When we were on our honeymoon in Europe, we stayed a few days with my extended family in Waddinxveen in the Netherlands. While there, we were introduce to a staple in the Dutch family meal plans: a stamppot. A stamppot is a “mash pot” – a dish made with potatoes mashed with other vegetables and sometimes with meat. It serves as a fantastic “all-in-one” meal and we’ve made it many times in the past few years.
Staple additions to our stamppot recipes include spinach or kale, though I’d probably add onion if I had my way. You could add any vegetable in your fridge – what doesn’t go with potato!? – and make a tasty meal.
In our last stamppot, we added some Mexican chorizo we purchased from Cilantro and Jalapeno in the Quay.
To make this samppot, we took the casing off the chorizo and cooked the crumbled chorizo. We cooked and mashed potatoes (we leave the skin on) in a separate pot, adding butter, milk, salt & pepper. We then added in some lightly steamed (ok, we did it in the microwave) spinach and the cooked meat. Viola!
Aiden is always inconsistent in his meals and what he’ll choose to eat, but he was all over the leftovers of this meal today at lunch. He’s a big fan of meat sausages and this was the first time he ate mashed potatoes without spitting them out (yay for flavour). Now that I know he likes the idea of the stamppot, I’ll plan to make a version with vegetables he likes, such as carrots, instead of the spinach.
The different textures side-by-side, for comparison.
Early on in my parenting journey, I was very lucky to attend an amazing talk on infant nutrition given during the Parent and Infant Drop-in at the JBCC. The primary focus of this talk was the introduction of solid food, and I credit this talk with giving me the confidence to feed Z such a wide variety of foods and textures before he turned a year old. The thing that made the talk so incredible was the visual aids. The nurse who led the talk, Kit, brought in samples of food from her own fridge that she had prepared so that they were a suitable texture for a baby just starting to eat solid foods. The most helpful visual aid of all was the plate of banana prepared a variety of ways. It really helped me to visualize the ways I would need to prepare food for Z as he grew and became more adept at eating and feeding himself.
I made my own version of this banana plate and photographed it so that I could pass this information on to those parents out there who are wondering how and when to introduce chunkier foods to their wee ones. This knowledge made such a difference for me that I just couldn’t keep it to myself.
Please note, you don’t have to go through each of these steps using bananas. I simply chose banana so that you could easily compare the differences between the textures at various stages for yourself. But regardless of the food you choose to use, at every stage you should be using soft fruits, vegetables and grain products. Fruits and veggies should either be cooked until fork-tender or very ripe and soft. Grain products should either be soft or dissolve easily in the child’s mouth. When it comes to meat, you will probably want to mince or finely dice it for quite some time as it is difficult for babies without a lot of teeth to chew most cuts of meat.
And no matter what stage your baby is at and no matter how adept your baby becomes at eating, always make sure you watch your child throughout his meal and be sure to feed him in an upright seated position. Allowing your child to eat while playing or while riding in the car or stroller puts him at a far greater risk for choking than introducing chunkier food. As an extra precaution, I recommend you take St. John’s Ambulance’s Save That Child course or a similar course so that you will know exactly what to do should the worst case scenario arise.
STAGE ONE: Pureed Food
When you first introduce your baby to solids at around six months of age, you will want to stick to single ingredient purees and very runny baby cereal. This stage will last at least a couple weeks. Once your baby can remove food from the spoon well (i.e. more food ends up in baby’s mouth than on baby’s face/bib/hands/high chair/caregiver), move the food around in his mouth with his tongue and can swallow the food well, you can begin to introduce some texture to his food.
STAGE TWO: Mashed Food
At this point, your baby is probably 6.5 to 7 months old. You should still be feeding your baby single-ingredient foods and can continue to introduce a new food every two or three days. The easiest way to introduce lumpier textures is to mix thicker baby cereal and then move on to mashed fruits and veggies from there. Food prep gets a little easier here because foods that are already soft, like avocado and banana, can just be mashed with a fork–a lot less equipment to clean up than at the puree stage. Feeding your baby exclusively mashed foods need only last a few weeks as well. Once you have introduced enough foods to start mixing ingredients together, your baby is probably ready for small pieces of food though there will still be room for purees and mashes in baby’s diet. If you, as an adult, would normally eat that food pureed or mashed, that’s how you should feed it to your baby (e.g. mashed potatoes, apple sauce).
STAGE THREE: Finely Diced Food
We began this stage with Z when he was about 7 months old. During this stage, you will begin to feed baby small pieces of food so that she learns to chew it a bit before swallowing. If you’re worried that your baby will choke because she won’t be able to chew food without teeth, just put your finger in her mouth and let her bite it. I think you’ll quickly learn just how powerful baby gums can be. At this stage, you can begin mixing ingredients together (I loved making Z little fruit salads). Pieces of finely diced food should be no bigger than a kernel of corn. Smaller foods like rice, lentils, peas, etc. can be fed to your baby without any cutting. At this stage you can also offer your baby a few finger foods that are dry and easy to grasp like Cheerios, but don’t expect her to be able to feed herself full meals just yet. She’ll need lots of practice. During this stage, I would put a handful of Cheerios on the tray of Z’s high chair so that he could entertain himself while I got his meal together.
