Introducing Solids to Your Baby: The One Mindset Change You Need to Make

The first year of motherhood can be tricky, especially when it comes time to start introducing solids to your baby. Learn how one easy mindset change can set you up for success and help shape your little one into a healthy, confident eater.A baby enjoying her first taste of solid food in her highchair.

With all of the parenting resources, styles and strategies out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when it’s time to start introducing solids to your baby. Being the career foodie that I am, I’ve done my fair share of reading up on the topic and, while there are positive aspects to many different styles of feeding babes, I’ve found one small change of mindset that works with every single one of them. Are you ready to be let in on this little secret??

Don’t worry, I’ll tell you soon! But first I want to give you some context. You see, it’s not really a secret. In fact, it’s something that’s talked about in depth in the book Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett [affiliate link], but it’s something that every mother needs to remember, no matter what feeding method you choose to follow.

There’s a general pattern all babies follow when first starting out on their solid foods journey:

PHASE 1 OF INTRODUCING SOLIDS

First, and perhaps scariest for the parents, is the introduction of baby’s first foods. At this point there are tons of questions running through you head like, “What will they think?”, “Will they swallow it all or just spit it out?”, “Will they choke?” and “What if they have an allergy?” These are all normal questions to have. In fact, I don’t know a parent who doesn’t have them. Have no fear, though, these questions and fears will likely disperse within the first few weeks or so and then be replaced by the next phase of questions.

PHASE 2 OF INTRODUCING SOLIDS

“Now my baby’s eating, are they eating enough??”, “Are they getting plenty of variety?”, “Are they getting all the nutrients they need?”, “Is there more I should be introducing them to?” It’s at this point, my friends, that my little mindset change is going to come into play and hopefully ease your mind.

A young baby in her mother's arm exploring the texture and flavor of an apple.

The mindset change you need to make (and thing you need to remember) when introducing solids to your baby is this:

Rather than worry about how much your child is eating, focus on the variety of foods you’re introducing and letting him or her fully explore these foods.

Breastmilk and/or formula are intended to be a baby’s primary source of nutrition for his or her first year of life. Everything else is “extra”.

SOLIDS ARE THE CHERRY ON TOP OF THE BABY NUTRITION SUNDAE

That’s right, think of whatever solid food your baby eats in his or her first year of life as an added bonus, as a cherry on top of the baby nutrition sundae. Think of it as an opportunity for him or her to get used to all of the yummy flavors and textures that make up the world of solid food, and not as a “necessity”.

A baby girl in her high chair exploring some of her first solid foods.

Now, that doesn’t give you permission to just feed your little one anything. If you want to set your child up for nutritional success later in life, the time to start is now. Introduce healthy whole foods prepared in a way that’s safe for them at whatever stage they happen to be at. Don’t shy away from herbs and spices, or anything you’ve been raised to think is not “kid-friendly”.

It’s largely up to society to decide which types of food are kid-friendly or not, and if you ask me, we do a pretty lousy job at it. I find this to be particularly true in the United States where kids’ menus regularly consist of foods that are completely devoid of any nutritional value. Who said kids can’t enjoy Indian food or fresh seafood or heck, a vegetable?? These foods are all completely safe for them (as long as there are no allergies), but society has shaped us to believe that the kids probably won’t like it, so there’s no point in trying.

I’ve mentioned it before, but a child’s brain fires more synapses in his or her first three years than it does for the rest of his or her life, so why not take advantage of it and introduce as many foods as you can in these first few years? In fact, many fans of baby-led weaning follow the popular “100 by 1” principle, which involves introducing your child to 100 different foods by the time they turn one year old. I highly recommend giving it a shot!

A young baby in her highchair feeding herself a giant pancake.

But I digress. The most important thing I want for you to remember is this: Everything your child consumes besides breastmilk or formula in his or her first year of life should be viewed as an exploration exercise. Stop focusing on how much of it is actually making it into their little tummies, and instead focus on just how many flavors and textures you can expose them to while their brains are developing at this incredibly fast rate. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

If you’re looking for some inspiration for what types of foods to introduce before age one, be sure to check out my posts on the Best First Foods for Baby-Led Weaning and my Top 5 Favorite Foods for babies at 6 months, 8 months, 9 months and 10 months of age.

