Every week we see many parents who feel really stressed about starting their weaning journeys with their little ones as they believe they have to find their inner “Nigella Lawson” and whip up a gastronomy of delights from ingredients they don’t know anything about – please note, this is not the case!
And as of March 2020, our world has turned upside down and we now find ourselves in a place I think no-one would have ever believed possible! One of the primary concerns or even fears which has become evident during this period of “lockdown” is how to access food. The stockpiling fanatics really didn’t help and we all became anxious about getting hold of enough food to feed our families. This looks to now have subsided slightly but we thought we would put together a list of “store cupboard essentials” which will help provide your families with easy recipes and dishes to create healthy food options during these uncertain times.
1. Cans of beans and pulses. Stocking up on things like canned butter beans, chickpeas and lentils are a great way of adding so many essential nutrients into a snack or meal. Lentils can be added to mince dishes for example (or in replace of) which bulks out the dish and makes it go further. So, next time you are making a Shepherd’s Pie, add some canned lentils in with your mince and your dish will feed more. Lentils are packed with protein, vitamins and minerals and are a fantastic way of boosting our digestive system with its high fibre content.
Chickpeas and butterbeans mixed with tahini paste (found in most supermarkets) make fabulous
. Rich in calcium and protein, houmous is a great food for weaning and the strong flavours are loved by anyone from 6months upwards! Incidentally, tahini paste lasts for ages so you won’t need to buy it very often at all.
2. Cream cheese. Yep, something so simple but a great essential! And, always go for the full fat, especially when weaning. Cream cheese on oat cakes or rice cakes as a snack is great! Full of calcium and vitamins and minerals, this is a “go to” in our house! I also like to add it to things like a can of tomatoes if I am making a pasta sauce, it gives it that creaminess that is so delicious!
3. Eggs. Again, maybe an obvious one but I also don’t think that people appreciate how fantastic eggs are! Eggs are amongst the
most nutritious foods on the planet! A boiled egg as a snack for a 6 month old or a 66 year old is great – they give our bodies so much goodness. A egg can be the basis of many meals. An omelette for example can have almost anything thrown into it and by Friday, after a busy week, it is a common dinner for the kids in this house! I have made omelettes with leftover chicken, prawns, seafood, tuna and tofu before. I have scavenged into the bottom of the fridge drawers for veg which is looking sad and chucked it in. I have sprinkled many different cheeses over the top. I have even sprinkled one with breadcrumbs once and grilled it – not sure why – it was wei
rd! Eggs allow you make things like pancakes, frittatas, savoury or sweet muffins and many other things so always try to have some eggs to hand if you can.
4. Frozen veg – today we can find almost any veg in the frozen section of a supermarket. I love this as it means less waste and a lot of variety when you need it. Things like frozen cubed sweet potato, butternut squash, leeks, carrots, peas, broccoli – to name a few are all great to have in your freezer. Again, these can be chucked into almost anything and we know how important it is to have a variety of veg in our diet. Today, the freezing process is almost instant and so there is generally still a great variety of nutrients within all these veg as they are preserved so quickly.
5. Oats. Full of vitamins and minerals and fibre, oats are a great staple. Porridge is the obvious dish and is great for babies when weaning. You can add all sorts of yumminess to porridge to really make it as nutritious as possible. Anything from topping with nut butters to adding fruits and spices such as cinnamon. Oats release energy slowly and so are a great start to any day for those young or old. Oats also are great for toasting and adding to fruit and yogurt as a snack, they are great for making things like savoury flapjacks. They can be added to muffins and cakes to add goodness and they are the basis of the famous “overnight oats” which can be made into many many flavours!
6. Tinned and frozen fish. Stocking up on tinned and frozen fish is a great idea. Fish is again, an extremely nutritious food and it is advised that we have at least 2 portions of fish a week, one which should be an oily fish such as salmon or mackerel. Fish can be the main part of a meal or can be added to other ingredients to make all sorts of dishes. Fish cakes, fish pie, fish pate, fish pasta to name a few. It takes no time to cook some pasta, open a can of tuna, a can of tinned tomatoes, throw in some frozen veg and mix together with cheese on the top – viola – a healthy, balanced meal.
7. Nut butters – we touched on these before but nut butters are a great staple. We have so many available on the market now, peanut, cashew, almond, coconut and many variants. They provide so much goodness when you add them on top of porridge or yogurt. They can be mixed with things like coconut milk to make a satay style sauce for a stir-fry. They can top an oat cake/rice cake/piece of toast as a fantastic, healthy snack for babies, children and adults. Rich in essential fats, high in protein and generally all round super nutritious, I would always make sure your store cupboard has a few in there. (make sure they are no added salt and sugar ones though!)
8. Yogurt. Full fat Greek yogurt is the best! The supermarket shelves are full of yogurts aimed at children, packaging covered with bright colours or cartoon characters. Adorned with highly emotive words such as “great source of calcium” or “no nasties”, they are there to tempt you to pop them in your shopping basket. But, these yogurts are extremely high in sugar and artificial sweeteners which are not good for growing children. For more details on the sugar content of children’s yogurts, see here
9. Flour and baking powder. Flour at the moment is like gold-dust! And isn’t it amazing just how many people are filling their days by baking? Social media is full of pictures of incredible breads, cakes, muffins, pancakes and so much more! Having flour and baking powder in your store cupboard gives you that ability to make so many lovely things. Things like muffins and pancakes are great foods to start weaning with. They enable you to add all sorts of amazing fillings and introduce lots of different tastes to your baby. Adding veg to muffins for example is fantastic! Happy Tums love our Cheese and Broccoli muffin recipe for example! The great thing about baking at home is that you can control the sugar and salt content. It is so easy to sweeten things like muffins for example with fruits or leave out salt from recipes which might traditionally add it in.
10. Cans of tomatoes. Sounds simple but a can of tinned tomatoes provides the basis of many a dish. Add them into a bolognaise, a curry, a stew or make into soup – they are a much better alternative to the many jars of pasta sauces or prepared sauces that are available on the shop shelves. These tend to be very high in sugar and salt and are not a good choice for your baby or your family.
Below is a table which might be worth printing out and putting up in your kitchen, it could be a great way of making sure you are stocked up on some essentials which will make sure your baby is having healthy, nutritious and tasty meals!