Monday, July 25, 2011

Table Food Ideas

Wonder twin powers activate! Form of messy eaters! (17 months)

I don’t cook (currently anyway) and I’m trying to satisfy two toddler palates, so mealtimes can be tricky to say the least. Here are some foods you might not have thought of to try with your own little one(s). And I’d love to hear your own food suggestions in the comments section.

My Top Ten Food Ideas

Frozen vegetables. Most people figure this one out on their own, but if you’re just starting out let me clue you in. Buy lots of bags of frozen veggies and then just take out tomorrow's portions the night before and let them defrost in the fridge. (Note: Frozen fruit does NOT work. Too much of a mess.) I have a collection of broccoli, green beans, peas, corn, lima beans, asparagus, artichoke hearts, and snap peas, all met with varying levels of success. (And in the case of the lima beans, asparagus, artichoke hearts, and snap peas, no success.)

James is surprised that he was able to fit broccoli up his nose. (17 ½ months)

Julia and her bib of pea carcasses. (13 ½ months)

Freeze-dried fruit. (Not to be confused with frozen or dried fruit.) No matter how many times I tried, the twins rejected every fruit except banana, apple and pear, and the last two they only barely tolerated. Then I introduced them to freeze-dried fruit. They couldn’t get enough of the stuff! Seriously, I have to actually cut them off because they’ll eat more than an entire bag in one meal. These are by far their favorite foods. In fact, I have to make freeze-dried fruit their last course at a meal because after any of that they won't touch any other food. Their clear favorite is the blueberries, followed (in order) by strawberry, mango, pineapple, and banana. They're only lukewarm on corn and they don’t care for the tomatoes (which are pretty odd in freeze-dried form). This is a great snack, too, since mine seem to anticipate crunchy foods at snacktime.

And the number one sign I know they’ve had too many freeze-dried blueberries? Blue poop.

Blueberry Führer (18 months)

James signs for more freeze-dried blueberries after polishing off an entire bag. (18 months)

Julia shows off her blueberry-stained hands while performing her latest trick. (18 months)

Leftover pizza. One of the great things about babies is that they’ll finish the leftovers you don’t want. Our babies love pizza from A Slice of New York. Thankfully they have the good taste to reject one of Mark’s inexplicable favorites, Papa John’s. My friend Karie taught me to use kitchen scissors to cut up the pizza. What a time saver!

Frozen meatballs. (Trader Joe’s brand of turkey meatballs) Meatballs can be high in sodium so beware. The Trader’s Joe’s brand has the lowest sodium that I’ve found.

Chicken dumplings. (Green Chopsticks brand or Annie Chung’s chicken cilantro wontons, both from Whole Foods.) These are crispier and easier to cut up if you microwave them about 2 minutes. Green Chopsticks’ brand has a version that is labeled for kids and one that’s not, and the only difference I can find is that the kids' version is slightly more expensive. Be careful of other dumpling/gyoza/wonton brands because they can be high in sodium.

Chicken or turkey sausage. (Trader Joe’s chicken and sun-dried tomato sausage) Sausage definitely tends to be high in sodium and nitrates. The Trader Joe’s one is by far the lowest in sodium I’ve found. Even though the sausages are pre-cooked you still have to make sure they’re cooked to steaming to prevent listeria. I don’t follow package directions (cooking in an oven) because it takes too long. I just microwave them, being sure to cut them in half first so they don’t explode.

Teriyaki tofu. (Wildwood brand at Whole Foods; there’s also a cheaper Trader Joe’s brand) For the longest time I just couldn’t get Julia to try tofu. Then one day at a playdate, their friend Ronan sat in a high chair and kept chucking his food over the side. My kids sat like dogs on the floor, waiting for scraps, and to my surprise Julia gobbled up the tofu. (I’ve tried some other tofu brands and this is by far their favorite. The consistency of other brands is apparently off-putting.) My friend Kathy C. was over for a playdate one day and lamented that her twins wouldn’t eat tofu. I whipped out some of this stuff and voila! Tofu eaters!

The twins gather under Ronan to eat his discarded tofu. (Thanks to Stacy for the picture!) (13 ½ months)


Julia bats her eyes at Ronan in the hopes that he’ll throw down more tofu.

“Never mind. I’ll just get it fresh from the source.”

Tofu spaghetti. (Refrigerated sections of some stores carry this next to the tofu.) If you’re struggling to find another protein, here’s a good one if they like pasta. Just boil and toss with some pasta sauce.

Filled pasta. Cheese tortellini with pesto is a big hit as is chicken ravioli.

Spinach, zucchini, potato, sweet potato cakes, and veggie burgers. The “cake” family of vegetables. These are good alternatives when your babies reject vegetables. I’ve bought latkes (potato, sweet potato, and zucchini) for them as well as the healthy Dr. Praeger's line of spinach and sweet potato cakes and veggie burgers. The most popular of all have been the veggie burgers and the zucchini cakes, and the least popular so far are the sweet potato cakes.

Grilled chicken with sauce. (I usually use already cooked chicken from Trader Joe’s. El Pollo Loco or any rotisserie chicken will work.) I know this is a no brainer but here’s the key: add sauce, particularly pesto. Julia will actually sometimes refuse chicken if there’s no pesto! Other options: mixing in spaghetti sauce, leftover Thai or Indian curry sauces.

