Think Outside the Jar: Nutrition outside of baby food

Homemade Baby Food - Carrots

Homemade Baby Food – Carrots (Photo credit: Cascadian Farm)

 

We know that baby food isn’t always the best option for your baby. But sometimes, you just can’t help it. It’s what’s available. You work with what you got, right? (especially if there’s a lot of it, and especially if it’s free!) Last week, I discussed some options you can do to make baby food more nutritious.

 

Now, let’s take a look at alternatives. Baby food does its job, but you don’t want to be using it all the time. With that in mind, let’s explore other options baby can have.

 

Pre-made

 

Half of the convenience of baby food is in the fact that it’s already prepared, right? No cooking, no heating up- just pop the lid and serve. Did you know you can do the same thing with homemade food?

 

Freeze it

 

A lot of foods freeze really well. When you make up a batch of food, set some aside into containers to freeze. Make sure you leave room for liquids to expand! This works great for meals with a lot of leftovers. Recently, I made a large pot of soup and had plenty leftover. I poured some of it into empty baby food jars and stuck them in the freezer, so they’d be handy later!

 

Pre-prepared

 

Most foods will keep well in the fridge for at least a few days, sometimes even up to a week. Pre-make certain foods and just keep it in the fridge, ready to pull out when needed. Most of the time, you won’t even need to reheat them, so whatever is left uneaten can simply go back in the fridge! My 8-month-old daughter LOVES eggs. I often cook up to four or five eggs at a time. I scramble them as if for scrambled eggs, pour into the pan, and let sit for several minutes, until nearly cooked through. Do NOT stir! After a few minutes, I flip it to cook the other side. When done, I let it cool and then serve small portions to her. The eggs are healthy for her growing body, and the “pancake” style makes it easy for her to pick up the pieces. The leftovers I’ll put in the fridge to pull out later and serve cold.

 

Snack foods

 

If you have the time, you can also make up certain snack foods for your little one. The idea is to make foods that the baby can pick up and feed herself. Crackers, cookies, and other such things make great foods. For babies under a year old, consider using coconut or some other flour other than wheat. Some research shows that babies are unable to fully digest grains before one year old, and some experts recommend up to two years. If all you have is wheat flour, then try and at least limit your baby’s grain intake.

 

Fruits are also a great food. Your baby can have most fruits, barring allergies. Some, like apples, may need to be cooked first in order to soften. Keep bananas and avocado on hand to give your baby a healthy, nutritious snack!

 

I understand there’s a LOT more that can be said about this issue, but I didn’t want to go on too long! What foods do YOU give to your baby? Are there any suggestions you’d like to add?

 

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Nutritional Baby Food

Baby Food

Baby Food (Photo credit: Cascadian Farm)

Most any natural foods/whole foods/healthy living blog will tell you to never, ever, under-no-circumstances, use baby food. They instead offer a few options for making your own (suggestions which are often minimal at best, for a mother with no idea where to begin).

But… what if you’re on WIC? Not using baby food means there’s a LOT of food being wasted. 19 jars of baby food is a LOT- and that’s only one check! All total, I receive up to 95 jars a month for my seven-month-old. At the end of the month when pickings are low and your EBT card doesn’t refill for another week (or two), those 95 jars of food can make a difference for your growing, hungry (starving!) baby.

As a mother, reading about all the evils of processed food, including baby food, can make you depressed. It’s tough enough trying to feed your family on good, wholesome nutrition. But what about your baby, so fragile and easily susceptible to the dangers lurking in those tiny jars?

And yet… there’s nothing else to eat. It sounds all good to feed the baby the same meals that you eat- but that isn’t always practical. Moms skip meals a whole lot more than babies do. And what if dinner is just enough for hubby and yourself?

I know. I’ve faced this. I’ve literally cried as I fed my baby that disgusting, processed foods that have little to no nutritional value, and whose preparation methods are highly questionable. But through that experience, I’ve found at least a few tips that might help you to maximize your food budget (Seriously- who doesn’t want free food?) and still provide good nutrition. It isn’t perfect, but few systems are, especially when you’re living on WIC. That said- here goes…

Spice it up! 

Baby food with spices

Baby food with spices

Baby food makes for a picky eater. The foods are bland; unflavored and unseasoned, they do nothing to tickle your baby’s palate. So the baby gets used to the lack of flavor, and begins to refuse delicious, home-cooked meals. To combat this, add your own seasonings to the jars. Use moderation, since it IS a small jar. Add spices just as you would to your own food. Bear in mind that some spices, like garlic, may cause an upset tummy if using too much. This will help your baby’s taste buds to get used to good, flavorful foods!

Avoid GMO’s and the Dirty Dozen

GMO foods are those that have been genetically modified to withstand lethal doses of pesticides. The problems that go into this are for a post in itself, so I won’t go into it here, but suffice it to say that you don’t want your children eating them, if at all possible! Avoid corn and other likely GMO foods.

The other problem with conventional foods is pesticides. Although they are approved as safe by the FDA, it’s still not something you want to be putting in your body, and especially not in your kids’ bodies. Make a note of which foods are less likely to have higher doses of pesticides, and focus mainly on those.

Supplement

Baby food doesn’t have to make up the entirety of your baby’s diet. In fact, it would be good that it doesn’t, if possible. Make sure your baby is getting other good foods, too. There are two ways you can do that:

Mix baby food with “real” food.

This works great for leftovers, or even dinner. Mix a jar of baby food with, say, mashed potatoes, or gravy, and you’ve got a yummy and nutritious meal for baby! Another option I would often do is mixing baby cereal with bone broth. While the cereal isn’t ideal because of the grains, the broth will still provide some great nutrition.