As always, drop me a line if you have any questions, and happy feeding!

Creative Baby and Toddler Lunch Ideas

If you have your baby or toddler in daycare – or even have to prepare food for a babysitter or nanny to serve your little one at home – this list of Creative Baby and Toddler Lunch Ideas is for you!

A toddler having a lunch picnic on the beach. Creative lunch ideas are important for exposing your child to a wide variety of foods!

For many of us, between 6- and 24-months is often the age we begin sending our child to daycare, or having some sort of regular childcare schedule implemented in our own home. This is also THE most important time for our little ones to be introduced to a wide variety of foods, so it’s crucial that we parents are on top of our game when it comes to sending our babes off with a healthy, well-balanced and flavor-diverse lunch.

That being said, I know all too well how easy it is to get stuck in the rut of serving the same thing over and over again. So let’s first talk about some of the roadblocks I know we ALL face…

ROADBLOCK #1: I DON’T HAVE TIME TO GET CREATIVE

Well, you’re in luck! I’m taking the guesswork out of it for you today by providing some interesting, non-repetitive options. It’s not that hard if you’ll just open your mind to it!

Also, meal prep is a godsend for busy parents like you and me. One hour of planning and prepping can set you up for HUGE success the rest of the week. I urge you to take 20 minutes on a Saturday or Sunday and roughly plan out your meals for the week. Be sure to leave some flexibility for eating out once in a while and making good use of leftovers. Then, make a shopping list and head to the store!

I’ve found that since I’ve implemented meal planning into my life over the last six months or so, I’ve saved so much time by knowing exactly what I’ll make each night, taking just one trip to the grocery store each week, and also always having healthy, interesting leftovers on hand.

A basket of fresh produce. Meal planning and prepping is a huge help in making creative lunches your little one will love.

ROADBLOCK #2: MY CHILD ONLY LIKES CERTAIN THINGS

C’mon, mom and dad. Don’t give up that easily! Your child probably only likes certain things because (a) they’ve not been introduced to enough variety early on in life, or (b) you give in to them refusing certain things and offer to make them an alternative. I understand this may be controversial for some of you, but take a look at my healthy meal prep for your baby or toddler post to get a better idea of where I’m coming from.

Also, keep in mind that babies’ and toddlers’ palates are constantly changing and evolving. If they don’t like something the first time you give it to them, try again in a week or two with the food prepared in a different way. You might be surprised!

ROADBLOCK #3: MY CHILD DOESN’T GET EXCITED ABOUT THE FOOD I PACK THEM

Question for you: Do you get excited about the food you pack them? Does your child ever see you eating the same foods that you’re putting in their lunchbox? We often underestimate how much children learn by osmosis. If they see you getting excited about the different things you’re giving them, they’re more likely to get excited about it themselves.

Take, for example, the time I made posole but decided my little one probably wouldn’t like it, so I made her a quesadilla instead. NOPE! She saw mom and dad eating the yummy posole and wanted some of her own! Kids always surprise us – especially if you just give them a chance!

So, how’d I do? Did I squash all your fears or concerns? If there’s something else that’s holding you back, I want to know! Give me a chance to prove you wrong 😉

Now, let’s get to the good stuff!

Here are some ideas of creative lunches you can pack your baby or toddler (also note, many of these include snacks):

  • Lunch: Ground turkey, butternut squash zigzags, avocado; Dessert: Kiwi; Snack: Pumpkin-Carrot Muffin

A packed toddler lunch consisting of ground turkey, butternut squash zig zags, avocado, and sliced kiwi, with a healthy pumpkin muffin for snack.

  • Lunch: String cheese, sautéed mushrooms and cauliflower, Power Protein Bite; Dessert: Sliced pear; Snack: Pumpkin-Carrot Muffin
  • Lunch: Half a bagel with cream cheese and shredded zucchini, butternut squash zigzags, Power Protein Bite; Dessert/Snack: Orange

A packed toddler lunch consisting of half a bagel with cream cheese and shredded zucchini, butternut squash zig zags and a power protein bite, with an orange for dessert.