Pre-packaged snack foods

The bread food group
: toast with peanut butter, pita, waffles, bagel thins, and English muffins. (I mix it up to expose them to a variety since they're supposed to have a whole grain at every meal.)

I don’t know what exactly is in Julia's mouth. Something bready? (15 ½ months)

So glad James decided to rub the toast in his hair the day I put peanut butter on it. (17 months)

Avocado in wheat germ so it’s easier to pick up.
made with pita and cheese.
Frozen yogurt (This is a snack when we go out. Pinkberry will give us samples and we spoon-feed them to the babies. This is how we treated the twins after James’s most recent traumatizing haircut.)
Raisins, dried cranberries (cut up)
Canned beans
Canned olives (Another mother suggested this and only James has liked olives so far and that was only once. The other times he’s snubbed it.)
Cucumber (I only mention this because it is by far the babies’ favorite vegetable)
Broccoli (I only mention this because Julia absolutely LOVED it for awhile.)
Roasted cauliflower (This is one of the only dishes for them I “cook.” I put some olive oil in a bowl, rotate the cauliflower in it, and then sprinkle the cauliflower generously with curry powder before cooking it at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.)
Spaghetti and sauce (a messy favorite)
Cauliflower fries or oven-baked potato fries (Whole Foods)
Cheese (Laughing Cow soft cheese)
Pierogis (potato and cheese)

Pre-packaged snack foods

I’m trying to create a competition where I have different snack foods face off against each other by putting said snack foods on the babies’ trays at the same time. The winning snack food would be the first snack food each baby picked up. Unfortunately too often each baby will pick up a different snack than the other. The only definitive win so far was the Cheddar Bunnies’ thrashing of Rice Cakes. (But that was predictable. They’re Rice Cakes!)

I can’t keep Mark out of the babies’ snack foods. I like to say that I’m buying food for three babies. I actually have to buy extra because he’ll inhale the Puffins, multi-seed crackers, snap pea crisps, and peanut butter sandwich crackers.

Cheerios (I switched from Puffs to these because they appear to be healthier and have less sugar.)

Julia used to love her Puffs. (9 ½ months)

Papa feeds Julia Cheerios in milk. (18 months)

Rice Krispie-type cereal (I give my babies Erewhon’s brown rice cereal found at Whole Foods which was deemed “healthiest puffed rice cereal” in some recent article. The pieces are small so it takes forever to eat - good when you want more time on your laptop.)

Julia and her Rice Krispie beard. (16 ½ months)

James thinks Rice Krispies make a good leave-in conditioner. (17 months)

Puffins cereal (though I'm a bit concerned about the sugar content)
Multi-Seed Crackers
(Crunchmaster brand; original flavor; a bit high in sodium)
Apple chips (Apple Harvest brand)
Cheddar Bunnies (Annie’s brand; like Goldfish crackers)
Peanut butter sandwich crackers (Trader Joe’s organic brand)
Cheese sandwich crackers (Trader Joe’s organic brand)
Graham crackers

Banana and graham cracker snack day was a combination immediately regretted by Mommy. (14 months)

Snap pea crisps
Seaweed (Trader Joe’s brand. My parents enjoyed making fun of my giving the babies seaweed since apparently it’s more evidence of my multi-cultural elitism.)
Yogurt melts
Rice cake (Mr. Wheat brand) This brand's rice cakes are much thinner than normal rice cakes so I don’t have to worry about them being chokeable. I like giving the babies these when they’ve had a huge snack but are still telling me they’re hungry, since these don’t have a lot of calories and won’t fill them up before dinner.
Baby Mum-Mums (these are rice rusks, whatever those are)

Julia’s duckie pant twin Maya (eventually) gave her a Baby Num Num to try for the first time. (10 ½ months)

I shied away from the teething biscuits which they are only supposed to gnaw on. Julia used them correctly while James got busy putting those new teeth to work, leaving lots of big chokeable pieces we had to dig out of his mouth.


  1. And... filing away in a very safe place for the future. You are my best mom resource!

    I love the messy-faced pictures. And your babies' eyes make me melt. I have serious blue-eyes envy. Also, thanks for the double appearance of the "I love hugs" outfit! It's one of our absolute favorites for Haley!

  2. Julia wore her "I love hugs" outfit to a playdate and my friend said, "Maya has the same outfit!" and then changed her so we could make them twins. (We did the same thing the other day with a dress we each bought on sale from Tea.) Julia still fits in her duckie hugs outfit in case Haley needs a twin...

    I never thought my blue eyes were very special because they're deep-set like James's (sorry James), but Julia has big almond-shaped eyes so the color really stands out. I feel like other color eyes get short-changed by all the attention paid to blue. My husband has some of the prettiest eyes I've ever seen and they're hazel, with really cool color variation around the iris. Blue has no color variation.

    The post is tagged as "advice" if that helps when the time comes. Thanks for the kind words!!!

  3. Thank you for your very helpful list of foods. We just started experimenting with different foods and I have been running out of ideas. I didn't know about the frozen veggies. I have been cooking up soybeans and either cutting the larger ones in half or just giving them the smaller ones whole. My daughter seems to love them, my son is a little pickier. Great idea for those of us moms out here who are struggling.