*This post is brought to you in collaboration with Heinz Infant.
Feeding babies and toddlers is something this mum of six has had plenty of experience with! Sometimes I catch myself wondering just how many times I have had to invent something from nothing to serve to a hungry babe over the years. Believe me, I know how stressful it can be to think on your feet while the chaos goes down around you.
No matter how organised you think you are as a mum, there are forever so many things happening at once and meal planning can become incredibly difficult to organise. This is especially true if you have several kids who are making constant demands on your already limited time and energy levels.
Still, it doesn't have to be hard to pull something together for your little one if you've a fridge and pantry stocked with all the right ingredients for a healthy and balanced meal. I always make sure there's plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in our home, as well as small pasta shells and dry goods such as cous cous, to plump up a little person's meal with all the necessary food groups.
It's always an essential to keep some commercial baby foods handy in your pantry too, such as those lovingly prepared by Heinz.
I have relied on Heinz baby foods since I first became a mum 15 years ago, to fill up little tummies when I was too tired, too disorganised or simply as a yummy meal option to offer my babe in its own right. You can't go past the Heinz dessert range either, for special treats and convenience. Make sure you have a good selection on standby at all times to save yourself a great deal of stress. Heinz meals make excellent additions to your baby's diet and can really help them to explore new tastes.
Heinz prepare their baby foods from quality produce which is sourced locally where possible, and it all comes together at the hands of trusted and trained experts in the Heinz infant food facility in Echuca, Victoria.
It's also comforting to know that Heinz employ the expert knowledge of nutritionists who are mums themselves and in-the-know about what's best for growing children. Furthermore, all Heinz pouch and jar products are steam-cooked to seal in the goodness so that it is of the very best quality when you pop that seal at home!
Here's some of the meals I have prepared over the years that have proven extremely popular and successful with my own children. They all incorporate as many food groups as possible per serve and many of these meal ideas are relatively quick and simple and importantly, use ingredients that are usually in the home at all times.
The pick and mix meal. Young kids love the opportunity to exert their independence over everything and their dinner plate is so often the perfect place to demonstrate their new skill - for better or for worse! Offering a meal consisting of interesting colours, textures and flavours to an older baby and toddler can provide them with the perfect opportunity to explore as well as develop their fine motor skills. There's little fussing when young kids are visually invited to get tactile with a meal. Serving a platter of fruit, vegetables and meats is a guaranteed winner with this age group.
Add nutritional value to any meal such as this by adding a side-bowl of healthy homemade guacamole. It's so simple to prepare yourself from scratch and if you whip up a larger batch, this toddler suggestion can make a great lunch option for yourself too.
A Simple Recipe for Guacamole. (This makes a large batch so halve portions of you want a small serve.) Scoop the flesh of one whole avocado into a bowl. Squeeze the juice of half a lime and add two teaspoons of light sour cream or natural yoghurt and mash together with a fork until the avocado is smooth and creamy. Top with a sprinkling of sweet paprika for garnish. Serve alongside any healthy crackers, cheese, meats and slivered vegetables for dipping. (Be sure to steam any harder vegies such as carrots to soften them for littlies).
Tip: If your child has dairy issues, omit the yoghurt and sour cream. Guacamole will still taste sensational as simply mashed avocado with a squirt of lime.
Little Pot Pies. Making use of leftovers when you're a mum and on a budget is essential. Making something delicious for your child with remnants such as Bolognese and puff pastry can be a true time-saver. So often, what wasn't eaten the night before might be polished off with glee when presented in a new way for lunch the next day. Find the simple instructions to whip up these gorgeous pot pies in this post Baby Food Ideas Your Toddler Will Love. This recipe works well with any chunky soup, casserole or chicken dish too.
English Muffin Pizzas. Getting your child involved with the making process in the kitchen is essential for learning all about foods and developing an appreciation of them also. Grab your toddler and get them working alongside you to make up these yummy little English Muffin Pizzas. These pizzas are incredibly quick and simple to prepare and kids love them. They're also good enough to go down with the whole family so make a big batch of these. They're easy and quick and surprisingly tidy to make due to their size.
