I’ve been espousing the benefits of a single meal for all—including babies 6 months and up—forever.
Sharing one family meal offers children many physical and emotional health benefits, but there’s one benefit that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should: the time it saves the family cook! Cooking one meal that even your littlest eater can share is a major time saver. I know all about making homemade baby food. I did it for both of my boys and am intimately familiar with the convenience of having a freezer full of portioned meals. Sometimes baby eats earlier than the rest of the family, sometimes you need food for on-the-go, sometimes you need to hand a ready-made meal to a sitter so that you can take a much needed break. The freezer stash is essential for all of these scenarios and more.
That said, I'm also intimately familiar with the amount of work that goes into making dinner for the grownups plus separate baby and kids' food for the little ones. (Anyone who says that steaming and pureeing takes no time has more time than me. It's easy, but time consuming!) Keeping up with three separately-made meals a day for baby calls for a whole lot of extra cooking and pureeing. It’s exhausting.
Since homemade baby food is the way to go—the only way, if you ask me—it's essential to plan at least several meals a week that everyone can share. It's the key to giving yourself a break in the kitchen.
Start by identifying nutrient-rich ingredients that baby can eat and finding recipes that use at least one or two. (According to current guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics, solids can be introduced in any order and there is no medical benefit to holding off on high allergen foods.) If you’re taking a conservative approach to starting solids, you can pull out "baby safe" ingredients as they cook. Otherwise, whizz or mash the final dish. Easy breezy.
Go ahead and keep a stash of homemade baby food for when you’re in a pinch. Otherwise, pull out a mini-prep and start sharing your healthy "grown up" meals with your littlest eater. Baby will delight in sharing exciting new flavors with mama and papa, and you will delight in having to cook only one meal!
This is one of my favorite meals to share with baby. I started making it when my second son was only 8-months-old and we still make it today—he is nearly two! With rice (use brown for whole grain), fish (lean protein + omega 3’s) and uber healthy mango and avocado, this is a power meal for all.
- Cooked white or brown rice, enough for the family
- Fish fillets (any mild white fish like tilapia or halibut), enough for your family
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- 1 mango, pitted and cut into ¼” cubes
- 1 avocado, pitted and cut into ¼” cubes
- Red onion, finely diced, to taste (I use about ¼ of a small onion)
- Cilantro, cleaned & chopped, to taste
- Juice of 1-2 limes, to taste
- Honey, to taste (optional; do not use if feeding a baby 12 months or younger)
1. Prepare fish filets: brush lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil, pan sauté or grill. Set aside (along with cooked rice).
2. In the meantime, prepare mango avocado salsa: in a medium bowl, toss mango, avocado, onion, cilantro, lime juice and a very small drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper; taste. If the mango isn’t perfectly sweet, you may want to mix in a drizzle of honey. You don’t want the salsa to have an overall sweet flavor, but you want a nice balance between sweet, salty and tangy (from the lime). Combine well and, if you have the time, allow the salsa to sit for 20 minutes to allow the flavors to marry.
3. Plate the fish over a bed or rice and top with salsa. Flake the fish for small kids. Pulse the whole combination (rice, fish, mango and all) to an age appropriate consistency for infant eaters. Then everyone enjoy!