How to make Baby's meal out of the meal you're making for the family
Once your infant has tried most foods and is able to eat a variety of things, it's time to "baby" them less in the kitchen! Health Canada actually recommends beginning to offer them the same food that the family's eating as early as six months, as a complement to breastmilk or formula, and to introduce textured food no later than nine months. Your growing baby needs a lot of iron too, so Health Canada recommends feeding them meat, fish, or alternatives such as tofu or legumes two to four times a day. Sounds like the meal you were going to make for yourself tonight anyway, right? Exactly. Not only can you make life easier for yourself by preparing one meal for all, when you make baby's food at home, you'll be able to control the added salt or sugar content too, which are not good for babies. And isn't it the dream, to have the whole family sitting around the table and enjoying a meal together? The time could be right now!
To help you do this right, we've rounded up five menu plans below and included the modifications you need to make in order to serve it to Baby. Four of them involve cooking two dishes, a veggie and a protein, and pureeing or mashing them together for the baby. This method works for many recipes, so don't stop at our choices. The trick is to choose vegetable recipes with enough liquid to break the meat down. Soups and stews and mashed potatoes are always good. If you find you need even more liquid, add milk, stock or water to help it along. And we know you'll love the one-tray method of the fifth menu plan, where the protein and veggies are cooked all together, and you pick parts out of that to feed the baby.
Here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind:
- Remove the baby's portion of the food before adding salt or sugar when cooking.
- Choose recipes made with whole ingredients and avoid processed ingredients whenever possible. Even store-bought stock can be high in sodium, so consider making your own with these instructions here.
- Monitor your baby for any allergic reactions, and consult your pediatrician with questions.
- Babies prefer mild foods, so avoid adding spices too early on, and tame stronger-flavours like fish with milk or stock. Reduce the amount of garlic in recipes or take it out completely.
- Always let hot food cool down before feeding it to your baby.
- Refer to this Health Canada article on safe cooking temperatures and use a meat thermometer to get it right while cooking.
Fresh herbs liven up the potatoes, and sour cream makes it extra creamy. While the radicchio will be too bitter for babies or young kids, it's a treat for adults to eat leaves that aren't lettuce.
Prepare both dishes, making the modifications for the baby recommended below, and puree or mash the potatoes and meat together for a complete infant meal.
- Reduce the garlic clove in the mashed potatoes to one clove or remove entirely.
- Set aside a portion for the baby before adding the parmesan cheese and chives to skip the salt and too-bold flavours.
- Leave out the hot pepper flakes in the marinade.
- Keep a portion of the steak unseasoned for the baby before it goes on the grill. Alternatively, salt and pepper the entire cut of meat after it comes off the grill and you've pulled a cooked-to-the-right-temp portion for the baby.
- Puree the steak with the steak with the potatoes.
The stew offers loads of veggies and the chicken provides the protein. Both are easy to prepare — the chicken just needs salt and pepper. And read these tips on working with artichokes here to make the stew's prep easier. The liquid in the stew will help break down the chicken when you puree them together.
Here are the modifications for the baby:
- Pancetta is high in sodium, so dice it in large pieces and remove it from the baby's portion.
- Add the salt and pepper at the end with the mint, after removing the baby's portion.
- Go ahead and season the cavity of the chicken as the recipe instructs. You won't reach the leg meat or outside of the beast with that salt, so serve the baby the unsalted meat.
- Puree the chicken with the stew.
Lentils and rice are a complete protein, so serve them together for maximum health benefits. And by using vegetable stock in the soup, this meal makes a great vegetarian dinner for all.
Here's how to modify the prep to make these recipes work for your baby:
- Season the soup with salt and pepper at the end, after removing the baby's portion.
- Remove the baby's portion before stirring in herbs, lime juice and zest, although once your baby gets used to bigger flavours, you can include these too.
- Puree the pilaf with the soup.
Who knew your baby can eat burgers too?! This is the perfect burger recipe because it's just meat — no added ingredients. Puree or mash it up with an unsalted portion of the fries and you'll have a baby-friendly, crowd-pleasing menu for everyone.
Here's how to prep each dish for the baby:
- Cook an unseasoned burger for the baby, using a meat thermometer to get the temperature right.
- Leave a portion of potatoes, parsnips, and carrots uncoated for the baby, tossing the rest with the egg mixture. Bake everything on one tray, or bake the baby's on a separate tray for the same amount of time.
- Puree or mash the baby's vegetables with the burger, adding milk, stock, or water to help it along.
The Menu: Tray-Baked Salmon Nicoise
The genius of this Tray-Baked Salmon Nicoise is that everything cooks individually, yet on one pan. This means you'll dirty less dishes while being being able to select the vegetables that are best for the baby. For a quick salad for the rest of the family, follow the instructions in the recipe for using the pan juices as a dressing. Here's how to make this dish work for the baby:
- Skip the salt and pepper in the vinaigrette and add it on at the end after you've removed the baby's portion.
- When the fish and veggies are cooked, puree or mash some salmon with potatoes, tomatoes, green beans. If the fish flavour is too strong, bump up the amount of veggies. And add milk, stock, or water to help everything break down.
Now that you've learned techniques for turning the family meal into one your baby can eat too, search on our site for even more recipes and create your own menu plans. And be sure to take a picture and share them with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. We love to see what your family is eating!