This is the question I asked myself many, many times when Arlo started solids. For some reason, despite knowing my own diet in and out, I was completely boggled when it came to feeding him. I blame books. Every book I read said something completely contradictory. Feed him nuts. Don’t feed him nuts. Hold off on grains. Babies LOVE grains. I was stumped. Until I decided to do what I’ve done with everything mother-y and use my knowledge and instincts and have fun. Play. Enjoy. If he’s unhappy, he’ll tell me. If not, he’ll tell me too. So off we ventured, into the world of food exploration for mini people.
And this is where we landed. In a world where now, at roughly 11 months old, Arlo has tried everything. Except honey and shellfish, but they’re not far off. Nuts? He devours them. Oats? Begs for them. Green smoothies? Literally plonks his entire head inside the blender cup to take his sip. My point? Unless there’s a strong medical history of allergies or your doctor has suggested you steer clear, the more variety you can expose your child to the better.
Wondering where to start? With the basics. Real, in-season, non-processed food that tastes delicious. Pureed fruit and vegetables is the easiest, but play around with baking and steaming and adding herbs and spices (obviously not salt) for flavour. Would you want to eat plain, over-cooked steamed broccoli? Then why would your baby?
The real fun starts around 9 months, when they have grasped the concept of food and happily (or reluctantly) sit down for their three meals a day. In my case, Arlo has always enjoyed the sensorial play involved with food and I’ve wanted to encourage that, so I sit him in his high chair as I prepare his meals and talk him through exactly what I’m doing. I show him the ingredients, let him smell, taste and hear the words so he knows what he’s eating, and then when it comes time to eat, I allow him to feel the food so he’s engaged with it. This isn’t for everyone as it can be messy, or considered bad manners, so do what works for you and your family, but having your child involved from start to finish, is, in my opinion, a great way to get them excited about food. Of course, this could all go to shit and he’ll only want to eat chocolate milk when he turns 2, but we’ll figure that one out if we get there.
I also find he likes to use a spoon and feed himself. This usually ends with food splattered on the floor or down the sides of his high chair so I give him a spoon to practice with and, to ensure he’s actually filling his belly, I also spoon mouthfuls into his mouth as well.
So what to feed them? Now Arlo eats pretty much what we do. Including lettuce leaves, kale, peas (so many peas!), organic eggs and meat and everything in between. But of all the foods we expose him to nothing beats his morning muesli. This is, hands down, his favourite meal of the day, which gives him an amazing balance of protein (nuts and spirulina), iron (prunes), fibre (oats), probiotics for boosted immunity and a healthy gut (kefir), healthy fats (nuts and milk) and even reduced inflammation due to the cinnamon.
Here it is…
1/2 cup of rolled oats or cooked quinoa, teff or buckwheat for gluten-free options.
1/2 cup of milk (we vary Arlo’s milk so he’s not having too much dairy. Sometimes it’s unhomogonised organic cow’s milk but mostly it’s homemade almond, coconut or oat ‘mylk’)
3 prunes, de-seeded (if you don’t want any fructose at all you can leave these out)
1 tablespoon of coconut kefir
Pinch of cinnamon
Handful of walnuts, crushed
1 small teaspoon of spirulina powder
Here’s what you need to do:
Step 1: When you wake up in the morning, pop your prunes and oats in a small bowl and cover with water to allow to soak. If you’re using other grains that have been pre-cooked, simply soak your prunes and add the grains in step 2.
Step 2: Once it’s time to feed bub, simply add your kefir, spirulina, mylk, walnuts and cinnamon and stir through. The consistency should be almost like a porridge.
Step 3: This is the hardest step of all! Try not to eat too much yourself while you’re feeding bub.
Notes: If you’re avoiding nuts obviously substitute the walnuts and nut mylks for something else. If your baby can tolerate seeds, try pepitas or sunflower seeds instead. Or goji berries work well too. If you would like to sneak some fruit in there (we give Arlo his fruit on its own when he wakes up), simply stir in some berries, a banana or even kiwi fruit for extra Vitamin C.
Coconut kefir can be bought from most good health food stores or organic farmer’s markets. As can spirulina.
There were two books that I found truly helpful and provided me with much inspiration. The first, Wholefood for Children by Jude Blereau and Cooking for Your Baby and Toddler by Louise Fulton Keats (margaret Fulton’s granddaughter).
So tell me Happies…
Have you got any great baby recipes to share?
Do you like the sound of this one?