This is a guest post from the beautiful Honae MacNeil who is an ex-colleague of mine from my advertising days.
She has a gorgeously healthy son, Kai, and I am always inspired by her dedication to healthy kids meals, and success in getting good clean, healthy food into his growing body. I marvel at the meals she serves and he eats.
She really is a such a good example not only to her little boy, who benefits no-end from the nutrients he gets every day from her creative meals, but also to all us mums. Some kids are so fussy, it’s much harder, I totally get that. We might not all be able to achieve what Honae does, but we can surely aspire to it, and give it a go. Start ‘em young, be a shining example of a healthy eater, try anything, put in the effort and persevere, I say.
Here’s Honae’s take on Healthy Meals for Kids. And check out these dinner plates!
Ps you can follow Honae on instagram @minimacmeals
I am the mother of a 5 year old eating machine. His PB for baby sushi rolls is 36. Obscene!!
This isn’t a stage, it’s not a growth spurt, it’s just the way he’s always been. Some people have happy, easy going babies, some have amazing sleepers. I had an eater. Which isn’t a bad thing, because I love food.
At 18 weeks of age, Kai was given his first dose of solids. I was at my wits ends from lack of sleep (how much booby milk can one kid drink!!!) and I decided that it was either solids or formula. I chose solids and I have pictures of the wide mouth baby looking like a baby bird in a nest, chirping for food, gulping down the first mouthfuls. He was ready. I was worried, that people would pass judgment – everyone is a bloody expert on the dos and don’ts of babies but it felt right, he ate solids and continued to drink milk like a champion. Mind you, he still didn’t sleep!!
His desire to eat didn’t change and my desire to feed him well grew & grew. I had the most colourful freezer. Portions of all the vegetables. Pureed squares of the rainbow… reds, yellow (cooked, pureed, sieved corn is life changing!!), greens, oranges, whites. I loved grabbing a few different cubes and seeing the way the colours combined as they defrosted. He loved it all. He even ate the liver casserole I made for him after reading iron would make him sleep. It didn’t. And it stank every time I cooked it!! Baby food isn’t hard. It’s so cheap and it’s so easy. Buy a bunch of veg, cook in a small amount of water and puree with a stick blender when soft. EASY. Do a few items a day over the course of a week and you’ll have enough food for a month.
Portion out into ice cube style containers and freeze. I got these from Big W, I’m sure they weren’t expensive.
Once they’re frozen, pop them in a labeled zip lock back and admire the rainbow forming in your freezer. For extra nutrients, cook up some chicken stock and use that as the base rather than water. It’s well documented that homemade chicken stock/ broth has some sort of magical quality. You can buy the reusable squeezie pouches now – easy to make your own portable dinner.
By 6 months, when all the other gorgeous mums group bubs were just getting into food, Kai was hitting his culinary stride. He refused to be spoon-fed. What the heck do you feed a 6 month old who wont let you feed him!!?!? Meatballs, steamed vege sticks, peas. This was a tricky time. There is only so much a little guy can chew and manage – he had a few teeth but not many. I worried a fair bit at this time that he wasn’t getting enough food. He was still on the boob (a lot) and was still growing so I think I just tried to bulk him up with bananas and avocados at breakfast time. He was normally so excited to eat at the beginning of the day that I could get a spoon in.
He still wasn’t sleeping 🙂
It probably wasn’t until Kai was about 12 – 18 months did things change up a bit. With a mouth full of teeth and and appetite that hadn’t subsided we launched into packing containers with food for our outings. Kai decided that 5am wake ups were the norm at this stage so I admit I would often bake or cook up a batch of spag bol or something to stock the freezer. It was around this time I started work again and the freezer dinners were a saviour. Portions of spag bol, some sort of fish with rice and veg, a kid curry, whatever I could make and portion up for him. My all time best option was veggie sauce. I’d chuck a bunch of veg in the oven with some oil and a bit of salt, I’d roast them all for a few hours on a low heat then I’d add them to a pot and puree them. Add some water or stock to thin it out if needs be and freeze in the baby food trays. This was my guilt free 5 min dinner. Boil some pasta or rice, add the sauce and grate some cheese on top. Chuck some peas in if you’re feeling crazy. Dinner, sorted. The husband was quite partial to it, too.
I want to point a few things out at this point.
I use a microwave when I need to. I don’t like them and if I can not use it I will. BUT, if the choice is food from a packet vs a homemade meal in the microwave for a few minutes – I’ll take the homemade.
I used to feed Kai a lot of pasta. I think most parents do. It’s easy and it’s cheap. I’ve pretty much stopped. I’m reducing his gluten intake not because of any intolerance or behavioural issues – it’s just that I know he doesn’t need it. It’s not great for him (or us) and so I’ve given it a wide berth. Same for bread. I just can’t feel good knowing he’s eaten bread for breakfast, lunch and then pasta for dinner.
I’m a prolific instagrammer. If I was to sum up my feed it would say crafty, cooking, sunseeker. I started taking photos of Kai’s dinner cause they were fun. Enter #minimacmeals. I’m inspired by others so maybe others will be inspired by me. Kai’s dinners aren’t anything spectacular. They’re like a kids version of a tasting plate. Who doesn’t love a tasting plate?? I try to combine some sweet and savoury so that eating dinner isn’t then rewarded with something sweet. I have friends who tell me it takes too long, they don’t have the time but to them I call bullshit. Up until a few weeks ago I was working full time in what was a big stressy job and I could still feed my boy well. I would bet money on the fact that I could chuck these dinners together in 5 minutes.
A normal dinner could consist of all or some of the following: cucumber & carrot slices or sticks, capsicum (he loved learning that there was red, green, orange AND yellow capsicums), snowpeas, green beans, celery, avocado, some nuts, a piece of cheese, some berries or apple. If I’m really pushed for time I might just give him a few slices of ham. If I’ve got a bit more time he’ll get some chicken, some snags, meatballs or his fave, crumbed fish cooked in coconut oil.
The husband and I eat in a similar way. Lots of salad, lots of veg. I kinda lost interest in making ‘dishes’ and have found we gone back to a modern day version of meat and veg. So I don’t feel like I’m making multiple meals. Kai’s salad is arranged on a plate in a fun way, I love coming up with the arrangements. Ours is chucked all together on a plate. I feel like a big plate of mixed up stuff can be a little overwhelming for kids. When it’s laid out he can see it all (hopefully he notices the patterns I make!?!?!) and he can choose what he eats next. He doesn’t always eat it all and there are arguments over dinner like every other house but generally he’s happy with what I make. It’s familiar, it’s healthy and it’s easy. When he complains I ask “Do I ever make food that you don’t like?”. That normally gets him eating. We talk a lot about food and what it does for us and why we need to eat well. We’ve been talking about food since he was on my hip at witching hour as a baby with me trying to make dinner. He knows that sugar isn’t good for us, he knows that water is the best thing to drink and he knows how to put together a killer homemade pizza.
Kai starts school next year and I want to try and keep his lunchbox healthy and varied. Wish me luck!
I don’t know if he was born with a love of food or if I’ve created that but I do hope he always has fond memories of the food his mumma made and will grow to know that it’s because I want him to be the happiest & healthiest human he can be and that, in part, starts with food. I want to be the house that has half a dozen bikes out the front and a bunch of teenager boys smiling and nodding as they inhale something I’ve just made them….. “This is delicious, Mrs Mac”.