It's that time of year again...ads everywhere promoting backpacks and lunch containers, and even Thanksgiving decorations in the stores. Back to School! As a mom of two this time of year always makes me a little bit sad. The reminder that they’re growing up fast; achieving new milestones of learning to read, adding numbers, resolving conflicts, and just not needing us around to help as much.
There is, however, a very important task that I can proudly facilitate for years to come, and that is providing healthy, well balanced lunches that fuel them each day at school. This post is geared to you moms and dads that have preschool or school aged kids as well as a baby at home. Get inspired to make nutritious school lunches and baby food all at the same time! Trust me, it’s easy and has multiple benefits both for the health of your kids and for the environment.
Making homemade baby food is the simplest, most straightforward meal prep you’ll ever have to do as your family grows, so try to embrace it. Keep your food processor handy and have some spare ice cube trays that you can freeze the baby purees in. When you need them on-the-go, simply place a few pureed cubes into a glass container and pack a spoon. You know exactly what whole foods your baby is consuming and it saves the expense and waste of the store-bought baby food pouches.
These OXO glass block containers are a great option for heating, serving, and transporting your baby food. I used ones like this every single day.
Simple 2-in-1 Foods for School and Baby
School Lunch: Cut your chicken breast into long, thin strips, coat with breadcrumbs and bake in the oven. Kids will love these served with a dipping sauce of ketchup, honey or plum sauce.
Baby Lunch: If your baby is too young for finger food create chicken puree. While you are cutting the chicken breast, toss a few chunks into boiling water and cook through. Then puree in the food processor with some breast milk, formula or water as extra liquid. Freeze leftovers in ice cube trays.
Fruit Salad with Yogurt
School Lunch: Dice up a few fresh fruits that are also suitable for your baby to consume, for example apples and pears, and place them in a leak-proof container. Add a big dollop of their favourite yogurt on top and don’t forget to pack a spoon.
Baby Lunch: Peel the skin off a few apples and pears and steam them until soft. Then puree in the food processor, adding a bit of the leftover water and juice from the pot. Freeze leftovers in ice cube trays and, if your baby is old enough, serve with a big dollop of whole-milk yogurt.
Hummus and Pita
School Lunch: Drain and rinse a can of chick peas and place them in the food processor along with some lemon juice, garlic, tahini, and olive oil. Then puree until smooth, adding some extra water or whole-milk plain yogurt for a thinner consistency. Send some soft pita wedges to school as well to accompany this popular dip. Note – tahini contains sesame seeds, so if you are concerned about allergies for your child or baby, consult your family doctor before serving hummus.
Baby Lunch: for younger babies, add a big dollop of this hummus to the chicken puree for a protein packed meal. Or, try mixing some into baby rice cereal for something new. For older babies, spread on soft pita strips or rice crackers for a savory finger food.
Sweet Potato Fries
School Lunch: Peel a few sweet potatoes and cut into thin strips or wedges. Toss lightly in oil and bake in the oven until soft and golden. Delicious warm or cold! Pack with a mayonnaise lemon dipping sauce and they’ll get gobbled right up.
Baby Lunch: If your baby is too young for finger food create sweet potato puree. While you are cutting the sweet potato, toss a few chunks into boiling water or the steamer and cook until soft. Then puree in the food processor with some breast milk, formula or water as extra liquid. Freeze leftovers in ice cube trays.
Cheese and Cauliflower Spread
School Lunch: Wash and cut some cauliflower chunks and steam until soft. Place the cauliflower in the food processor and add cream cheese and sharp cheddar cheese, then blend until smooth. Spread on a bagel or inside a wrap with other veggies. Tip – this is a cheese spread first and foremost. The cauliflower will add some extra nutrients and help make a creamy consistency, so play around with the amounts of ingredients until it suits your child’s taste.
Baby Lunch: For younger babies, add a big dollop of this cheese spread to the chicken puree or other vegetable purees. For older babies, spread on toast for a nutritious finger food.
For additional inspiration, this is a helpful blog post entitled "30 Meal Ideas for a 1-Year-Old." It has healthy recipes that your baby and older child will love.