The Solid Food Journey: Make Your Own Baby Food (and other thoughts…)

maggie_avocado_first food

Feeding Maggie the first six months of her life was easy. Not easy as in “Breastfeeding is the easiest thing in the world! No problems at all!” I mean I-am-lazy-and-my-boobs-are-attached-to-my-body easy. When Maggie was hungry, all I had to do was pop my breast out of my bra or tank top, and there ya have it. I didn’t have to prepare anything, because — lucky for you Maggie! — my boobs are attached to my body for your convenience.

Then, things changed. I had to start thinking about solid foods. I’m telling you — once you think you’re in a good groove, literally the second you let your brain think “This sh*t is easy! I’m the best parent ever!”, something else comes into play and takes it all away. Solid food, teeth, sleep regression, separation anxiety, rolling over, crawling, walking, etc. etc. etc. YOU’RE NEVER IN THE CLEAR.

When to start solid foods? We decided to wait until six months. There are a lot of theories and philosophies around this, and my best recommendation for you would be to do your research and ask for opinions from people you trust. I read a bunch of things, and asked my parent friends. Then ultimately, we did what we felt best for Maggie. That’s basically been my approach to most of this “parenting stuff”.

In my research, I found that the World Health Organization recommends waiting until baby is six months before solids [read more from their website here]. Dr. Sears recommends to take things slow, and to also wait until six months [read more from this website here]. I wasn’t personally in a rush to get Maggie on solids. I was nervous to be honest. I was able to see the excitement of tasting new flavors and textures, but I also saw allergies and choking. So thankfully around six months not only did Maggie seem ready to go, but Colin and I were also ready.

From Dr. Sears website:

Gone are the days when pressured mothers stuffed globs of cereal into the tight mouths of reluctant six-week-olds. Nowadays parents feed their baby on the timetable that is developmentally and nutritionally correct — as determined by their baby. Don’t be in a rush when introducing solid foods.

Here are some reasons you might wait to offer baby solids [from Dr. Sears]:

1. Baby’s intestines need to mature

2. Young babies have a tongue-thrust reflex

3. Baby’s swallowing mechanism is immature

4. Baby needs to be able to sit up

5. Young infants are not equipped to chew [Maggie only just got her first two teeth at eight months]

6. Older babies like to imitate caregivers [around six months babies like to imitate; if they see you chewing/using a spoon/etc. they may want to try too].

A lot of doctors and people in general recommend starting baby with rice cereal. After a bit of reading and asking around, we decided to skip this with Maggie. Instead, Maggie’s first food was avocado. She liked that at first, didn’t for a while, now she’s back to liking it. Wacky!

A note on cereal from The Food Renegade:

What’s wrong with infant cereal? Babies can’t digest it. In order to digest grains, your body needs to make use of an enzyme called amylase. Amylase is the enzyme responsible for splitting starches. And, guess what? Babies don’t make amylase in large enough quantities to digest grains until after they are a year old at the earliest. Sometimes it can take up to two years. You see, newborns don’t produce amylase at all. Salivary amylase makes a small appearance at about 6 months old, but pancreatic amylase (what you need to actually digest grains) is not produced until molar teeth are fully developed! First molars usually don’t show up until 13-19 months old, on average. Undigested grains wreak havoc on your baby’s intestinal lining. It can throw off the balance of bacteria in their gut and lead to lots of complications as they age including: food allergies, behavioral problems, mood issues, and more.

Make Your Own Baby Food

Another thing I wanted to do to prepare for our solid food journey was to take the Make Your Own Baby Food class offered at Acelleron Maternal Health and Wellness in North Andover. The class is taught by Maria Nardella who was awesome — she is a personal chef, a health coach, and a mother. I wanted to take this class, because solid food intimidated me. It was overwhelming [as is each new step in the parenting journey I'm finding]. What should I feed Maggie? How do I properly and safely prepare it? How much should I feed her? When do I move on to new foods? What if she doesn’t like using a spoon? What if she doesn’t like the foods I’m giving her? etc. etc. etc.

