Busy families are always looking for new recipes and meal ideas to keep things simple and easy. When there is a baby in the house, it’s often assumed you have to do a whole other round of food prep in addition to the normal family meals.
Baby led weaning is a great option for introducing solid foods to your new baby. It allows the baby to develop healthy and strong eating habits while enjoying foods that the rest of the family can also enjoy. I’d like to share some very simple, family-friendly meals that we made a lot while my kids were very little. We still make a lot of these today actually and my kids are 3 and 6 years old. Eating meals as a family is a very important part of our day. Especially right now, during times of high stress and uncertainty.
Studies have proven that eating family meals together promotes healthy eating habits and overall improved psychological well-being. While most of these studies have been focused on children and adolescents, there is no reason to think that babies should not be joining their family during regular meals. It is easier on the parents not having to designate another period of time from their busy day for feeding the baby. Plus, it’s safest for a baby to eat alongside other people to ensure they are eating correctly and not choking.
Here are a few things to keep in mind while preparing baby led weaning meals for the whole family. While babies can enjoy a lot of the same foods we do, some regular cooking habits should be avoided during infancy:
- Omit salt. Small babies should have a low-sodium diet and avoid adding salt to their food. As an adult, you can always add salt to your dish on your own.
- Always cut the food into baby-friendly sized pieces and be sure it’s soft. You should be able to “chew” or break apart each bite with your own tongue. That is a good gauge for seeing if it’s safe for baby.
- Avoid added sugars and honey. We do not need to sweeten our baby’s food. We want them the develop healthy eating habits and avoid craving sweet foods. Honey is also not safe for babies under the age of one year.
- Use lean proteins and foods rich in iron and fiber. Lean beef and chicken are great options. Beans are also a great source of iron and fiber and are soft enough for babies to enjoy.
Baby led weaning breakfast recipes
Two ingredient pancakes with fruit sticks
- 1 banana
- 1 egg
- fruit cut into strips some suggestions include apples, mango, banana, strawberries, and watermelon
- 1 pinch cinnamon
- 2 Tbsps whole wheat flour or gluten free flour optional. This will create more of the traditional pancake texture, but I suggest omitting while trying during baby led weaning because the pancake might not be as soft.
- Mash the banana with the back of a fork in a bowl.
- Whisk in the egg until smooth (and flour, if you are adding).
- Cook on a heated non-stick skillet or griddle. Make the pancake size of your choice. Children love little silver dollar sized pancakes.
- Flip the pancake once it starts to bubble and the edges brown a little.
- Peel the fruit and cut into matchstick-size pieces. Toss the sticks with cinnamon.
- Plate the cooked pancakes and fruit. Enjoy!
Frittata with avocado
- 6 eggs
- 1 Tbsp cooking oil or butter
- ½ bell pepper diced into small pieces
- 1 medium white potato peeled and diced into small pieces (or frozen hash browns will also work well as they are pre-cooked)
- 1 cup spinach chopped very fine
- 1 avocado
- Prepare your vegetables. You want them to be cut into small pieces so that they cook faster and are safe for your baby.
- Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl.
- Heat the cooking oil and add in peppers and potatoes in a medium non-stick ovenproof skillet. Cook until they are very tender and soft.
- Add the spinach and toss to cook the spinach.
- Pour the eggs over the vegetables. Gently stir so that the eggs start to cook.
- Cover the skillet and leave on the stove top or you have the option of putting under the broiler to finish cooking.
- Cut the avocado into slices while the frittata cooks.
- Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool down for a few minutes.
- Serve each slice of frittata with a few slices of avocado. For the baby, I suggest cutting the frittata and avocado into small cubes or strips he/she can pick up easily.
Baby led weaning lunch and dinner recipes
Green mac and cheese
- 1 pound whole wheat pasta shells
- ½ head cauliflower cut into small pieces
- ½ head broccoli cut into small pieces
- 2 cups milk
- 3 Tbsps butter
- 2 Tbsps all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 5 ounces cheddar cheese shredded
- Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package. Drain pasta and set aside.
- Steam the broccoli and cauliflower by using a steam basket or microwave. Steam the vegetables until they are very tender (about 8-10 minutes).
- Add the milk, broccoli, and cauliflower in a blender. Blend until smooth.
