The PLN Guide to Introducing Solids: Easy Meals for Babies & Parents

So you’ve started offering baby some solid food; life must be getting easier, right?  The reality is probably closer to this: you are now breastfeeding or formula feeding as you always have been, but now you are also possibly pureeing or steaming/boiling/baking something for your baby and then cooking a meal for yourself and any other members of your family.  Not to mention the clean up!  While we haven’t quite cracked the secret to reducing the mess, we do have a few tips to decrease the work of preparing meals at this critical stage.

If you need a shortcut (who doesn’t?), pre-packaged food can act as one when you’re low on time and energy.  Don’t feel guilty.

The important thing is you’re making a meal for your family to enjoy together.

Just a word of caution – while some pre-packaged foods are fine for babies, without checking through the nutritional information, you may inadvertently be giving your baby too much salt, sugar or other unnecessary additives.  Carefully read the labels for anything you buy pre-packaged, including sauces, dips, and even canned vegetables, which can have surprisingly high sodium content (not sure how to read labels properly?  See this info here). Then check out the ideas below for meals you can cook up easily and serve to all your family with just small adaptations for your baby.

 

Fajitas (Serves 4)

Ingredients

2 chicken thighs, sliced or steak (approx. 6 oz), sliced or 12 shrimp (all optional)
2 peppers, sliced
1 onion, sliced
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp chili powder
canned beans (kidney, black or mixed)

To Serve

guacamole
salsa
jalapeños, chopped finely
wraps (corn or wheat)

Method

  • If using chicken or steak, add a little bit of oil to a cast iron or non stick pan and cook on medium heat until the meat is cooked through.  You can tell if it’s cooked if you take a piece of chicken and chop it in half and it’s no longer pink inside.  The steak can be pink on the inside, depending on how you like your steak.
  • If using shrimp, place all shrimp into a small pan and add just enough water to mostly cover.  Boil for a few minutes until the shrimp are pink all over.
  • Remove the meat or shrimp from the pan and keep to one side. Reheat the pan to medium high heat and add a bit of oil.
  • Fry onion for a few minutes, and then turn the heat to high and add the sliced peppers.  Once peppers are almost cooked, add the meat or shrimp if you want to include it and then add the smoked paprika and chili powder.  You might need to add a teaspoon of water here to prevent burning.
  • Empty a can of beans into a pot and cook on high for a few minutes just until the beans are heated through.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Use pre-made guacamole and salsa, checking ingredients for spiciness and salt content.  If you have time, you can also try making your own guacamole and salsa – it’s super easy once you get the hang of it and tastes miles better than most pre-packaged varieties. Easy recipes are here and here.
  • Hold the salt when preparing everything and put a shaker on the table for older children or adults who would like to add a bit to their wraps.
  • Chop up some jalapenos and put them in a bowl on the table for those who like a bit of heat instead of adding them to your dishes beforehand.
  • Wraps can be heated in the microwave, a few at a time, for about 30 secs
  • Throw everything on the table, and let everyone add to their own wraps what they prefer. Children will probably need help wrapping their wraps.

Serving Suggestions for Baby:

For babies who are just starting solids – you can puree or finely chop the meat and veg.  If you’re making guacamole, after you’re done mashing the avocado but before you have added any of the other ingredients, put some in a small bowl for your baby so you can spoon feed it to them.  You can do the same with salsa – just serve fresh chopped tomatoes before you add the other ingredients.

For babies who have tried a variety of foods – to serve to baby, dip small pieces of wrap in guacamole and serve the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl chopped up into small pieces.  For younger babies, especially without teeth, it’s best to leave out the steak if you’ve chosen to serve it.  Toddlers love eating their food in wraps – just prepare yourself for the mess of it all falling out as they eat it.