MYOBF class from Acelleron Maternal Health and Wellness’ website:

Are you excited about making delicious and nutrition foods for your new baby?  Or does the prospect scare you but you really want to learn?  No matter how you answer the question, if you would like to learn how to make wholesome and nutritious baby food for your bundle of joy, without having to buy an expensive machine, come to the workshop! We will explore how and when to introduce solid foods, what foods to introduce first and when to add grains and proteins, how to prepare/store/serve the foods you make, fun ways to have your baby explore all these wonderful foods, demonstration on making your baby’s food using the equipment you have at home, and explore products that make creating and storing your foods easy.

Steps to preparing food for baby [for example, cauliflower]:

1.Wash cauliflower

2. Steam cauliflower for five to ten minutes [can test with a fork to see if it's still not soft enough]

3. Add the steamed cauliflower into your blender, Vitamix, etc. as well as some of the steaming water you just used. That water has nutrients in it from the process of steaming and helps make the cauliflower the proper consistency for baby.

4. Blend that together, and let cool down a bit before serving to baby.

5. You can also add a bit of breast milk to the prepared food in order to thin it out more if needed.

6. Storing excess food — fill up an ice-cube tray with the rest of the food you made, put a piece of parchment paper on top and throw it in the freezer. That helps prepare you for a while! Just be sure to use the food up in time — this food should last up to three months.

*A note about storing foods — Be sure to label frozen foods with what it is, and the date. And don’t add breast milk into the food before freezing! Wait until you thaw it, and then add it in. Microwaving frozen food is not recommended. Instead, fill a bowl with hot water and add a smaller bowl [or my favorite -- a Wean Green container -- which they sell at Maternal Health and Wellness!] and let it defrost that way.

Some other takeaways from the class were:

  • Cauliflower is a great staple — it’s high in vitamin C and folic acid, it can also easily be mixed into other foods.
  • A child may need to be exposed to a food up to fifteen times before they like it [adults too!]
  • Be gentle and slow when introducing foods to baby — start with one food per week, or at least 4-5 days [so as to not overwhelm them, but also to watch out for allergies].
  • Sometimes it takes a while for an allergic reaction to show up. Don’t stress yourself out about this, but just be aware — diarrhea, constipation, mucus in poop, a rash — all can be signs of allergic reaction.
  • Steam the food you are giving to baby and save the steaming water to add into the blender with the steamed food for extra nutrients.
  • Can also add chicken stock for additional nutrients.
  • Can add organic coconut oil, butter, sea salt, etc. to foods in order to add a little extra flavor for baby.
  • You want baby’s first foods to be super smooth, no chunks. The reason for this is you want their food to already be broken down for them since this is a whole new ballgame.
  • Avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes = all great first foods.
  • Keep track of how much baby is eating; for example if you put two tablespoons of food in each ice-cube slot, you know how much you’re giving your baby for those first few weeks or months.
  • Remember, at this point your baby probably hasn’t had a spoon in his or her mouth regularly. Serving baby his or her food off of a spoon may create anxiety for either baby or mom and dad at first. Keep in mind that it is fine to start with your finger to get baby comfortable with this new process.
  • Egg yolk is the safe part of an egg to give baby — the egg white is the allergenic, not the yolk — so the yolk mixed with some butter and sea salt is a great first food for baby. Plus, we tried it in class — it is delicious prepared this way!
  • Don’t stop breastfeeding or formula feeding just because baby is now getting solids. Continue breastfeeding as long as mom and baby want.
  • The dirty dozen — what to buy organicThe Dirty Dozen

Maggie is just about nine months old and our solid food journey has been a lot of fun! Maggie LOVES sweet potatoes, butternut squash, blueberries, apples/applesauce, egg yolk. She is usually pretty open-minded about trying new things, especially things like her cousin Brian’s doughnut [oops!]. She doesn’t really like green beans or peas, although I do keep trying them out on her. Maybe one day…

I try to make food for her for dinner every night [as best I can -- usually the vegetable Colin and I are also having for dinner], but we definitely have been using Happy Family food pouches quite a bit too, and they are great. Maggie also loves their puffs and yogurt bites which are actually quite delicious, and they are a perfect way for her to practice her motor skills.