Tuna and Potato Patties. For as long as I can remember I have been whipping up these delicious little patties for my toddlers.
All you need are around two potatoes of a variety suitable for mashing, plus one small tin of flaked sandwich tuna in pure olive oil. Chop a couple of vegies very finely too, such as half a small zucchini and a quarter of a carrot. (Add these in the last few minutes while the potatoes boil, to soften.)
Mash the potatoes and vegetables together along with a small quantity of milk before stirring in the tuna along with the oil in the tin. Shape the mash into patties and heat some olive oil in a frying pan and shallow fry of the mixture until browned lightly. Serve with a small bowl of plain yoghurt with half of a peeled, grated Lebanese cucumber and a touch of lemon juice. - Delicious and popular!
Soups for Babies and Toddlers. Soups are a fantastic way to present vegetables to young kids. While babies are content to slurp away on lump-less purees, the older toddler is happy to try lumps and bumps. Some great soup ideas for babies are pumpkin, carrot and sweet potato varieties. (Thicken runny soups with baby rice cereal for added iron. It's handy to continue purchasing these solely for this purpose long after the baby stage has passed.)
Another soup worth a try is this Creamy Mushroom Soup recipe. This one is extremely tasty and the whole family enjoys this. For little ones, check the consistency to ensure all the mushroom pieces are finely chopped by giving it a quick whizz in a blender. Substitute the cream with yoghurt if you prefer.
Mini Sandwiches. Sandwiches always go down well with kids. There are so many fillings to explore. Fancy up your servings with different shapes, (try a cookie cutter or a sandwich cutter) to make serves exciting. Also, try serving one wholemeal slice of bread, paired with one white slice for interest factor.
One favourite all of my own kids have enjoyed are traditional cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches. Peel a traditional cucumber (not Lebanese) and thinly slice it. Cut the crusts from the bread and spread with cottage cheese (a known, little person favourite), or other child-friendly cheese spread. Cover the base slice with the cucumber, top with the bread and serve.
Try rolling the breads like sushi too. Remember kids love the excitement of the presentation. Try new fillings such as sultanas and cottage cheese for an interesting flavour.
Homemade Sweet Potato Fries. Try these for a yummy snack that's extra healthy and kid approved. Slice a sweet potato into thin strips like fries. Soak in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes. Pat dry and toss into a bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, a tiny dash of garlic powder and salt. When coated, transfer to a baking tray and roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden. These are also great in an air-fryer. Serve with guacamole, aioli or try this tzatziki dip as a side.
Yoghurt. Yoghurt is a superb food to offer to your child from the age of six months. Yoghurt containing beneficial gut bacteria is an excellent meal in and of itself. Try making your own for the freshest possible. Investing in an inexpensive EasiYo unit from your local supermarket is one of the best moves you can make as a mum. You will always have fresh yoghurt to serve and there will be no need to lug expensive and heavy tubs of yoghurt home from the supermarket anymore. Find out more about the benefits of EasiYo in this post.
Heinz also have a delicious range of dessert-style meals and pouches that are yummy choices for littlies with the added benefit of convenience. They travel well with you when you're out and about and little kids love them. Try serving these with fresh fruits such as sliced apples and bananas for added nutrients and fill-factor.
Finally, little people love little treats just like grown-ups every so often too! An old favourite that has been a great standby for grumbling tummies over the years, have been basic ANZAC biscuits. These are true homemade goodness with the health benefits of oats and coconut and very popular with kids. You can offer these on occasion between meals and you can also adapt the recipe to contain less sugar if this aspect worries you too. Find a simple ANZAC biscuits recipe here.
Remember motherhood is a busy time at any age and stage. Make life simple for yourself by getting imaginative with the ingredients you have on hand and don't hesitate to rely on the convenience and healthy choices offered by Heinz baby foods to support you. Heinz has a wonderful and trusted, 60 year heritage in preparing quality baby food so make the most of their knowledge when it comes to feeding your child.