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      My solid food for thought

      I’s important to create good eating habits early on to give your baby the best start on the road to health, but making baby’s meals can be fun, doesn’t have to be hard work and the delicious dishes can suit adults too.
      There have been books written, courses given and a huge amount of conflicting advice from food companies and other parents. Surely feeding our children can’t be that difficult? But the more we learn, the more we realise how important it is to instil good eating habits early on.

      Obesity is rising at an alarming rate and what we give our children as babies will affect the decisions they make as adults. The first thing to do is look for signs that your baby is ready for solids. Each and every baby is different and I can’t stress how important that is.

      If your baby can hold its head up, reaches for your food, wakes more during the night or is
      not satisfied after a feed, you need to look at introducing solids. Choose a time that’s good for both of you. You know your baby better than anyone, so if the afternoon is a better time for you both, then start there. I introduced baby rice first after my son James’s morning feed.

      Then I introduced puréed foods. Be patient and introduce a different food every three days to watch for signs of allergies or tolerance levels. Start with apple and pear purées and basic root vegetables like sweet potato and carrot. If your baby spits it out, just try that particular food again a week later or mix it up. For example James wouldn’t take avocado but loves it with banana. As they get older, start introducing a large variety of tastes but stay away from dairy (uncooked) until age 12 months and nuts until age three. Try not to use any salt or sugar in a baby’s food as their system isn’t as well developed as ours and their little livers find it difficult to filter excess salt and sugar. Salt also dehydrates them.

      James is now 13 months old and I look back with that usual parental smugness that you acquire after you’ve tackled each stage. I say things like ‘it wasn’t really that hard after all’ and ‘my baby eats everything’.
      This of course would be a lie. James spat food out. I had no idea what was safe and was terrified of him choking. I fed him whilst at the ready to do the Heimlich manoeuvre every time that he swallowed. I also seemed to spend all my time cooking two different meals. I became obsessed with trying to introduce new foods because I read that if I didn’t, he wouldn’t eat when he turned three or so.

      I also wanted James to eat healthily — but if I didn’t have time to cook, what were my options?

      Problem one: MAKING MEALS

      I’m an appalling cook and completely unimaginative when it comes to food. I heard about a baby food cookery course at The Kitchen In The Castle Cookery School in Howth Castle, Co Dublin. Liberty Finnegan, who teaches the class, became very interested in baby food after she had her daughter Yasmin. She said it was not just because she was a chef but because she was interested in starting Yasmin off with a nutritious diet that also introduced her to a number of different flavours.

      She wanted to start the baby food classes to help other mums and dads to see that making baby food can be fun and that you don’t necessarily have to make two meals as most of the recipes suit adults too. I had such a great evening and learnt so much. It was also great to meet other mums and share our experiences and swap tips.

      We made beetroot and roast tomato bolognese; carrot, basil and parmesan purée; chicken macaroni and cheese with spinach; pear and vanilla compote and orange zest rice pudding.

      The food was tasty and for adults, you can add your spices or cheese after. It opened my mind to trying new foods and also gave me the confidence that I needed in the kitchen. I also learned that a food like beetroot is a super food for babies and adults alike. The best part was that you get to take a week’s worth of food home so you can put your feet up or as a parent start on your very long to do list.

      Problem TWO: NO TIME TO COOK

      Busy week and no time to cook? If you want nutritious healthy store-bought food, I use Ella’s kitchen, Organix or the Aldo Zilli range (available in most supermarkets). They come in different stages/ages and have absolutely no additives or preservatives. Ella’s have great smoothies and Organix do great rice cakes for snacks in a variety of flavours.

      Try to steer away from juices (or dilute them) and sugar as your child will develop a taste for sugar and it is one of the main causes of obesity. Their teeth will also suffer.

      So get cooking, enjoy what you make but don’t forget to have the bibs and wipes ready.

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