  • Lunch: Grilled chicken breast, butternut squash zigzags, Power Protein Bite; Dessert/Snack: Raspberries
  • Lunch: Sliced steak, avocado, roasted veggies (carrots, zucchini and broccoli), Power Protein Bite; Dessert: Freeze-dried strawberries; Snack: Happy Tot Fiber & Protein Granola Bar [*affiliate link]

A packed toddler lunch consisting of sliced steak and avocado, roasted vegetables, a power protein bite and dehydrated strawberries for dessert. There's also a fiber and protein bar for snack!

You get the gist…

In short, I try to offer a main protein, a vegetable, and either another protein or vegetable or whole grain as the main lunch, plus a fruit for dessert and a well-balanced snack. I love making healthy muffins for snack (as you can see) or sometimes I just end up throwing in a granola bar.

If you still need some more ideas, here are some other ideas in each category for you:

MAIN
  • Turkey sandwich with avocado on multigrain bread
  • Cheese quesadilla with hidden vegetables
  • Meatballs
  • Slider on a whole grain bun
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Shredded chicken with hummus
VEGETABLES
  • Zucchini noodles
  • Steamed green beans
  • Roasted sweet potato
  • Sauteed carrot dimes or sticks
  • Sliced roasted beets
  • Roasted asparagus
OTHER
  • Quinoa
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Peanut butter crackers (make your own, the store-bought ones have so much junk in them!)
  • Veggie straws
  • Rice cakes
  • Hidden Veggie Mac-and-Cheese Bites

Two toddlers enjoying an outdoor lunch at a kids' table.

Have I inspired you yet? I sure hope so! I’d also love to hear some of your ideas. What are your favorite lunches to pack your little ones?

Bruschetta, White Bean and Pancetta Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Healthy, Italian-inspired stuffed sweet potatoes with a fragrant white bean and pancetta mixture and zesty bruschetta topping. The perfect weeknight meal!

Bruschetta, White Bean and Pancetta Stuffed Sweet Potatoes | CaliGirlCooking.com

If the fact that I made these Bruschetta, White Bean and Pancetta Stuffed Sweet Potatoes multiple times in the span of a week isn’t a clear indication of why you should plan on making these TONIGHT, I don’t know what is.

As you can imagine, the life of a food blogger is constantly filled with new recipe ideas to try and different flavor combinations to test out. This makes it a very rare occurrence that a certain meal appears on repeat in our house. I find we have an endless supply of leftovers sitting in the refrigerator, and once we finish one thing it’s immediately replaced by one or more new dishes that I’ve been fine-tuning and getting ready to be photograph-able in the very near future.

When the hubs and I sat down to eat my first go-around with these sweet potatoes (which actually included sweet Italian sausage crumbles instead of pancetta – also super tasty, might I add) we started reminiscing about how much we loved sweet potatoes, and how much better they were than good ol’ white potatoes.

Bruschetta, White Bean and Pancetta Stuffed Sweet Potatoes | CaliGirlCooking.com

Having both grown up with moms that were raised on the East Coast, we remarked about how, when we were little, there were always regular baked or mashed potatoes on the table, but never our sweet, creamy sweet potato friends. The horrors! I guess now we’re trying to make up for lost time by making these Bruschetta, White Bean and Pancetta Stuffed Sweet Potatoes on repeat. Life could certainly be worse.

But guys, seriously, I could make these Bruschetta, White Bean and Pancetta Stuffed Sweet Potatoes forever and ever and ever. They are soooo good. And also really darn healthy. Can I get an “Amen?”

The other great thing about these sweet potatoes is that they come together fairly quickly with just a little bit of planning. The longest part of the process will be baking the potatoes, but you could even do this on Sunday during meal prep for the week (the plain baked sweet potatoes will last in the refrigerator for a few days), or just turn on the oven and pop them in right when you get home from work.