- Melt the butter on medium heat in a saucepot. Add the flour to create a roux or thickening paste. Whisk the flour and the butter together to create a paste and until it has a nutty fragrance. It should not get too brown.
- Whisk in the “green milk” and stir very well until it starts to thicken.
- Allow the mixture to simmer gently and season with the nutmeg and black pepper.
- Gently stir in the shredded cheese.
- Transfer the macaroni to a large bowl. Pour the cheese mixture over the noodles and stir to evenly coat.
- You can now serve the macaroni and cheese just like this or you can add panko bread crumbs to the top for an added crunch (for the big kids and adults).
- Make this recipe twice as large and portion half of the macaroni and cheese into a freezer-friendly baking dish and freeze to re-heat on another day. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and be sure to label and date the meal. Simply thaw overnight and reheat in the oven (350°F/175°C) for 30-40 minutes before serving.
- Portion the macaroni and cheese into silicone muffin pans and freeze for an easy lunch idea. Place the pan in the freezer until the macaroni and cheese is frozen solid. Once they are frozen, remove from the pan and store in a gallon freezer bag or container and remove each serving as you need it. They can easily heat up in the microwave in 3-5 minutes.
Beef and bean taco platter
- small corn or flour tortillas
- 1 pound mince meat or ground beef
- 1 Tbsp cooking oil
- 1 large onion diced into small pieces
- 1 bell pepper diced into small pieces
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ¼ cup prepared red salsa of choice
- 1 can beans black beans or kidney beans are good options. Make sure there is no salt added
- 1 large tomato diced into small pieces
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 avocado mashed
- 1 cup lettuce of choice shredded or cut into small pieces
- Heat the cooking oil in a large sauté pan. Add the diced onions, peppers, and garlic. Cook until they are tender.
- Add in the mince meat and continue to cook until it is no longer pink.
- Stir in the salsa, cumin, and chili powder.
- Remove from the heat and pour into a serving bowl.
- Divide the rest of the toppings into small bowls – the beans, diced tomatoes, cheddar cheese, yogurt, avocado, and lettuce.
- Warm the tortillas by wrapping them in foil and heating in the oven (300F) for 5-7 minutes. Or you can warm them in the microwave oven by wrapping them in a towel and heating for 20-30 seconds.
- Place all of the ingredients on a large serving board or baking tray.
- Serve on the table and let the kids build their own tacos.
- Spread the avocado mash on to a tortilla and roll it up for the baby to eat and chew on.
- Babies obviously cannot enjoy a constructed taco, but they will love having an assortment of items on their plate to choose from. All of these items are baby safe. Some additional options you might want to consider are corn (for 6 months or older), diced sweet potato, and rice.
- For adults, you can easily make this a healthy salad meal. Simply add more greens and use your favorite dressing. I personally love mixing together Greek yogurt, lime juice, avocado, salt, and pepper together to drizzle over my taco salads.
- 1 pound ground beef or minced chicken or turkey will work, too
- 1 Tbsp cooking oil
- 1 clove garlic minced
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 1 cup spinach chopped very fine
- whole wheat or white pita bread
- 1 cup lettuce of choice shredded
- 1 large tomato cut into strips
- 1 cucumber peeled and cut into long strips
- 1 small red onion sliced (this is for the big kids and adults)
- 1 can sliced olives 8 ounce can
- 1 cup hummus of choice
- ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 lemon
- 1 clove garlic minced
- ¼ cup cucumber peeled and minced (you can use the scraps from the first cucumber or a small piece of that cucumber depending on its size)
- fresh black pepper
- To make the sauce, mix together the yogurt, juice from the lemon, garlic, cucumber, and pepper. Place in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve the meal.
- In a large sauté pan, heat the cooking oil and garlic. Cook the garlic for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the meat to the pan and cook through.
- Season with the oregano and add in the chopped spinach. Toss to combine everything.
- Warm up the pitas in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
- To build the pita wraps, spread the sauce and hummus over the pita, top with the beef mixture and then the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives.
- For babies, you can cut the pita into small strips as well and serve all ingredients separately on a plate.
Baby meal prep does not need to be a separate, daunting task. Starting easy with these simple recipes is a great way to introduce baby led weaning menu planning into your weekly regimen.