 

Roasted Vegetables with Chickpeas (Serves 4)

Ingredients

2 potatoes (optional)
½ sweet potato (optional)
½ butternut squash (optional)
½ head of cauliflower (optional)
½ eggplant (optional)
2 tomatoes (optional)
1 onion (optional)
1 zucchini (optional)
2 carrots (optional)
2 parsnip (optional)
1 handful of green beans (optional)
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp of smoked paprika
1 can of chickpeas
Fresh cilantro or parsley and lemon wedges (to serve, optional)

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 400F
  • Chop up a variety of veg into bite size pieces.  All the vegetables and the amounts listed in the ingredients are optional.  Choose whatever you and your family love and is easily accessible.
  • If using regular potatoes, parboil them until they are mostly cooked.
  • Throw everything onto a baking sheet and coat with olive oil.  You may need two sheets – it’s better not to overcrowd the veg.  Bake until all veg are cooked to crispiness/softness you prefer (about an hour at 400F should be plenty of time to cook everything).
  • When they are about ten minutes from being done, throw in some drained chickpeas and sprinkle some smoked paprika.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Serve with some chopped fresh herbs like parsley or cilantro to finish, if you would like.  Provide lemon slices to squeeze for adults and older babies/children.
  • Hold the salt when preparing everything and put a shaker on the table for older children or adults

Serving Suggestions for Baby:

For babies who are just starting solids – choose whichever veg you feel comfortable providing depending on what they have tried already.  Feel free to mash any veg up with a fork and spoon feed, if you prefer.  Chickpeas should be mashed, if serving. Hold the lemon for younger babies.

For babies who have tried a variety of foods – chickpeas should be mashed, if serving.

 

Pizza (Serves 4)

Ingredients

2 pre-packaged pizza bases
1 tsp cornmeal (optional)
1 can pizza sauce
Your favourite pizza toppings, including grated or sliced cheese

Method

  • Preheat oven to at least 450F (hotter is great, if you can).  You will need to preheat your oven for a good 20 mins.  If you have a pizza stone, that’s ideal, but don’t forget to preheat it in the oven.  Baking sheets work too.  You might want to throw some cornmeal under your base to prevent sticking if you use a baking sheet.
  • There are many brands of yummy ready made pizza bases.  Just be sure to check the nutritional information to ensure it’s okay for baby.  If you have time, a bread maker is actually a very easy way to make your own dough – throw all the ingredients in and walk away for two hours (like in this recipe here).  Or if you’re feeling very energetic (or need to keep older kids busy), you could also knead by hand or with a mixer that has a dough blade. This will take about ten minutes, and then you can leave it for at least an hour or two to rise (like in this recipe here).  Keep an eye on how much salt is in your recipe.  If you make your own base, you will need to roll it out into two even-ish circles.
  • There are plenty of pre-made pizza sauces.  Choose whatever you enjoy and spread on your base, keeping an eye on salt content.  Making homemade tomato sauce could be a fun project for another day (plus it will make your whole house smell delicious).
  • This is a great way to get your children to eat a variety of veggies.  Put anything on a pizza you’d normally love to get at a restaurant.  Any of your favourite cheese can be grated, sliced, or blobbed on (as in the case of goat cheese, for example).  Get this all chopped up ahead of time for when your oven is ready.
  • The pizza will take 20-30 mins to bake depending on how thick your base is.  You will be able to tell it’s ready when your toppings are all cooked but not burnt and your crust is crispy on the bottom and not soggy looking.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Put chopped up or dried chillies on the table for those who like heat.
  • Try scattering some fresh herbs on top if you like them.  Basil is a yummy addition to many types of pizza.

Serving Suggestions for Baby:

For babies who are just starting solids – leave a very small section of the pizza just for them and choose whichever veg you feel comfortable providing depending on what they have tried already.  You may want to hold the cheese on their section if they haven’t had dairy yet.  You can also take any of the toppings off and chop them up and spoon feed if you prefer.  Your baby will probably love to gum and suck on the crust.

For babies who have tried a variety of foods – if you decide to add any very salty or spicy ingredients you can leave a section for your baby without these ingredients added.

 

Now that we’ve shared a few meal ideas here with you, do you have any that you wouldn’t mind sharing that you have found to be a winner with your family?  

Please note: In an effort to keep this guide helpful and easy to read, comments may be moderated to focus on questions and advice. If you’d like to discuss or debate this topic, please visit our PLN Forum.

 

Resources

River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook

Government of Canada Infant Nutrition Guide

Eat Right Ontario – Decoding the Nutrition Label

Sakura Dunn

Sakura Dunn

Sakura lives in an old house in the country just outside of Peterborough Ontario with her husband and two young children. She likes to stay busy as a full-time mum and part-time PLNer, but spends most of her day thinking about what new recipe to try for dinner.