Just real food

If you have it, use real food for your baby. While it may not always be practical, there are some things that you can give to your baby. This includes foods you have handy already as well as mealtime foods. Besides meals, you can also do veggies, fruits, and other foods like yogurt and cottage cheese, which are also good probiotics. Some will need preparation, such as cooking, while others can be given to them straight.

This section requires a post by itself, so I’ll just leave it at that. We all want real nutrition from real food. But sometimes, it just isn’t an option for all of us. Fortunately, you CAN feed your infant baby food and still give them good nutrition!

Working from Home

telecommuting

telecommuting (Photo credit: jessamyn)

This blog isn’t all about business. In fact, that’s not even the main focus of it. It’s about living better- better health, better finances, better spirits, better living. Business comes in as part of that, because we all would like “just a little bit more money,” and so I want to help point the way.

But not all of us are cut out for business. Not everyone wants to own or run a business. So how can earn a little extra income without running a business?

There are many ways you can earn a little extra at home. Some are more obscure than others, and a lot have misconceptions surrounding them. So starting this week, once a month I’ll post a new “Work at home” tip. These are specifically geared for those who want to work from home, but earning just enough to supplement their income, rather than a business to replace it.

Specifically, these ideas will be done with moms in mind- those who stay at home with their children and don’t have a lot of time to invest in a new business, or may not even want to. Ready- set- go!

Today’s tip- Use what you know

I’ll get more detailed into this in a later post, but for starts I just wanted to do a broad coverage. Many times, working from home just requires using skills you already have. Are you good at cleaning? Try and see if you can find domestic cleaning jobs, perhaps on Craigslist. Writing? There are a host of freelancing websites out there- some are better than others, so be careful what you sign up for. Are you good with kids, or do you have in-depth knowledge on a certain academic subject? Perhaps babysitting or tutoring is the job for you.

We all have varied skills. Some of us are more knowledgeable on some subjects than others. But we all have ways we can apply that knowledge to the benefit of our family.

Example: my husband is a certified computer nerd. He loves nothing more than to take apart a computer just to see how it works. So when I got to talking with an acquaintance who mentioned some computer problems she was having, I mentioned my husband. Usually, he can figure out a problem, and can pretty well fix anything, especially if it’s a virus. Well, as it turned out, we weren’t able to fix the computer- the motherboard was shot. But, she later gave us her daughter’s computer to fix, which had a virus. We were able to fix that computer- and unexpectedly, got paid for it!

That’s just a simple example. There are countless others I could give. The point is, be open to opportunities, even with strangers. You never know where something might come up! Examine your knowledge and skills, and see what use you can make of them.

State assistance in the real world

Before I get into the meat of the series, I want to add some disclaimers. Many people have a warped view of those who live on “state assistance.” I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve heard about those who “bum off the government.” About giving up your toys, your gadgets, your fancy new cars. About how if you would just work hard, you’ll be able to make ends meet.

Let me tell you, it doesn’t always work that way. I didn’t grow up that way. Growing up, we hardly ever went out to eat- it was a treat that only came once in a while. When we did go, we got the economical meals. No happy meals from McDonalds- all the kids knew that the dollar menu was our limit. Often, we shared a drink- one large drink for all eight kids.

Oh yes, did I mention there were EIGHT of us? Eight kids on a single income that didn’t even bring in that much. Oh, I can’t even begin to tell you the comments I’ve heard on THAT one. Disparaging comments about the number of kids in a family, and how if we didn’t have so many, we wouldn’t need state assistance. Etc, etc, etc.

Let me tell you, I ENJOY every single one of my siblings. I couldn’t imagine life without them. Comments like that… they make me bristle. Just at the idea of not having my wonderful baby brother- you’re stroking the tiger now, just sayin’. (Did I mention I’m one of the oldest? Yeah…. protective big sister, you know.)

So. There’s a lot of really, really rude comments. A lot of misconceptions, a lot of assumptions. A lot of judgement. And quite frankly, it’s annoying. Worse than annoying. So I’m just going to get it out there right now- families on state assistance are doing the best they can. They’re working hard, coming home exhausted, cutting corners, and trying their best to hold on to everything. You’ve never seen “tight-budgeted” until you’ve seen a family attempt to live on less than $30,000 a year. And sometimes that’s the best that they can get.

These are the people I’m speaking to, directly. But I wanted the disclaimer that they’re not being catered to, they’re not bumming. So STOP making them ashamed for who they are. Don’t make them ashamed to pull out that telltale card at the checkout line. For some, it’s enough to swallow their pride and ask for help at all. So… just some understanding– or failing that, silence.

Motivation

Some days, I just don’t feel like doing anything. There are mornings when the bed covers reach up, cocooning me in sleepy layers of cotton and polyester. The coffee fails at its appointed task of giving my slogging mind a jump-start. I go about the house in a daze of motion, heavy eyes refuse to comprehend the slurred words smeared across the computer screen.

But then I remember: This isn’t a competition. It’s not a race. It isn’t to see which mom can have the cleanest house, or whose kids have the cute little braids and matching outfits. It’s not to see which writer can write the most stellar articles or turn out the most pieces in a single hour.

It’s not about them. It’s about me… and my own family. It’s about my own little circle of hearts knitted together, bound by blood and love. It’s about doing what works for my family. If I take a little longer writing an article, it’s because I was distracted by a three-month-old who just wanted to be held, and so we went outside and sat on the porch for a while. If there are still dirty dishes piled in the sink, it’s because I rocked my baby to sleep for an extra hour.

It’s these things that make the difference. The little things. Not the house or the work. It’s the smile in my daughter’s eyes, that adorable accidental laugh that’s only just beginning to slip out. This is what keeps me going. This is my wake-up call.