Choosing the right foods for your child when he is very young will help him to grow and develop. And by feeding him delicious and nutritious food while he is keen to follow your example, you will be instilling in him a knowledge of healthy eating for life.

Bridget L. Wardley and Judy More

Using our experiences as dietitians and mothers we have written The Big Book of Recipes for Babies, Toddlers, and Children: 365 Quick, Easy, and Healthy Dishesto help you to enjoy feeding your children as much as we have enjoyed feeding ours.

Family meals are important and the recipes we have chosen are quick and easy, use nutritious ingredients, and, when combined with other foods, will give your children a healthy, immunity-boosting, growth-promoting diet.

As many parents find the different stages of feeding babies and young children daunting, we give clear recommendations through the stages of weaning and beyond with recipes and menu planners to help you to provide all the nutrients your child needs in the correct amounts.

Busy lifestyles often leave little time for cooking, so we have devised recipes that use a wide range of cooking methods -- from quick stir-frying to baking to slow casseroling. We have also included some recipes for foods that can be made in advance and frozen, as well as some that simply involve combining different foods on a plate in the right proportions.

Healthy eating does not have to mean depriving your child of their favorite foods
By using quality ingredients you can make delicious burgers, nuggets, pizzas, fries and kebabs that are far more nutritious than the commercial varieties, which usually contain additives and an excess of salt, sugars and fats.

Research has shown that most children today eat far too much sugar, fat and salt -- mainly in the form of highly-processed snacks -- and as a result, many of them are becoming overweight. By encouraging your child to be active, and above all by developing healthy eating patterns from an early age, you can prevent your child from developing such weight problems.

Most parents --understandably -- also worry when their child seems to lose his appetite. But most children go off their food from time to time. Bear in mind that your child doesn't need to eat well at every meal, or even every day. As long as he consumes a good balance of foods over a period of a week or so he will obtain all the nutrients he needs.

Finally, we'd like to share with you our three golden rules for happy and healthy eating:

  • Eat together as a family as often as possible.
  • Show your baby or child that you enjoy eating the foods that you want him to eat.
  • Praise your child when he eats well and never indicate that you are anxious or upset when he doesn't.

    Peach and Mango Pur?e
    Ingredients:
    1 ripe peach, peeled, pitted, and diced
    1/2 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced
    1 tablespoon water
    Expressed breastmilk or formula milk to thin

    Directions:
    1. Place the peach and mango in a small saucepan with the water. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and bring to the boil.

    2. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes until tender.Makes 4-6 servings.

    Lamb with Spinach and Sweet Potato Baby Food
    Ingredients:
    1/2 cup water
    3oz lean lamb loin or chump chop, diced
    1/2 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
    1 3/4 oz spinach, washed thoroughly and chopped cooled, boiled water to thin

    Directions:
    1. Put the water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the lamb and sweet potato. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

    2. Remove the lid and add the spinach. Replace the lid when the spinach wilts. Continue simmering for about 15 minutes until the meat is cooked right through and the vegetables are soft.

    3. Pur?e with the cooking water until smooth. Take out one portion to serve and add cooled, boiled water to thin, if necessary.

    Makes 6-10 servings.

    Chicken with Rice and Leeks Baby Food
    Ingredients:
    3 tablespoon white basmati or long grain rice
    1 1/4 cups water
    1/2 small chicken breast, skinned and cut into small pieces
    1 small leek, washed and thinly sliced
    Water to thin

    Directions:
    1. Put the rice in a sieve. Wash and drain it.

    2. Place in a small saucepan and add the water. Bring to the boil and reduce heat. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for 5 minutes.

    3. Add the chicken and the leek and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked right through, and the rice and leeks are tender. Add a little more water, if necessary.

    4. Pur?e the mixture until smooth. Take out one portion to serve. Add cooled, boiled water to thin, if necessary.

    Makes 6-8 servings

    Spinach Dhal Baby Food
    The combination of lentils and rice in this tasty vegetarian dish will provide your baby with good quality protein, as in meat.