Bruschetta, White Bean and Pancetta Stuffed Sweet Potatoes | CaliGirlCooking.com

Once you have your sweet potatoes baked, all that’s left is to whip up the white bean and pancetta filling and the sweet, garlicky bruschetta topping. For the beans, you have two options. I had batch-cooked some dried flageolets I had in the pantry a couple days before, so I simply reheated those in the same pan that I crisped up the pancetta in (hey, there’s nothing like a little leftover pancetta grease to really flavor up some plain ol’ white beans.) But, if you really want to make this a quick and easy meal and aren’t in to the dried bean soak and batch cook, simply use canned white beans.

If you do use the canned white beans, feel free to leave them as is, or add in some rosemary and garlic when you’re reheating them in the pancetta pan. This will leave you with an unbelievable flavor bomb when said white beans are combined with the bright and flavorful bruschetta topping on top of the creamy, roasted sweet potato.

The bruschetta is classic and comes together with just a few ingredients. It’s exactly what you would make for the classic Italian crostini topping: peak season tomatoes, sharp, raw minced garlic, fresh basil, a drizzle of olive oil and dash of salt…and you’re set! No cooking required for this little step.

Bruschetta, White Bean and Pancetta Stuffed Sweet Potatoes | CaliGirlCooking.com

Once you have your sweet potato baked, your pancetta crisped, your white beans warmed and your bruschetta mixed, you’re ready to rock and roll. Slice open the sweet potato and mash it down just a tad to make an easy landing zone for the white beans and pancetta. Be generous here, no skimping on all of these mouthwatering flavors. Finish off your stuffed tater with a topping of tasty bruschetta, and you have a simple, light weeknight meal, perfect for any night of the week when a heavily-involved dinner just sounds like no fun at all.

Bruschetta, White Bean and Pancetta Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, you’re my weeknight hero <3

Bruschetta, White Bean and Pancetta Stuffed Sweet Potatoes | CaliGirlCooking.com

Bruschetta, White Bean and Pancetta Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 20 mins
 
A healthy, Italian-inspired stuffed sweet potato recipe with a fragrant white bean and pancetta mixture and zesty bruschetta topping.
Ingredients
  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • ½ white onion diced
  • 4 ounces pancetta or crumbled Italian sausage, or even tofu if you’re so inclined
  • 1 – 15-ounce can white beans drained and rinsed (or 1 ½ cups homemade white beans)
  • 4 cloves garlic separated (2 peeled and smashed, 2 minced)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 cups diced tomato about 2 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Instructions
  1. First, bake the sweet potatoes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Pierce each potato about four times with a fork and wrap individually in aluminum foil. Bake in 400 degree oven for 45 minutes to one hour, or until the potatoes feel soft to the touch. Remove from oven and set aside.
  2. Add pancetta to a large sauté pan over medium-high heat on your stove. Cook until pancetta just starts to turn crispy.
  3. Add white beans, the two smashed garlic cloves, and the fresh rosemary. Cook until mixture is heated through. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Finally, make the bruschetta. Combine the two minced garlic cloves, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  5. Now it’s time to assemble. Slice each sweet potato in half and smash down slightly to make a good “cradle” for the toppings. Top generously with white bean and pancetta mixture and then finish off with bruschetta. Serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

Wine Pairing Note: This light dinner would pair well with a number of wines because of the multitude of flavors. A creamy Chardonnay, an herbal Sauvignon Blanc, or a light Pinot Noir would all be fantastic options with this meal.

Bruschetta, White Bean and Pancetta Stuffed Sweet Potatoes | CaliGirlCooking.com

 

Sweet potatoes on sweet potatoes…

If you liked this recipe, you might also enjoy:

Ahi Poke Salad with Macadamia Nuts

A quick, healthy and easy recipe for ahi poke salad with an added twist (and extra protein!) from bacon and macadamia nuts.

Ahi Poke Salad with Macadamia Nuts | CaliGirl Cooking

I’ve been a big fan of the Hawaiian delicacy known as poke ever since I learned that, hey, raw fish is actually delicious and I was surrounded by it at every grocery store I shopped at when I lived in Hawaii. When you’re living in a state that has temperatures over 80 degrees almost every day of the year, you learn (very quickly) to love healthy foods that require no cooking over any type of heat source.

