Batch cooking for baby- tips and tricks

We are big fans of batch cooking! It’s lovely to know that there is something in your fridge or freezer, cooked by you, ready to simply re-heat when your day has gone crazy. Cooking a week’s worth of food for your baby all at once may seem daunting at first, but it can really help if you are short on time.

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Setting aside a few hours at the weekend to plan and cook food for the week ahead for your little one can make a busy week a lot easier and knowing your baby is getting good quality home cooked, healthy and nutritious food means there is at least one less worry.

Once you have cooked your extra food portions, puree or mash the food to the right texture, depending on the age of your little one. Then cover and set aside to allow the food to cool to room temperature before freezing.  And when you need it simply remove the portion of food from the freezer and place it in the fridge to thaw. It’s important to reheat the food thoroughly before serving, and if you are using a microwave give it a good stir before you serve it in order to avoid hot spots.

Make sure not to freeze anything that has already been frozen and discard any of the re-heated food which has not been eaten. As a general rule batch cooked food placed in the fridge should be eaten within 3 days and batch cooked food placed in the freezer should be eaten within 3 months.

Top tips to ensure your fridge of freezer are filled with portions of home cooked food for baby:

  • Make extra portions of anything you can! When cooking an easy meal like spaghetti bolognaise for the family, get into the habit of making extra portions and storing them in the freezer (remember to only add salt to the adult part of the meal)
  • Cook extra Veggies: If you are making vegetables for dinner, cook a few extra for your baby. Separate them out and puree or mash them to your desired texture and store them in the fridge of freezer for later.. You can either serve these direct to your younger weaners as vegetable purees or add the puree sauces to pasta dinners for a bit of extra veggie goodness.
  • Potato wedges and mash: Bake or roast an extra potato or two when the rest of your family is eating. Once they are cooked, mash and pop them in the fridge or freezer for later – instant potato wedges or instant mash! It just needs to be heated up.
  • Mass puree fruit: Cook up large batches of fruit and puree them. You can store these in your freezer and then pop them in the microwave when you need them. Useful for an extra boost of fruit in the morning to add to porridge or cereal, to serve with custard or rice pudding for a yummy lunchtime pudding or to make into a homemade smoothie as healthy afternoon snack. (See our next blog for recipe ideas for home made smoothies for babies and toddlers).

 

  • Using baby weaning pots: In the early days it is useful to invest in baby weaning pots so you can keep your freezer organised. I tried a variety of ways of freezing purees from using the pots I already had (generally too big), using plastic bags (ok but still a little tricky with such small portions) and using ice cube trays. If you are reluctant to buy specific weaning pots, ice cube trays are a good option and work at the start. Despite being more pricey, I found investing in some weaning pots designed for babies did make life  a lot easier (the purees were easier  to remove when needed and the size of the pots were much more suitable for weaning).

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  • Label everything: even if you think you’ll remember you probably won’t! And often one mashed up pot of food can look very similar to another!! Include the names and dates and use up everything within 3 months.

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All our Tickle Buds recipes boxes are designed to make batch cooking easier! Every new recipe provides at least four portions of each meal and there are three to four recipes in each box. Plenty for both the fridge and the freezer! Find our more here.

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Beginning the weaning adventure and the birth of Tickle Buds weaning recipe boxes!

Setting off on our weaning journey with my twins felt like an adventure in lots of ways. As it became more and more obvious the time had come to start introducing them to real food, I began to make grand plans about what I would cook and started writing lists and more lists of lovely tastes and new things for them to try. I was ambitious and excited and I wanted to help them develop healthy eating habits from the start. So my cooking endeavours began….

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But the reality was very different from how I had envisaged this weaning adventure in my head. My meals didn’t look like the lovely, tempting recipes in the books and my children certainly didn’t resemble the smiley babies in the photos, happy to try any of mummy’s concoctions. I was instead surrounded by mess, rejected food and cooking fails.

This is when I got talking with Emma, fellow co-founder of Tickle Buds, new mummy and epic home cook. By sharing our experiences we got through the days when we or our little ones were struggling with the adventure. We shared recipes, ideas and unloaded our woes to each other. Knowing you are not alone on the journey is really important. I really wanted to keep my enthusiasm for home cooking for weaning my two, and with a bit of support this became a whole lot easier.

That’s why we have created the Tickle Buds First Foods community. Our weaning boxes take the stress out of home cooking, but our community is there to support you. Come join us on facebook, twitter or instagram! Tell us what works for you, share tips and advice and ask questions.

