Our little man has been an eating machine since he’s started eating solid foods more than four months ago. His first food was sweet potatoes at the Capstone buffet on Palm Sunday and he loved them, so we decided it’d be easy to start regular meals for him of something we knew he liked. It was a win-win situation for us, so we went to the store and bought a single sweet potato and it fed him for the whole week along with his milk. Since then, his appetite has grown drastically, and his taste buds have matured as well.
One downfall to starting our big eater on home-made food would be that it’s all he wants to eat now. I started making his food out of fresh foods, and to date, it’s all he will eat – milk or formula, juice and real food. Even when we moved from South Carolina to Kentucky and were on the road for two days, Luke would have nothing to do with the jarred baby foods that I bought him to make our trip easier, despite the fact that they were foods he’d already eaten. Nope, my little foodie won’t eat jarred foods – he wants the real thing and quite a bit of it, too.
Now that he’s growing and is up to 3 full meals a day plus snacks, I spend a pretty good bit of time making food and finding new recipes for meals for Luke. The very nice thing about making our own food for him is the money that it saves and the sense of satisfaction knowing that he really likes the food that I make for him and that he’s eating very well, too.
Trial and error, along with reading and talking to other friends has helped me to figure out the best way to make Luke’s food. For starters, I listen to the doctor about what she says Luke can and cannot eat and when. For instance, she said that we could feed him meet at 8-9 months, or when he has a few teeth, so we started him on meat on his 8 month birthday. Any foods with small seeds are off-limits until he’s a more mature swallower, and it really wasn’t until the past two weeks that we felt comfortable enough to regularly give him foods that require chewing or dissolving before he swallowed them. We’re following the obvious allergen suggestions of nuts, honey, eggs and cow’s milk, but I know that he’s also had a few things made with eggs and also cow’s milk. At first we followed the 4-day rule in which we would both eat only one food for 4 days straight, but also wait a few days in between trying a new food to see if he developed any allergies. We’re proud to say that thus far we’re allergy-free!
Once I have a handle on what he is allowed to eat and what we need to stay away from, I started the process of introducing new foods. His first new food was green beans, then peas, then broccoli, then spinach. Upon the suggestion of friends, we started with the green vegetables first (sweet potatoes aside) and then moved to other veggies. Fruits weren’t introduced until about one month ago.
So, how does it all work?
First, everything he’s gotten has been steamed or cooked, with the exception of avocado and banana. I’ve mostly steamed the veggies and fruits using Ziploc Zip ‘n Steam bags, which I love because of the fabulous guide to cooking right on the front of the bag. Although, I have to admit that sometimes I’ve just straight up boiled (especially the cherries) or steamed a food in a bowl of water covered with a paper towel. Luckily for me, so far my child has not died.
Once the food is cooked, it’s time to puree it and freeze it for later use. I use a hand blender, or an immersion blender, to puree the food to the desired consistency. When he was starting out eating, Luke needed super-fine texture, so I had to constantly add more water in the blending process. Now that he’s eating more solids, we give him more texture which means still blending, but not as much focus on smooth textures. As for storage, upon the suggestion of friends, we’re using ice cube trays to portion his foods, which are then frozen and re-heated at meal times.
All of this requires a lot of planning ahead, especially when it comes to eating out or being out of the house during a meal time, but since all of the foods have been cooked ahead of time and are in cube form, we just re-heat them, pop them into ziploc containers and pack a spoon and a bottle.
After all of the cooking, blending and freezing, it’s time to package them in the freezer. I got on quite the food-making kick a few weeks ago and made literally three shelves worth of food in the freezer for Luke.
I like to “bag and tag” the food in quart sized freezer bags and write on the front the name of the food. Since some foods look alike when sorting through the freezer to prepare mealtimes.
While I made a lot of fruits and veggies, I did make some meat dishes as well. The chicken, rice & mango dish was received very well and had enough texture to give him some learning, but it was all pureed enough that he could swallow it easily without choking. My favorite dish made, though, was a baby version of a family favorite: tater tot casserole, or as Mason calls it, “man food!” The dish is simply lean ground beef, cream of celery soup and ground tater tots to top it all off. I froze it in individual cubes as well, and the meal is a big hit with Luke.
**Editor’s Note: This post was begun before major food changes have occurred in our life – Luke decided last week that he wanted to begin feeding himself. So, we’re finding new ways for him to enjoy mealtimes with us and also figuring out creative ways to encourage him to eat the rest of this already-made food off of a spoon. Right now our only success is fruits and that only happens when we literally sneak bites in between his bites, mostly when he smiles. I’ll post later on how we’re handling the self-feeding meals. For now, I leave you with a picture of mealtimes these days.