Even though poke has been on hand as a convenience food in Hawaii for many years, it has only just started making its way onto the mainland. I say it’s about time! There are “poke bowl” shops popping up all over and it’s now just as common to find poke on the menu at your favorite seafood restaurant as it is to find ceviche (at least in California, anyway.) But have no fear! Even if the poke craze hasn’t landed in your city yet, you can jump ahead of the trend and make this super-easy, incredibly healthy recipe on your own.

Ahi Poke Salad with Macadamia Nuts | CaliGirl Cooking

Speaking of healthy dishes you can make on your own, I’m excited to announce that I’ve partnered with my friends Tobias and Christel at The Fit Blog to start bringing you quick, easy, healthy meals on a more regular basis on their site. Tobias and Christel are certified personal trainers with a passion for bringing the healthy lifestyle to everyone, no matter your age, size or activity level. I love their message because they are all about finding the balanced lifestyle that is right for YOU, without prescribing any strict, crazy diet regimens. Basically, they speak my language!

If you’ve been following me for any period of time now, you’ll know that I am all about that balanced living. I believe that everyone is different, but that you can be healthy and happy without having to cut a ton of food groups out of your diet/give something up completely (unless you’re deathly allergic, that is.) I believe that it’s all about moderation and that, if you focus on primarily eating whole, unprocessed foods, and getting in consistent physical activity, the rest of your health will fall into place.

From the moment I started talking with Tobias and Christel, I knew that we would be a great fit for each other. They, too, champion an extremely balanced lifestyle, and the fact that they don’t have a ton of specific criteria for what they would/wouldn’t like to see in the recipes I contribute (as long as they’re nicely balanced) won me over right away.

That being said, this Ahi Poke Salad with Macadamia Nuts is my first recipe contribution to The Fit Blog, and I’m so excited to share it with you today as well. It’s incredibly easy to make, comes together in under 30 minutes, requires no cooking and is also super healthy and chock full of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids. It’s the perfect dish to fuel you up for (or help you recover from) a great workout. It’s filling yet won’t leave you feeling heavy. Plus, you can serve it in an avocado! How cute is that?

Ahi Poke Salad with Macadamia Nuts | CaliGirl Cooking

To get the deets on how to make my Ahi Poke Salad with Macadamia Nuts, click on over to The Fit Blog.

And if you make it, please be sure to tag @caligirlcooking so I can see your creations! Happy, healthy Wednesday everyone!

Ahi Poke Salad with Macadamia Nuts | CaliGirl Cooking

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Join Food Blogger Pro

(If you’re even remotely interested in blogging – food-related or “other” – that is.)

*This post contains affiliate links. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’m sneaking in on a Sunday to tell you about a REALLY exciting opportunity that is RIGHT at your doorstep (er, at your fingertips?) at this very moment. It’s called Food Blogger Pro and, for just FOUR more days, you can get in on alllll of the action.

Food Blogger Pro Spring Enrollment 2016

But first, let me tell you a little story about how I came to be an esteemed Member of this rad, awesome, entertaining and inspiring community. For us food bloggers out there, there’s this little (er, not so little) mecca of a blog called Pinch of Yum, run by Lindsey Ostrom and her husband, Bjork. Pinch of Yum is basically an industry leader (aside from Smitten Kitchen, IMHO) in this fairly new food blogging world. Lindsey and Bjork have spent countless hours refining their brand and determining the best ways (and how) to monetize their food blog. It has become a wild success for them and, this is the good part, they’ve created the online forum that is Food Blogger Pro (or FBP as us natives have come to call it) to share what they’ve learned with all of us! How cool is that? Successful people helping other people become successful. That is so my jam!

So, instead of me rambling on and on about how great Food Blogger Pro is, I thought I’d narrow it down to a list of 5 (almost) concise bullet points as to why you should join this amazing community. Let’s have at it!

#1 You Find YOUR People

This is for sure #1 in my book and if you read any part of this post, please let it be this.