STAGE FOUR: Finger Food
Once your baby can handle chewing and has had a little practice with easy to grasp foods like Cheerios, he’s ready to start feeding himself at least part of his meal. For Z, this stage came in his seventh month. Soft ripe or well-cooked fruits and veggies cut into pieces about the size of a dime work well. You can also start giving your baby crackers, teething biscuits, small pasta, toast fingers and similar bread products. You will need to supplement finger foods with spoon-fed foods until your baby’s pincer grasp develops more fully. If you want some ideas on getting started with finger foods, check out this earlier post.
STAGE FIVE: Increased Self Feeding
This is the stage that Z is at now (he’s 9 months old). He can pick things up easily with his fingers and about 80% of what he picks up makes it to his mouth. At this stage, you still have to cut food into pieces smaller than what you would eat yourself in order to prevent choking, but your child can handle fairly large chunks of soft food. You still need to be careful to cut meat quite small as it is harder to chew, but there is less need to mince it. Chances are your baby’s appetite is increasing and you will be feeding her larger meals as well.
STAGE SIX: Table Food
This stage is what you are ultimately working towards: the time when your baby can eat exactly what the rest of the family eats. There is no longer a need to prepare special food or meals for your child. You will be teaching your child to feed himself with utensils at this stage and will still need to cut pieces a little smaller than you would for yourself. For most babies, this stage begins around their first birthday.
Only a few weeks after introducing Zayden to solid food, we began offering him finger food so he could feed himself. Almost anything can be offered to a baby as finger food, but the following list will focus on those foods that require little to no preparation. These are great foods to have on hand so that you can quickly whip up a meal for baby or to add a little extra on days when baby isn’t satisfied with the usual amount of food you offer:
- Canned beans (e.g. chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans)–just rinse before serving
- Frozen fruit and vegetables–Zayden’s favourites include mango chunks, lima beans and peas
- Cheerios or similar ring-shaped cereal
- Small cheddar crackers (e.g. Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies, Gold Fish Crackers, Healthy Handfuls Lucky Duckies)
- Toast fingers–spritz with a little olive oil or smear them with a very thin layer of peanut butter for protein
- Diced tofu
- Cheese cubes
- Soft diced fruits and veggies e.g. tomatoes, avocados, bananas, peaches, plums
Have you found some great finger foods that are easy to prepare?
Thanks to some great advice from the nurses at the community health drop-ins, we’ve been concentrating on working towards having Aiden eat what we eat, vs food that’s been prepared especially for “baby” or “toddler”. Babies like flavour, as much as we do, and can do well with textured foods at a remarkably young age. Though we still puree some foods, for mixing with coarser foods or because they are too tough (like steak), we try to mostly feed Aiden stuff we’d eat.
Take, for example, this chili recipe we made in the slow cooker last week – we felt it was too hot out for a thick, meaty chili, so I looked up a vegetarian one and adapted it.
1 (19 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 (16 ounce) can vegetarian baked beans
1 (14.5 ounce) can chopped tomatoes in puree
1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn
1/4 can water
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder, or to taste
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
Cook on high for 4-5 hours.
Aiden loved the recipe, which featured some of his favourite beans, though he wasn’t a huge fan of the onion pieces. It was his first time with onion, however, so that could be why.
Justin and I were committed to making our own baby food from the start. We wanted Zayden to eat freshly prepared food as much as possible rather than processed food from a jar, but we weren’t sure how much work it was going to be. The resources we found at the library and on the Internet weren’t all that helpful and made making your own baby food seem like an ordeal: special equipment, elaborate sterilization of said equipment, special food just for baby, etc. Then there were the recipes, which were often ridiculous (like the one for Pureed Carrots that read: 1. Cook carrots, 2. Puree carrots, 3. Serve).
But then I went to a great Nutrition talk at the Parent/Infant drop-in at JBCC, which Arieanna mentioned in her community resources post, and it gave me the knowledge and confidence I needed to start Zayden on solids. It also made it clear that feeding him freshly prepared foods was going to be easier than we imagined. We didn’t need all the special food or equipment that some sources claimed we needed, Z could eat what we eat with very few modifications. We started with individual foods, but now he eats a lot of what we eat with no changes at all: pasta and tomato sauce, jerk chicken, ma po tofu, curry, mousaka…seeing how he reacts to the foods we love just makes the solid food adventure all the more fun.
You can check out our adventures in baby food on the cooking blog I write with my husband.