Something that really stuck with me from the Make Your Own Baby Food workshop is a phrase Maria used, “food for fun, until age one”. Remember, this is a fun and exploratory phase for both baby and parents. Enjoy it, and don’t put too much pressure on yourselves!

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The Make Your Own Baby Food workshop is $40 per family.

The next available openings are Monday, November 17th from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. or Saturday, January 10th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Click here to sign up!

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Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Products

I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people know what Whole Foods is these days. What I’m not sure about is, whether or not all of those people know about the different Whole Foods product lines that they offer; especially the very reasonably priced 365 Everyday Value line.

From the Whole Foods website:

Value priced plus high quality

Our 365 Everyday Value® products can fill your pantry without emptying your pocketbook. With value prices every day of the year, our products are formulated to meet all our quality standards, come in both natural and organic selections, and will change the way you shop at Whole Foods Market®. That’s because we have it all — from whole grain flours and shade-grown coffee to organic milk and frozen veggies. We make it easy to stock up on the best products for the best price.

365

They offer a variety of products — everything from herbal supplements, cleanses, essential oils, organic pizzas, ice cream, salmon, juice, crackers, soy milk, salad dressing, coffee, and SO MUCH MORE. Recently, the lovely folks at the Whole Foods Andover gave me an awesome basket of products to sample.

Here is a list of what was in the (fabulous) bag — keep in mind, the whole bag was less than $35:

1. Organic Blue Tortilla Chips — Non-GMO Project Verified (The Product Verification Program uses a process that combines on-site facility audits, document-based review and product testing to verify compliance with the standard at every level of the supply chain, from manufacturing facilities to ingredient suppliers. For a product to be verified and bear the seal, it must undergo a process through which any ingredient at high risk for GMO contamination—soy or corn, for example—has been proven to meet the standard through avoidance practices and testing.)

2. 365 Wild Albacore Tuna — 100% pole or troll-caught (Looking for some quick and simple meals to make with canned tuna? Find some here!):

3. Organic Fusilli Pasta

4. Canola Mayo

5. Organic Medium Salsa

6. Organic Green Tea (Colin and I are slightly obsessed with green tea. Are you too? Find some fun and creative ways to serve it here.)

7. Organic Italian Dressing

8. 365 Sparkling Water

9. 365 Water Crackers

10. Artichoke Hearts

11. 365 Citrus Dish Soap: No phosphates, no phthalates, no chlorine and no artificial fragrances. The scents of citrus, lavender and pine come from 100% natural essential oils and there are some unscented options too. Also, there is no animal testing on the products and the packaging is recyclable and made with post-consumer recycled materials.

All of these items adhere to Whole Foods strict quality standards; featuring foods that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats.

Check it out!

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The afternoon I picked up my bag, I couldn’t help but use some of the products right away! I whipped up a quick pasta dish for dinner that Colin and I ended up loving. I used the organic fusilli pasta, added in the 365 artichoke hearts, and then some sauteed spinach, garlic, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan cheese that we had. Quick, and quite delicious (if I do say so myself).

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If you’re in the area, save the date for Whole Foods Andover’s Spring Tea Party. :)

When: Saturday, March 23rd from 11am–3pm

What: Enjoy a taste of spring with Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value products!

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Check out what’s on sale this week in Andover. And don’t forget to check out Whole Foods Andover on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on their sales and events.

I received these Whole Foods products free of charge, but my opinion (as always) is honest, and my own! Thank you to the Whole Foods team for providing me with some of the facts about their products, and for this opportunity.

Chocolate Fest at Whole Foods!

I love chocolate. I’m pretty sure you’ve heard many people say that before. Especially women; I mean, a prerequisite of being a woman is liking chocolate. It doesn’t even have to be every type of chocolate, but at least one of the varieties. I’ve only met one person (in the world) who doesn’t like chocolate — they shall remain nameless for their own protection.