Let’s be real here. I’m the lone food blogger in my group of “real life” friends. I have a couple of friends that write travel blogs, but none are currently trying to make it their full-time gig like I am. As you can imagine, this leaves me feeling a bit isolated at times because they just don’t “get” it. How in the world can you make a living from writing a blog? Why are you saying no to Happy Hour or a beach day just so you can work on your blog? It’s nothing against them, but they’re just not in the same mindset as this crazy Type A, “I’ve gotta be successful with this” person (points to self.)

Once I joined Food Blogger Pro, I realized that I am sooooo not alone. I was suddenly surrounded by like-minded people, trying to do the same thing I am, or having already been successful and sharing their stories with others. Although virtual, I finally found that connection and sense of community I had been looking for. As my friends and I would say, I found myself surrounded by some really #awesomehumans.

Food Blogger Pro Spring Enrollment 2016

#2 Community Forums

TBH I was a little intimidated by Food Blogger Pro when I first joined. I kept asking myself, “Where do I start?” I found my way to the community forums (even before I started watching the tutorials) and immediately felt at home.  There were people asking questions that had been in the back of my mind since who-knows-when, there were others offering encouragement, and others seeking feedback. There were members asking for roundup contributions from other members, and members sharing business opportunities. This was a whole new world for me and I was totally digging it. Talk about being able to lose yourself in something for hours at a time…

#3  Video Tutorials

I’m just going to brush over the surface of these, because there are still sooooo many that I need to get to, but don’t let that undermine their importance. One of the greatest resources Bjork and Lindsey have provided through FBP is their video tutorials. You guys, there are videos on EVERYTHING you’ve ever wondered about as far as setting up your blog, optimizing it for SEO, selling products on your site, etc. The list goes on and on. And the best part is they keep adding more! Recommendations and questions are pulled from the community forums and turned into quick (we’re talking 5-10 minute) tutorials. I have learned so much from the few video tutorials I’ve already watched, I know I’ll be rocking-and-rolling as soon as I find the time to watch them all!

Food Blogger Pro Spring Enrollment 2016

#4 Live Online Events

Okay, so I can’t say that I’ve been able to attend one of these yet (that dang 9-5 job keeps getting in the way) but, about once a month or so, the Food Blogger Pro team (often including Bjork and/or Lindsey) will host a live Q&A to answer your most burning questions as they relate to the blogging world. As you can imagine, this is an incredible opportunity to learn from the best of the best and keep your feet headed in the right direction.

#5 Endless Tools & Resources

I’ve already mentioned a bunch of the tools available to members of Food Blogger Pro, but wait, there’s more! In addition to the community forums, video tutorials and live online events, there are countless other resources to help make your food blog (or any blog for that matter) a success. There are experts on staff to help with areas such as social media, security and SEO, there’s a Nutrition Label Tool that you can use for all of your recipes, and so much more!

Bottom line: If you’ve already started a blog but feel stuck and unsure of how to move forward or progress, you should join FBP. If you haven’t yet started a blog but have aspirations to do so, you should join FBP.  If you want to monetize your blog so you can quit your 9-5, you should join FBP.  If you’re a successful blogger and just want to connect with like-minded individuals, you should join FBP.  Have I given you enough reasons yet?

Food Blogger Pro Spring Enrollment 2016

The details:

  • As I mentioned above, enrollment for Food Blogger Pro is only open for a limited time! Open enrollment closes at 11:59 PM CST on Thursday, June 2. After this deadline you get stuck on a long waiting list with no idea of when you’ll be invited to join this group of #awesomehumans, so hurry up and do it now! Just click on this link or on the banner below.
  • The cost to be a member of Food Blogger Pro is $29/month or $279/year. And you can cancel at any time! There are no contracts and there is no sketchy fine print. I was hesitant to cough up the cash at first, but I am soooo happy I did! It has proven to be well worth every penny.
  • No, you don’t need to be an official, certifiable food blogger to join the party. About 10-15% of Food Blogger Pro members come from other walks of blogging life.
  • To sign up, simply click on the links or banners within this post. Each one will take you to where you need to be!

Food Blogger Pro Spring Enrollment 2016

That’s my Sunday spiel for ya, so hurry and go sign up so we can be friends! Now excuse me while I get back to my regularly scheduled Sunday programming of lounging on the couch with my man and multiple cups of coffee…