It's Easy Being a Green Mama

Cooking for Your Baby Part 2: The Basics

I learned a lot about feeding children from Bread and Jam for Frances.  If you’re not familiar with this classic, it was written in a time before organic yogurt melts and worrying about egg whites, but also before high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soybean oil.  The sack lunches these fictional kids from the 60s eat make them seem like gourmands compared to kids today.  In the story, Frances only wants to eat bread and jam, but she learns to love a variety of foods.  “I have a thermos bottle with cream of tomato soup,'” she said. ‘”And a lobster-salad sandwich on thin slices of white bread. I have celery, carrot sticks, and black olives, and a little cardboard shaker of salt for the celery. And two plums and a tiny basket of cherries. And vanilla pudding with chocolate sprinkles and a spoon to eat it with.”  By the end of the story, she’s enjoying all these wonderful meals, not just eating her favorite treat.

Frances has learned the secret to a happy and healthy life: everything in moderation.  Don’t skip your favorite foods, just include them with all these other foods.  And you don’t see Frances eating French fries or a Happy Meal.  For babies, getting them to eat healthy food should be a piece of cake.  When you first introduce food, give them something delicious and jam packed with nutrients, and build from there.  As a green mama, it seems hard to feed your family in a healthy way and still stick to a budget.  The key is to make it yourself.  To make first foods, it is so simple.  Make a big batch using a food processor, and store it in your freezer.

To make a wonderful first food,  sweet potatoes, peel a sweet potato, then steam it in a steamer basket over boiling water until it’s tender.  Next, Process it until smooth.  Finally, divide it up into a bpa-free ice cube tray and store it in your freezer.  Thaw them as needed.  For avocado it’s even easier: mash a ripe avocado.  Most early foods follow these steps.  And if you’re on the go, get yourself some small jars and a cooler, and bring it with you.  When you make it yourself, you know that no preservatives went in it.  When you start researching, you may find out how laden with extras your baby’s prepared food is.  If money is no object, you can buy organic baby food and most of it is preservative free.  But your organic baby food still has a shelf life of 3 years, meaning that it has been heated to an extreme degree.  Some people believe this means that many of the nutrients have been lost in the process.  I prefer not to have to worry about it.  I don’t mind spending a few minutes pureeing some bananas so that I know she’s eating only what I intend and nothing more.

It can be frustrating when I lovingly make her food and she rejects it without really trying it.  As a green mama, I hate wasting food, and I want my daughter to have a healthy attitude towards eating.  I follow the lesson of  Bread and Jam for Frances and keep offering it. In the beginning, eating is more of a learning experience than about nutrition.    Sometimes, the sensory experience of eating can be overwhelming; new textures, smells, and colors can be a lot to handle.  Follow their cues.  If they’re not ready, take a step back and wait.  Sometimes you may have a precocious eater who’s ready to move on to more complex foods, and that’s ok, too.  Just make sure you supervise your child at all times.  My daughter really didn’t eat baby food for very long before she was eating table food.  It may have been because she got her teeth so early or because she wanted what her parents had.
Which leads me to another very important point, perhaps the most important of all: be a good example.  Model the behavior you want your child to have.  This is so important in just about every facet of your role as a parent.  If you want your child to be green, you have to be green.  If you want your child to eat healthy, non-processed food, then you eat it, too.

Don’t wait for your child to be old enough to understand reason to start explaining why they need to eat an apple instead of a cookie.  It’s much harder to get them started on healthy habits then.  Get them full on the good stuff, and then give them a treat if they still have room.  For snacks, give them fruit or veggies.  Always have something healthy on hand, wherever you go.  If Frances can learn to love to eat good food, so can anyone.