Anyway, back to the point!

Chocolate is wonderful. So is Whole Foods. And so is tasting LOTS of different types/forms of chocolate. “So, what does all of this mean?”, you ask. It means that Chocolate Fest is coming to the Whole Foods Andover this Friday, February 8th from 5:00 — 7:00 p.m. and you should absolutely add it to your calendar. You can find your favorite chocolate, and pick up a few items or ideas for that nice dinner you plan on making your lovah on Valentine’s Day (feel free to take that as an aggressive hint, Colin).

The lovely folks at Whole Foods gave me a bunch of chocolate to try out. It was tough (not!), but somehow I got through it. Thanks again y’all!

Here’s what I got to taste:

1.Taza Chocolate — I tried their Coco Besos Coconut Kisses bar which is 70% stone ground dark chocolate with coconut. I liked all of the chocolate I tried, but this was my favorite! I am such a sucker for dark chocolate AND coconut, so if you put the two together, fuggedaboutit.  It’s organic, Direct Trade certified, gluten-free, dairy free, soy free, and locally made in Somerville MA. (Facebook, Twitter)

2. Cissé Trading Co. — I tried their Signature Semisweet Hot Cocoa which was awesome. Definitely not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill hot cocoa. It’s made with Fair Trade cocoa powder, and a mix of milk and dark chocolate chips. So worth it. (Facebook, Twitter)

3. Raaka Chocolate —  I tried three of these quirky, delicious virgin chocolate bars; the Bourbon Cask Aged bar, the Vanilla Rooibos bar, and the Black Coffee bar. The Black Coffee bar was my favorite, because I am a coffee addict and cannot help myself. All three were bursting with flavors, and that’s what I really liked about these in particular. The bourbon had some caramel going on in there, the vanilla included a delightful hint of cherry and marshmallow, and then the coffee bar offered a toffee/cinnamon kick. Raaka chocolate is vegan, organic, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, and are also wrapped up like little gifts, which really works for me. (Facebook, Twitter)

4. Bixby and Co. — I tried their Heart’s Delight Chocolate Bar which consists of dark chocolate with almonds, strawberries, and Ceylon cinnamon, as well as their Mulligan Chocolate Bar which consists of organic milk chocolate with walnuts, dried currants, and Vietnamese cinnamon. They are different — I personally liked the addition of the nuts in these two. These bars are vegan, organic, gluten-free, and Rainforest Alliance Certified. (Facebook, Twitter)

5. Vosges Haut-Chocolat — Ok, hold on to your hats for these two. I tried Vosges’ Mo’s Milk Bar first. AMAZING. This one consists of 45% deep milk chocolate, hickory smoked uncured bacon, and Alderwood smoked salt. I meant, are you kidding? The salty, sweet combo does not (!) disappoint here. I also tried their Smoke and Stout Caramel Bar which consists of 70% dark chocolate, Rogue Ale’s Chocolate Stout beer, Alderwood smoked salt, and burnt sugar caramel. This was great. Katrina (Vosges founder) must have a really good idea about what makes men happy (you go girl). Chocolate + bacon = a happy man. Chocolate + beer = a very happy man. I could add another component into these equations that would = an elated man, but I will leave that to your imagination. Anyway, these might be a good choice for Valentine’s Day this year, ladies. (Facebook, Twitter)

6. Divine Chocolate — I tried their White Chocolate and Strawberry Hearts. They were, quite literally, divine. Not only were these pretty little hearts really tasty, they are also made with cocoa beans from Kuapa Kokoo — a co-operative of farmers in Ghana. When you buy this chocolate, these farmers get both a fair deal as well as a chance for a better future. A cause that’s definitely worth those chocolate calories, if you ask me. (Facebook, Twitter)

Don’t forget to check out the Andover Whole Foods on Facebook and Twitter as well!

