top baby-friendly freezer meals for busy families
Being a new parent is tough. Sleepless nights and endless laundry aside, what really comes with being a new parent is the evaporation of time. Seriously! Where does it go?! One minute you’re getting dressed and the next minute it’s time to pick up the older kids from school. Between feeding sessions, diaper changes, and simply just admiring their ten tiny toes, it’s easy to get lost in baby-land. Let’s just say there’s a reason that many new parents are given the gift of homecooked meals from seasoned parents, versus the cute baby outfit with impossible buttons. Because caring for a baby means that sometimes you just don’t have the time to prepare meals from scratch. And that’s okay! I’m here to help you out with a few tips and tricks, as well as share ten delicious (and baby-friendly) meals created by Baby Gourmet Founder, Jen Carlson!
When feeding your baby or toddler, it’s also important to remember to feed yourself. Part of this means allowing yourself time away from the kitchen, because we all know preparing, cooking, and cleaning up after a meal is an endless (and often thankless) job. But another part means thinking ahead and preparing easy, nutritious meals in bulk to freeze for busy nights. And because you’re not just feeding a baby or toddler, meals need to be appropriate for everyone. Sound tough? Fear not. With a few simple tweaks most meals can be modified to meet the needs of your little one. Here are my top three tips for modification:
- Know What's Safe: Depending on how old your baby is, one food texture might be safer and more appropriate than another. Here’s a blog post outlining how to progress through solids, which textures are appropriate and some common choking hazards to avoid.
- Watch the Spice: Look for mild spices or reduce the overall spice in your family-friendly “spicy” recipes. Babies can handle mild spice (without too much kick) and some fresh or dried herbs (think basil, garlic, ginger). Another trick is to simply set aside a baby-friendly portion. For example, if cooking chili or taco meat, prepare everything in the same pot or pan, but when it comes time to add the spice simply take out a portion for the youngest in the family!
- Hold the Salt: Your baby’s kidneys are not quite ready to handle added salt. So, skip it. When preparing recipes always look for reduced sodium or low salt alternatives of soup and stock. And to be honest, I usually skip the salt in preparing food anyways. This way I can either add at the table (if needed) or go without!
- Make from Scratch (When Possible): A lot of processed or prepackaged food contains too much sodium (that’s the salt) and sugar, which babies and toddlers do not need. When possible aim for food made from scratch. This means sauces like pasta and pizza, and pre-packaged foods like hamburger patties and breaded chicken.
In addition to the modification tips above, freezer meals for babies and toddlers should be jam-packed full of nutrition that meets their needs. And by this, I mean loaded with nutrients such as iron, and frozen in a way that when defrosted the food can easily be adopted to baby-led weaningstandards (yahoo for finger foods!). My favourite baby-led weaning food types include nuggets, patties and pancakes! All of these foods can be quickly defrosted and are great for little hands to hold. Here are ten of my favourite family-friendly freezer meals for babies and toddlers.
- Lentil Marinara over Spaghetti Squash. Lentils are loaded with nutrition and a rich source of iron. The lentil marinara recipe can be doubled and then frozen for another meal. Serve over spaghetti squash or whole wheat noodles! Penne noodles are also a great option for little hands.
- Turkey Chili Lasagna. Yum and yum. The trick to freezing casserole dishes is to line the baking dish with tinfoil. Let the recipe come to cool at room temperature and then pop it in the freezer for about an hour. Once the dish has frozen, simply pop out the tinfoil and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Label and you’re good to go!
- Banana Kale Hemp Super Smoothie. Although you may not freeze a smoothie for a quick meal (smoothies are pretty quick to make from scratch), you CAN freeze leftovers in ice cube trays for a quick nutrition boost, or to add to another recipe!
- Sweet Potato Curry. This recipe would be fantastic heated up on a cold day. Make sure to make modifications to the overall spice by choosing a mild curry powder. Another trick would be to dilute the flavour and cool down the recipe for your baby by adding plain Greek yogurt to the mixture.
- Teenie-Beanie Burgers. This recipe sounds just as cute as they are. Loaded with iron and fibre, these mini burgers are perfect for either a quick snack or meal supplement.
- Banana Ancient Grain Pancake Bites. Perfect for snacks on the go, or a ready to eat breakfast in the morning. I love making big batches of pancakes and freezing them. Simply pop them in the toaster in the morning (from frozen) and you’ve got instant pancakes!
- Easy Vegan Lentil Nuggets. These little nuggets are a lifesaver in my house. They’re easy to make and hold up well in the freezer. Now that my kids are older, I throw them in lunchboxes, but when they were toddlers, they were a favourite for dipping!
- The Best Butternut Squash Soup Ever. Hands down this is the best soup recipe I’ve ever made. It reminds you of fall with the delicious seasonal flavours. It’s not too flavourful that kids will be overwhelmed, but perfect for the family on a chilly day. Soups are perfect freezer meals!
- Sweet Potato and Quinoa Breakfast Tortilla. Yum! This recipe is perfect for both baby-led weaning and older siblings looking for a delicious breakfast.
- Fish Cakes. These salmon-based fish cakes are perfect for babies, toddlers AND adults. They’re loaded with iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein!