the dirty dozen), proteins, veggies, fruits, and always dairy. Sadly, these foods probably won't make the clean list for some time. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, these toxic materials are much worse for our children's developing organs than for adults. And organic, doesn't just stop at pesticides. You are also guaranteed no GMO's (genetically modified organisms) or growth hormones. I should probably do a whole article on this subject alone, but I'll begin by saying avoid them as far as your children are concerned.
Gluten & Dairy- I am not 100% gluten or dairy free but a lot of what I cook just happens to be that. Note: If you have a suspicion that your child doesn’t tolerate dairy and are concerned about calcium needs, click here for the full article.
Veggies of Rainbow- I like to be sneaky with vegetables. I will add them whenever I can. This gets the taste buds used to their unique flavors so they won’t be so foreign to them when they get older.
Proteins- If we eat meat it’s small amounts of organic chicken, turkey, grass fed beef, or wild fish. Tommy really loves salmon (always wild), black cod, and sardines! (I know it’s crazy but there soooooo good for you). There is some concern for PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) content in fish as well as Mercury so we’re always mindful about how much fish we serve and where it comes from. I also opt for pouches over cans (for BPA concern) whenever possible and go for more sustainable sources.
Note on Tuna- Though I used to love tuna sandwiches as a kid, I don’t give them to Tommy. According to Dr Walter Crinnion, founder of the Naturopathic Association of Environmental Medicine, children should have very limited intake of albacore tuna. For me, the mercury content is just not worth it. Don’t worry, there are other options I promise.
Variety is key! Getting kids used to different colors, flavors, and textures is a great idea. Know that there will always be phases where they're not crazy about the good stuff, and that’s ok. Just keep trying different versions of the same foods and be sure they’re truly hungry when they sit down to eat. It will get better as long as you stay consistent. (New post about getting your kids to eat better is coming soon).
5 Healthy Meals for Babies & Toddlers
These are perfect to pack for a school lunch because they can be cut up, put right into a lunch container, and are delicious even at room temperature.
I found the shredded cheese at the Boston Public Market in the North End. It’s such a creamy blend of raw cheeses and melts so nicely into anything you make.
If you wish to go gluten free with these, you can sub with gluten free bread crumbs. Shredded carrots would also work nicely in place of the bell pepper, or a little of both.
2.5 cups grated zucchini and/or summer squash (drained well with paper towel or cheese cloth)
1 cup shredded raw milk, cheddar, or parmesan cheese
2 cups Panko bread crumbs (or sub with gluten free)
¼ cup hemp seeds
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ red bell pepper, diced finely
Sea salt & pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl. Form into patties using a Tablespoon or ¼ cup measure. Place patties in freezer for 20 minutes or so. If you don’t have time to do this step, it’s ok, I just like the way they firm up when they’re cooled a bit.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Add the patties and cook about 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
Serve with some cut up fruit and a small amount of protein if you wish.
Dairy-Free Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Roasted Garlic (vegan)
This smooth & creamy soup is nutrition injection in a bowl. As far as preparation, the smaller you dice the cauliflower, the less time it will take to soften. For the garlic, I usually prep this ahead of time while Tommy is napping. I’ll roast about 6 large bulbs and use the rest for veggies, pasta, or to just eat by themselves. So nice to have on hand!
3 Heads garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion chopped
1 large head cauliflower, diced in small to medium pieces
3 cups vegetable broth
1 can white cannolini beans rinsed and drained (or 13.4 oz carton)
1 tsp thyme
Sea salt & pepper
Begin by roasting the garlic:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tips off the garlic bulbs so the flesh of the garlic is exposed. Drizzle with olive oil, and a little salt. Wrap in tin foil and place on cookie sheet or muffin tin. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. Let cool.
In medium stock pot or dutch oven, melt the olive oil and saute onions until they begin to caramelize. (about 5 minutes). Season with a small amount of salt & pepper. Add the cauliflower and vegetable broth. Simmer mixture covered on low to medium heat for 15-20 minutes (depending on how large your cauli chunks are). Turn off heat. Add the beans and stir uncovered about ten minutes until mixture cools slightly. Transfer to vitamix (or high power blender). Add cauliflower mixture, roasted garlic, thyme, and salt & pepper to taste.
Coconut Curried Lentils with Kale- (Vegan)
Benefits of turmeric and curry powder are numerous for both kids and adults. They offer cardiovascular benefits, cancer prevention, and brain health so it makes sense to sprinkle on some turmeric here and there. And don’t forget the black pepper. It increases the potency of your turmeric by up to 200%. Lentils are a great combo of carbs and protein so blood sugar doesn’t spike then drop fast. Healthy fats like coconut oil should be used every time you cook so the nutrition in the meal gets absorbed efficiently. We usually take Tommy’s shirt off, then let him loose with his spoon for this one.
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 large onion finely chopped
2 tsp curry powder
1 cup diced rainbow carrots (you can also use regular carrots)
1 cup lentils (any color should work just fine)
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups kale, leaves only, finely chopped
1 cup coconut milk
Sea salt & pepper to taste
In a large stock pot, heat the coconut oil and add the onion. Cook on medium heat 1-2 minutes, then add 1 tsp of the curry powder and a dash of salt & pepper. Add the carrots, cover with lid, and cook 5 minutes on low to medium heat until the carrots begin to soften. Add the lentils and broth, and simmer covered for approximately 40 minutes.
Fold in the kale, simmer 2-3 minutes longer, cover with lid one last time and turn heat off. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes, then add the coconut milk. Now get out your super fine hand blender, (you may also toss into a regular blender or food processor) to reach the consistency you would like. I like a “chunky soup” type mixture. Season with the remaining teaspoon of curry powder, salt & pepper.
Wild Salmon Patties with Creamy Dill Sauce
Salmon in its wild form is one of the healthiest fish you can eat. It's packed with heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids that fight to conquer inflammation in the body, and is fantastic for brain health. Be sure to purchase from a reputable source.
12 oz Wild Salmon (fresh, pouch, or canned)
2 cups cooked quinoa
¼ cup Green onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest
½ tsp Sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
1-2 Tbsp grass fed butter
Drain liquid from salmon, place in a large mixing bowl and break apart with a fork. (Be sure to drain the liquid well so the mixture is not too wet when you make the patties). Fold in the remaining ingredients in order listed and mix until combined.
Form into patties using ¼ cup or ⅓ cup measure. Let mixture set for 30 minutes in fridge or freezer.
Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When pan is ready, it will sizzle if you add a pinch of water. Once the oil is hot, add the patties, and cook for 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown
Creamy Dill Sauce
You will have some leftover. Use it as a dip for veggies, a salad dressing, or as a condiment.
3/4 cup Plain Greek yogurt
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp dill or 2 tbsp fresh dill chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt & pepper to taste
Place ingredients into mini food processor and pulse until smooth. It takes a little while for the flavors of this sauce to set. Best option is to make this the day before and keep in fridge until ready to use.
Pumpkin Turkey Chili
This recipe comes to is from my former side kick and nutrition partner-in-crime, Abra Pappa of Abra’s kitchen. Wow, does the smell of this chili bring everyone down to the kitchen on a cool fall night. Pumpkin is chock full of nutrition (vitamin A, fiber, and potent carotenoids) for the kiddos, and adds such a nice balance to the rest of the dish. Remember we are building young palates here!
This one bowl dinner, is of course for the entire family and freezes nicely (though we never really have to worry about that) Just omit the jalapeño garnish for the babes.
Hope your kiddos truly enjoy their meals. Be sure to comment and share!
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