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And if you would like to get involved in our “Weaning Diaries” series on the blog just drop me  a line on helen.quinn@ticklebuds.co.uk -we would really love to share your stories!

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SALT: How much is too much for babies and toddlers?

Salt and weaning for babies and toddlers

Salt is a tricky one, we know we don’t need too much of it but it was one thing I struggled to get clarity on throughout the time I was weaning my twins. Too much is a bad thing of course, but how much is too much and why is it so bad for little ones? And what’s the difference between sodium content and salt content?

I had lots of questions, but as so often seems to happen, I had no time to find proper answers to them. I hope this blog post helps!

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What’s so bad about salt?

Salt is not great for any of us, whether we are one or ninety one. Too much salt puts our kidneys under pressure and leads to high blood pressure and eventual kidney damage

So here’s the science bit (I always like to understand the why!) – our kidneys are essential for removing waste and fluids from our body and anything that stops them doing their job, poses a risk to our bodies. As blood passes through the kidneys, the kidneys filter out the fluids we don’t need and send them to our bladders to get rid of as urine. If there is too much salt in our blood, the delicate filtering process is upset, the kidneys can’t remove excess water from the blood and our blood pressure rises. This puts strain on the little blood vessels entering the kidneys and over time can lead to kidney damage.

Why is too much salt a problem for babies and toddlers?

Babies have very fragile little systems and their kidneys are particularly sensitive. They are unable to process excess salt which leads to kidney damage in the same way that it can for adults. Their tiny bodies are just a lot more sensitive to any imbalances than ours.

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What safe levels of salt for your baby or toddler?

According to the NHS the recommended daily amounts of salt for babies and toddlers are:

  • Up to 12 months – less than 1g of salt a day (less than 0.4g sodium)
  • 1 to 3 years – 2g of salt a day (0.8g sodium)

What’s the difference between salt and sodium content?

Salt is made up of two minerals, sodium and chloride, and food manufacturers often quote only the sodium content on food labels. This can sometimes be confusing if you are thinking in terms of salt content and how much salt your little one can have. Salt is made up of about 40% sodium and it’s the sodium content of salt that causes the health issues.

copy-of-signs-your-little-one-is-ready-to-start-solidsTo work out salt content from quoted sodium values, simply use the sodium figure on the packing and multiply it by 2.5. This is your salt content! If you see 1g of sodium per 100g on the label, this is the equivalent of 2.5g of salt per 100g. To find out the amount of salt per serving, just divide by 100 and multiply the answer by the serving size.

Salt and weaning your baby

At the beginning of your weaning journey, your baby will still be reliant on milk. Breast milk has exactly what your little one needs in terms of sodium, and equally formula milk has also been designed to provide exactly the right amount for babies and toddlers, so no worries there! But as you introduce solid food, it is really crucial to keep an eye on the salt content of the food you give your baby. The most important things are to avoid processed foods not designed for babies, and to avoid adding salt to any home cooked baby food.

How to reduce the amount of salt you give your baby

  • Offer healthy snacks such as fruit or vegetable sticks and try to avoid salty snacks like crisps or biscuits.
  • Make snacks yourself so you know exactly what is in them.
  • Don’t add salt to your baby’s meals. Try to add flavour through herbs and spices.
  • Swap your sandwich fillers, try tuna and chicken instead of ham and cheese.
  • Check food labels- many things like cereals and bread have surprisingly high levels of salt.
  • Try making your own pasta sauces. Shop bought sauces can be high in processed salts.
  • Avoid giving your baby processed foods not designed for babies as these are very likely to be high in salt. Weaning products for babies will not contain high levels of salt, so specific baby products are a much better option for your little one.
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Home made hummus: a great alternative to shop bought hummus which are often high in salt. This carrot hummus is from a Tickle Buds weaning recipe box. (Photo by Melissa Collins, copyright Tickle Buds 2017)

How to add flavour without adding salt to homemade baby food

Spicing up fruit purees– Cinnamon can be a great addition to apple purees. Mint often works well with fruit as do small amounts of nutmeg, vanilla and ginger.

New flavour combos for vegetables– Basil is a great herb for adding to sweet potatoes. Add garlic to green beans, nutmeg to butternut squash, cinnamon to carrots, turmeric to root veggies. Creamed spinach works well with nutmeg too.There are loads of yummy combinations to try!

