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Monday, September 26, 2011

Ask Sarah: Family Meal Planning w. Baby

Question from Rachel in Maryland: Do you meal plan for the week and if so, how? Do you feed your baby the same meal? My daughter is moving to table foods quickly and I'm trying to get my bearings in terms of how to best feed her and us. Also, any finger food ideas?

This is such a great question Rachel, thanks for bringing it up! As for meal planning - I typically do one big shop a week during which I restock all of our favorite things that we finish up quickly (for us that is humus, eggs, juices, beans/chickpeas, fruits, vegetables, yogurt, larabars, applesauce, cheese, bread) and buy groceries for two planned dinners. Sometimes, when I'm motivated, I have the dinners already planned before I go shopping and other times I wander around the market and come up with two meals. This wandering most likely occurs when I'm shopping alone while drinking an iced coffee. 

I find buying groceries for two dinners works best because I don't waste food (I hate having to throw something away once it has gone past its prime!), I have enough staples in the house to cook a third dinner, we will get take-out one night, and I'll go to our Wednesday afternoon or Saturday morning Farmer's Market to round out the week.

Feeding Dylan the same meal as we're eating is the best case scenario because it's less work for me. But, I usually cook dinner once he's asleep and he doesn't always like what we're eating. So here is my suggestion - make a baby box. A baby box is a reusable container that sits in your fridge full of items for baby to eat. As you prepare a dish stop when the item would be to her liking. This could be anything from cut up avocado before you add it to a salad, rinsed chickpeas before going into a soup, brown rice without a spicy sauce, or baby friendly pieces of your full leftover dinner. This way, she'll always have new foods to try and experiment with and you won't have to cook two meals. Your daughter will show you what she likes and wants you to make more of! The baby box method also lessens the stressful "meal scramble" that I really hate. 

I always have Dylan's favorite 10 foods on hand in case he doesn't like what I've prepared or if he's just in the mood for one of his favorites. Luckily, his top 10 are easy foods. 

Dylan's Favorites (at 14 months) are:
1. Humus
2. Fruit (strawberries, banana, pineapple, melon are his favorites)
3. Yogurt (whole milk, plain)
4. Peanut butter & Almond butter
5. Cheese
6. Larabars
7. Ezekiel sprouted-grain tortillas & Whole Grain Breads
8. Raisins
9. Applesauce
10. Smoothies*
*I have a freezer full or frozen organic fruit. I make smoothies with: 1-3 fruits (my favorites are blueberries, mango, peaches), a fat (whole milk, whole milk yogurt, nut milk, tablespoon of almond butter, tablespoon of peanut butter), and a vegetable (handful of baby spinach, carrot juice). D LOVES smoothies. Before he figured out a straw I'd spoon feed them.

Sometimes I get stressed out about his eating - if he's eating enough, the right foods, when he starts to decline something he's always liked. When he started solids and was only eating purees he'd eat almost anything. Then one day he decided what he wanted to eat! I encourage you to look at the week as a whole, rather than 1 day, to get a sense of your daughter's eating habits. I tell myself if my biggest concern is that my toddler is eating too many bananas then I have it pretty good! 

Dylan's First Finger Foods:
1. Chickpeas/beans popped out of their skin and rinsed
2. Small pieces of soft fruit, skins removed
3. Small pieces of soft cooked vegetables (peas are easy, smash them first)
4. Small pieces of soft cheese, large lumps of cottage cheese
5. Overcooked whole grain pasta
6. Polenta made with quinoa (easy to pull out of the fridge) in small pieces
7. Harder fruits/veggies (apple, carrot) grated or peeled into very thin strips
8. Small tofu chunks
9. Crumbled egg yolk
10. Cooked brown rice

I'm sure I don't need to tell you all that I'm not a doctor and obviously you should check with your pediatrician before feeding your baby anything that raises a question. You also know your baby best so if they choke easily or like to stuff their cheeks full, be extra cautious. 

Good luck and having fun eating together! 

Every Monday I'll be posting an "Ask Sarah" question submitted by a reader with my take on it. Sounds fun right?!

Step up and ask away ( I can't wait to hear from you!


  1. Thanks, Sarah! This is really helpful info as we introduce new finger foods to Sol.

  2. I especially like your grocery shopping tips and "baby box" idea. I always save leftovers in little glass ramekins with lids (which serve as my go-to for quick meals and picnics), but never thought to pull out baby-ready ingredients mid- recipe. Genius.


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