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Happy Chocolate Fest, and happy early Valentine’s Day! :)

Blogoddesses in the square

Healthworks has gone and done it again. They so graciously invited me to their Blogger Picnic this past Tuesday, so of course I obliged (those ladies know how to treat their bloggers!) They started the evening with a walk through the Copley Square Farmers Market (which unfortunately I didn’t get there in time for) and then they moved on to a Bosu class with Kate (which I was tid bit late for but made it to most of.) Kate was a great instructor – really cheerful and motivating and not in an annoying way at all (which I always appreciate in an instructor.)

The Bosu class was WAY more difficult than I thought it was going to be! I should have known after the intense spin class from last time (and I was only there for like 20 minutes! I need to step it up.) I honestly thought I was someone with relatively good balance until I stood on the Bosu. It was hard, but there was definitely an element of fun in the class as well – good music, good company (and I liked jumping and bouncing all over the place to be quite honest.)

After class we all showered (not together, you sicko!), grabbed our bags of food (courtesy of Whole Foods) and headed out to sit and chat in Copley Square. It was a gorgeous night for some maxin’ and relaxin’. I’ve never just sat and hung out in Copley Square. It was awesome and I’m glad the Healthworks mamacitas chose that as our spot.

Farmer's market

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Bloggers everywhere

First we heard from the ladies from Whole Foods (they provided us with our delicious food, either a Turkey sandwich or Avocado – I had avocado – and also orange, cashew and quinoa salad as well as some fruit. So good.) Melissa and Lynay talked to us about their new healthy living revolution. Whole Foods is committed to making it as easy as possible for customers to choose healthy options in order to live a more balanced life. They’ve partnered with Eat Right America to personalize a program for each individual. Basically we have to eat right in order to reach our ideal weight, to feel our best, to have more energy, to overall lead a better life.

Whole Fooders

Outside shot

Yum!

From their pamphlet –

“Whole Foods market was founded in 1980 out of our desire to be a resource for people looking to eat a healthful diet, free from artificial ingredients. Over the years, our Quality Standards have become the benchmark for natural and organic foods.

Our goal remains to help you understand the value of eating natural, fresh, whole foods that are minimally processed. By choosing nutrient-rich foods, and eliminating foods with artificial ingredients , you can improve your health and vitality.”

We also heard from Lauri Meizler, the founder of Joos. All juices are made from 100% organic fruits and vegetables. We got to try the greens based juice, the carrot based juice and the beet based juice. They definitely had a bit of a zing! to them; I think I liked the carrot based juice best.

I mean, if she has arms like this, maybe I should drink a lot of Joos...

Last, but certainly not least, we heard from Kelly the owner of Mix Bakery. The only thing I can say is that I think I’ve become obsessed with these cupcakes. I dream about them, think about them often and wish that everything I eat could be a Mix Bakery cupcake. They are beyond words amazing. I’m not just saying this because Kelly seems like a really fun, nice person, I am saying this because these are 150% the best cupcakes I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. My whole idea of heaven has changed. It’s not clouds and spirits and all of that. Instead, it’s a world filled with Kelly’s cupcakes. Beautiful, fluffy, delicious cupcakes all over the place. And not only are you surrounded by a sea of cupcakes, you can also eat as many as you want, whenever you want to.

Okay, honestly these are the best cupcakes in town so check out her site and place some orders people! You need to try them. We were lucky enough to try Carrot Cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting as well as Peanut Butter cupcakes. (Thank you Kelly!)

Kelly

Delicious!

I had such a lovely time. It was so good to see Elizabeth, Chelsee and Susie, Bridget, Meghan, Elina, Jean, and to meet Sharon and the rest of the bloggers! I wish I got a chance to chat more with everyone, but hopefully we’ll have many more fun blogging events to catch up at. :)

Thanks Judith and Hannah for a fabulous event!! You two are thebomb.com.

And for the daily craic-ers, if you’d like to give Healthworks a try, by all means, please do so with this three-day pass! They weren’t named the Best Women Only Club in America (2010) by Fitness Magazine for nothin’. They are the best. I hope you like it as much as I do!