juliet's guide to toddler food hacks
Let's talk homemade food.
I have one friend who actually made all her baby's purees from scratch. She is a goddess amongst mere mortals. I have hundreds of other friends who planned to do the same but then ... life. I even registered for and received one of those fancy baby puree makers, only to return it soon after Avvie was born because ... life.
The point is, the road to baby food is paved with good intentions. There's just many a slip twixt the cup and the (literal) lip. But luckily for the time-strapped and exhausted (yet still radiantly beautiful!) moms that we are, there are many healthy and/or organic prepared food options out there. After much market research, I've narrowed down my list. The following are my absolute favorites; the stuff I keep stocked nearly constantly:
Julie's Real Nut Butters: These are my latest find and I am in love. For the most part, I tend to stick to plain almond or peanut butter to avoid the added sugar, but these are only lightly sweet and so much tastier. The Cinnamon Vanilla Bean cashew butter is my favorite so far, but I pretty much celebrate the whole catalog. Great on toast, obviously, but you can also use it to top yogurt, add in to toddler pancakes, or mix into oatmeal.
Once Upon a Farm pouches: At nearly two, Avvie is past the puree-as-meal stage, but that doesn't mean that these don't come in handy in myriad situations. Need a no-mess snack? Pop one of these in the diaper bag. Meltdown during a 12-hour plane trip? Problem solved. Squeeze some in yogurt or oatmeal for an added fruity boost, too. What I like about this particular brand is that they use high pressure processing, which results in food that tastes fresher and retains more nutrients. This DOES mean they have to be refrigerated, heads up.
Nourish Baby meal delivery: While there are a few baby/toddler/child food delivery start ups, Nourish blows everyone else out of the water. Other outfits will have fairly quotidian offerings: macaroni and cheese, chicken meatballs, etc. A sample toddler meal from Nourish, I shit you not: "Lemony, roasted pasture-raised chicken breast and roasted carrots tossed in pistachio pesto with basil, garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon and chopped dates." Nearly everything is also suited to an adult palate, which means I get to feast on the leftovers. As you might expect, this service doesn't come cheap and it is a lot of food to get through in a week if you also dine out with your babe. But, if you're in a position where you don't have time to cook anything, there's really no more delicious way to feed your kid.
Fresh Direct kids' meals: I have previously written about my love of Fresh Direct, but their kids' meal selection deserves special adoration. At only $4.99 (two for $8!), they're inexpensive, but freshly made with super healthy ingredients. Avvie loves the macaroni and cheese, which is made with whole wheat pasta, plus has squash blended into the cheese sauce and is served with a side of broccoli. These are a lifesaver when you're low on time.
Daily Harvest smoothies: This is another delivery service, albeit for adults. But since the smoothie ingredients are organic and very straightforward, Avvie and I end up sharing a lot of these for breakfast or snacks (one cup is actually two servings). She adores the cacao + avocado (it tastes like chocolate pudding, basically), I am addicted to the mint +cacao. A lot of them are also chock-full of green veggies, which is always a win in toddler food.
Banza macaroni and cheese: If you have spent any amount of time with me over the past year, you have heard my Banza stump speech. It's chickpea pasta with double the protein, four times the fiber, and nearly half the net carbs of regular wheat pasta. Now, obviously Avvie isn't watching her figure, but since I end up eating this almost as much as she does, I appreciate the carb count, ha. I generally keep bags of peas, chopped kale, or broccoli in the freezer and then toss some in as the pasta is boiling. Since the pasta itself has so much protein, it makes for a pretty complete meal. And I honestly can't tell the difference in texture or taste. I'm obsessed.
Foodstirs baking kits: I love to bake, but don't have quite as much time as I'd like to do it from scratch. Keeping a few of these in the pantry means I can whip up cupcakes (or, you know, the above rainbow pancakes) super fast without feeling guilty that everyone's eating more preservatives than actual food. All the kits are made with organic ingredients, plus they use fair-trade chocolate and biodynamic cane sugar.
Munk Pack oatmeal fruit squeeze: I believe these are probably marketed towards adult hikers, but nearly every grocery store stocks them with the baby food. These are my go-to emergency snack; they're filling (it's a fruit and oatmeal blend), tasty, and don't need to be refrigerated before opening. The peach-chia-vanilla is also excellent swirled into your morning yogurt.
What are your favorite food shortcuts?