So let’s talk about a topic near and dear to my heart: baby and child nutrition. Even before I had my daughter I was very passionate about the food we give our children and how it affects their lives not only now, but for years to come. It is more important than ever during these early years of rapid growth that babies and children be fed nutritionally dense foods.
What nutritionally dense foods do children need exactly?
Answer: Foods that naturally contain a rich amount of vitamins and minerals. Not processed foods that have been fortified. Not a “kid food” or “baby food” that has additives, sugars, and preservatives, but foods that provide the essential nutrients required for optimal growth and function.
Unfortunately, many of the baby foods available are lacking in these nutrients and are but a grim reflection of the typical American adult’s diet. Foods laden with refined grains and sugars that children will gobble up offer very little to no nutritional benefit and only begin training our children the bad nutritional habits of our society.
I don’t think any mother wants to sabotage or harm their child. Most mothers, in fact, are quite diligent about researching and feeding their children wholesome nutritious foods within the first year, because it is so important. Unfortunately, the food industry slowly sneaks in and offers an array of processed “kid” foods that are marketed as being healthy and kids like them so how can you go wrong? What we are doing, unfortunately, is training our children from a very young age to rely on highly refined and processed foods, which only sets them up for a life of nutrient deficiencies, sugar addiction, and for many children, overweight and obesity.
These “Puffs”, for examples, are a very common food for babies and toddlers to eat. Easy to grab, easy to transport, easy for little fingers to pick up. But a closer look at the ingredients and nutritional profile will show you they aren’t much to brag about. A mere concoction of flours, starches, sugar, preservatives, flavorings, and fortified vitamins.
Puffs don’t grow on trees, they grow in a lab, and our bodies are made to eat real foods, not lab foods.
This post is not, however, here to make anyone feel bad for giving puffs or other comparable foods to their child. How are we supposed to know any better when everyone from your pediatrician, the food industry, and your mother are telling you otherwise. This post is here though to inspire us to choose wisely and not be fooled by marketing or cultural food norms.
Knowledge is power. Once you begin to understand how the nutrition you give your child today impacts their risk for disease both now and in the future, you will begin to focus on the whole, nutrient dense choices. Yes it takes more time. Yes it might be messier. But we owe it to the next generation to be better off that we are, and nutrition is a huge part of that.
So on that note, let’s talk about what you CAN feed your child that is nutritious, easy to make, and something they will like. I feed my daughter a wide variety of meats, fruits, and vegetables and she enjoys the variety. The food environment is created by you and children will learn to eat what they see and experience, so let’s give them the best experience possible.
This recipe is very simple to prepare. It’s high in fiber, healthy fats, protein and many vitamins and minerals. You can swap out butternut for pumpkin if you’re in a rush, but the final product is a “cake” that is easy to eat and extras can be frozen and thawed for later meal times. This also works great for a healthy alternative to a regular smash cake on a first birthday!
Butternut Baby Cake
- 1 1/4 cups butternut squash puree (organic, may substitute pumpkin or sweet potato)
- 3 whole eggs (organic)
- 1 egg yolk (organic)
- 1 small ripe banana (organic)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil (unrefined, extra virgin, organic)
- Peel, de-seed, and dice a medium butternut squash. Place steam basket in a pot with water and steam cook squash for about 15 minutes, or until very tender. Transfer to a mixing bowl. (may also roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and grease a glass 8 x 8 baking dish with coconut oil. Set aside.
- Add the eggs, egg yolk, banana, and coconut oil to the mixing bowl with the squash. Blend with an immersion blender until very smooth. (May alternatively blend in a blender or food processor, or with hand mixer)
- Pour batter into prepared dish and spread evenly.
- Bake for 35 minutes until the egg is set and the batter is solid.
Allow to cool and cut into small squares.
Freeze individual squares in an airtight container; reheat to serve.