Less salt = healthier weaning

By looking at labels, home cooking with fresh ingredients and by avoiding adding salt to your baby’s food you can ensure that your little one doesn’t consume high levels of salt. And you can have lots of fun coming up with healthier and more adventurous combinations of flavours and tastes. There is so much out there you can use instead of salt, it’s just a case of experimenting!

 

Diary of an imperfect mum

 

Favourite First Foods

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At the beginning of your baby’s big food adventure, weaning is all about tastes. Big, new incredible flavours! Your baby has 30 000 taste buds, three times as many taste buds as you, spread throughout their mouth. Imagine the strawberry you have just eaten tasting three times as sweet, the lasagne you had for lunch three times as intense and the ice cream three times as delicious. As we get older the number of taste buds we have reduces and they tend to concentrate solely on the tongue. This is thought to be the reason why babies reject very strong tastes and as adults we are more able to tolerate them, since quite simply we have less taste buds.

But back to our babies, imagine every banana or every apple tasting three times as flavoursome! With this in mind what are the best tastes to give you baby?

Fruit and vegetables are ideal first foods. Many parents opt for baby rice but it’s perfectly acceptable to go for fruits and vegetables, they are much more nutritious and also taste better too. Virtually all fruit and veg are packed with vitamins and minerals which help support your baby’s immune system, as well as fibre which helps to keep little digestive tracks moving.

Some of our favourite first foods include:

  1.  Carrot– a lovely sweet flavour, carrots are a great source of vitamin A (beta carotene) which is vital for a healthy immune system but will also provide your baby with essential nutrients for healthy eyes.
  2. Sweet Potato– comes in two varieties: orange-fleshed and creamy-fleshed. Both have red skins and both are good sources of potassium, vitamin C, and fibre.
  3.  Banana- an ideal first fruit, it’s lovely and sweet and once mashed is very easy to swallow- great for the start of the weaning journey. Bananas are a great energy food, full of slow release sugars which provide sustained energy.
  4.  Pear–  babies love the sweet taste of pears and being one of the least allergenic foods, they are a great one to start with. Pears are also good for babies with reflux as they are one of the least acidic fruits.
  5. Broccoli- this green vegetable of goodness contains beta-carotene, folic acid, iron and potassium. It can be simply steamed and then pureed or alternative chopped into little “trees” making an ideal first finger food.

And don’t worry it’s natural for babies to reject new flavours the first time they try them, the key is to just keep trying!

The Great Weaning Journey

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Welcome to The Great Weaning Journey. This is the start of your baby’s big eating adventure and it’s a hugely exciting time. This is the first time your baby will have tasted anything other than milk as a food. Your baby is dipping their toes in the big new world of tastes and flavours and you will be there every step of the way.

But a lot of parents, myself included, approach the transition from milk to solids with trepidation, I was definitely a worrier. It’s so easy to do and after all you have probably finally got your head around the latest ever-changing milk schedule for it to be suddenly whipped from under your feet and you are starting all over again in unknown territories.

This is a huge journey you take with your baby, you will experience the highs and the lows as your little ones finds the good tastes, and the ones they are not so keen on. And yes it’s hard and frustrating and messy, and sometimes you will feel like giving up, but it’s a once in a lifetime event, the only time they will discover such variety of new tastes, flavours and textures in such a short time period. It’s an intense bombardment of the senses for your baby.

But you will be there with your little one as they take their first ever taste. You will be there as they discover what they like, as their tiny but super sensitive taste buds begin to discover there are things in the world that taste of something other than milk. You will be there as they take their first spoonful themselves, as they manage to figure out how to use their forks and spoons and you’ll be there when they reject food, when the times are hard, when you both seem to be in a battle. But the most important thing is that you will be travelling this journey together.

It’s one of our greatest journeys in life, but one that’s often taken for granted. What you share with your little one now, will stay with them forever.

First Foods Blog

This blog is for anyone on a weaning journey, whether you are at the start, part way through or nearly there, we hope there will lots of useful tips to make  weaning easier for you and your baby easier.  “First foods made easy” is written by Helen and Emma, two mum’s from West London. We were always full of questions as we undertook our own weaning journeys with our three children and we wanted to create a space that allowed people to share their weaning advice, knowledge and tips. We hope some of our tips and tricks in the blog will make your day a little bit easier. Please feel free to share your own tips or ask us questions and we will post a reply as a new blog post.  “First foods made easy” blog is all about simplifying the weaning journey for you and your baby.