Baby friendly meals for the whole family

When the time comes for your baby to start solids, the thought of extra cooking can be understandably daunting and overwhelming. As a mum, who has time for extra…well, anything?

Even if you’re excited by the idea of batch baby food cooking and freezing it into cute little cubes, there are simple strategies that will save you time and energy.

Whether you decide to start your baby on purées, or you’d like to follow the baby-led weaning approach, there’s no need to cook entirely separate meals. Instead, you can cook baby friendly meals that are suitable for the whole family.

First, what foods should babies avoid?

The list of foods that babies can’t eat before their first birthday is actually very small, and really just common sense (do we need to tell you not to add hot chilli?).

  1. Foods that are choking risks, like whole nuts, popcorn, raw carrot, whole grapes and apple.
  2. Sugar. There’s no need to sweeten baby food (and that includes adding fruit to savoury meals) because they could develop a sweet tooth.
  3. Salt. It can be too harsh on a baby’s developing kidneys, and they simply don’t need added salt to flavour their food. Be careful not to use stock cubes and gravies, which can be quite high in salt.
  4. Honey. This is due to the rare but serious risk of botulism, which is a bacterial infection. With this risk in mind, you’ll want to also be careful about food that could potentially cause food poisoning, such as raw seafood, raw eggs, and raw meat.
  5. Fruit juice. Milk and water are the only beverages a baby needs. Fruit juice has minimal nutritional benefits, and can discourage a baby from consuming the milk they need in order to grow and thrive.
  6. Reduced fat cow’s milk. A baby’s source of milk should only be breastmilk or baby formula. Their growing body requires all of the essential nutrients and fat that milk provides (full fat cow’s milk can be introduced after 12 months of age).

How do I make one meal for the whole family?

It’s really a lot easier than you think, and you can do a few simple things at each meal so that you’re not doubling up on meal preparation and cooking time.

First, let’s look at breakfast…

Babies don’t need their own special food and you can skip the baby rice/oats. Instead, you can offer your favourite family-friendly foods:

  • Natural yoghurt with mashed banana, almond meal, and cinnamon, for example.
  • It might be best to hold off on the cereals (in case they contain sugar and/or salt).
  • From 6 months, you could offer toast with peanut butter, tahini, or avocado.
  • You may want to cook a big batch of stewed apple and berries, but this doesn’t have to just be saved for your bub. It’s delicious for the whole family to add to yoghurt or porridge. Alternatively your baby could dip slices of banana or mango into yoghurt.
  • Scrambled eggs, pancakes, or French toast are all yummy breakfast options everyone can enjoy.

Now, let’s look at lunch…

If you (and if you have older kids) like to eat sandwiches for lunch, you can offer your baby sandwich fingers if they’re developmentally ready, or alternatively you might like to heat up some leftovers from last night’s dinner for your baby.

If you prefer to offer purées to your baby for lunch, grab your leftover steamed or baked veggies from the fridge, and give them a quick blitz in the food processor. Add in some grated cheese or tinned tuna and you have a wholesome quick meal.

In other words, leftovers are your new best friend!

What are some baby friendly dinner ideas the family might enjoy?

Dinner is usually the meal that parents struggle with the most. Can you relate? It’s not only the witching hour for a lot of babies (who just want to be held!), but it’s also the time of day when everyone else is tired, hungry, grumpy, and the last thing you want to do is cook up multiple meals.

Do you find yourself cooking your baby’s meal and serving it to them early, before then getting them to bed (eventually!), only to return to the kitchen and start all over again? There’s no need to put yourself through that.

Here are our top tips for saving you time, energy, and your sanity at mealtimes by cooking one meal for the whole family:

  1. If you like to cook a roast on a Sunday, for example, always make extra. Put aside some meat and veggies to have over the next couple of days. You could add yours to a salad, whilst pureeing or offering it as finger food to your baby.
  2. Make a big vegetable soup, but don’t add the stock (because of the added salt) until you’ve taken out a couple of portions for your baby to enjoy.
  3. If you make a Bolognese sauce, you can give that to your baby. The same goes for stews, casseroles, and mild curries.
  4. You can make fritters out of just about anything, and everyone in the family can eat them. Use up leftover sweet potato and peas, or mix some ham, corn, and cheese with a couple of eggs.
  5. If you offer your baby snacks, there’s no need to come up with (or buy) a whole repertoire of separate foods that you wouldn’t normally eat. Think fresh fruit, boiled eggs, sandwich fingers, cheese, or steamed/baked vegetable pieces. There’s no need to do any special baking, unless you want to bake some scrumptious baby friendly (sugar free) morsels.

As long as you don’t include the foods from the list that babies should avoid before 12 months, you can basically all eat the same food as a family. Get creative, always cook extra for the next day or to freeze, and ditch the idea that babies need ‘special’ food. Make your life simple!

baby friendly family meals

Here are some important things to remember

  • Educate yourself on what to do if your baby chokes.
  • Solids should not replace breast milk or formula. It is recommended that you provide this to your baby until at least 12 months of age.
  • Ensure your baby is showing signs of being ready for solids before you start their food journey (good head and neck control, shows interest and reaches for food, and is at least four months old (traditional weaning) or six months old (baby led weaning).
  • It is recommended to not delay introducing solids past six months as your baby needs additional iron and nutrients found in food.
  • The information in this article is general in nature and it is always recommended that you speak with a qualified health professional regarding introducing solids to your baby.

Little Peeps Eats helps families take the stress out of mealtimes by providing healthy, kid approved recipes, as well as fussy eating tips and tricks. Their website hosts a directory of nutritionists, resources and mealtime products to ensure that you have everything you need at your fingertips when it comes to feeding your family.

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