    Ingredients:
    1/4 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
    2 tablespoons basmati or long grain rice, rinsed and drained
    1/2 red bell pepper, cored, deseeded, and sliced
    1 teaspoon olive oil
    Pinch ground cumin
    Pinch ground coriander
    Pinch mixed herbs
    1 1/4 cups water
    1 cup chopped spinach
    2 tablespoons canned tomatoes, chopped

    Directions:
    1. Place the lentils, rice, red bell pepper, oil, spices, herbs and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 25 minutes until rice is tender.

    2. Take out 2 slices of red bell pepper. Stir in the spinach and tomatoes and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, until the spinach has wilted. Mash with a fork. Serve with the 2 slices of bell pepper as finger food.

    Makes 3-4 servings

    Soft Summer Fruit Sticks for Babies
    Choose soft, ripe fruit that are nutrient-rich and easy to chew. Giving fruit will help your baby learn to chew well. Cooked fruit loses some of its nutrients.

    Ingredients:
    1 kiwi
    1/4 melon
    1/2 peach
    1/2 banana

    Other suitable fruits:
    Mango
    Papaya
    Nectarine
    Pear

    Directions:
    1. Peel the kiwi fruit. Cut the rind from the melon and remove the seeds.

    2. Peel the peach and remove the pit.

    3. Cut all the fruit into pieces about 1-1 1/2 in long, and just thick enough for your baby to grasp.

    4. Arrange the fruit attractively on a plate and let your baby choose what he would like to try.

    Makes 6-8 servings.

    Fishy Toast Fingers

    Smoked or canned varieties of oily fish are already cooked and make a quick and iron-rich toast topping for toddlers. They are an excellent source of vitamins A and D, as well as omega-3 LCPs.

    Ingredients:
    1/3 cup smoked mackerel or sardines canned in oil, and well drained
    1 tablespoon natural bio-yogurt
    1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
    1 teaspoon tomato pur?e (optional)
    4 slices thick white or whole wheat bread

    Directions:
    1. Mash the fish with the yogurt and lemon juice. Stir in the tomato pur?e (if using).

    2. Toast the bread and spread with the fish mixture. If you wish to serve warm, place under a preheated broiler for 1-2 minutes. Cut into fingers and serve with cherry tomatoes or carrot sticks.

    Makes 2-4 servings.

    Corn and Bacon Muffins
    Ingredients:
    6 slices lean back bacon
    1 medium onion, peeled and diced
    1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 cup cheddar, grated
    12 oz canned corn, drained
    2/3 cup milk
    2 eggs
    5 tablespoons olive oil

    Directions:
    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

    2. Line a muffin pan with paper muffin cases. Trim any fat off the bacon slices and then cut into squares.

    3. Place in a small skillet, add the onion, and gently fry for 5-10 minutes until well cooked.

    4. Place the flour and baking powder in a bowl and mix. Stir in the cheese and corn. In another bowl whisk the milk, eggs, and oil together.

    5. Add this mixture to the flour mixture, then add the onion and bacon. Stir to combine but do not overmix.

    6. Spoon into the muffin cases and bake for 15 minutes until firm to touch. Cool on a wire rack.

    Makes 12 muffins.

    Salmon and Shrimp Spread
    Ingredients:
    1 small skinless salmon fillet
    1/3 cup milk
    1 bay leaf
    Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
    1/2 cup frozen pre-cooked shrimp, defrosted
    1 tablespoon reduced-fat mayonnaise
    A few drops of lemon juice

    Directions:
    1. Place the salmon, milk, bay leaf and nutmeg in a skillet. Poach the salmon in the milk over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Leave to cool.

    2. When cool, lift the salmon from the milk and put in a food processor with the shrimp, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Process until smooth.

    3. Spoon into a small dish, cover and refrigerate. Serve in sandwiches, or on toast or pita bread with cucumber and cress.

    Makes 4-6 servings.

    Pasta Shapes with Asparagus and Ham
    Ingredients:
    1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
    2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
    7oz asparagus, thinly sliced diagonally
    3-4 slices cooked ham, chopped
    2 cups pasta shapes (such as bow ties or small tubes)
    1 tablespoon water
    Juice of 1/2 lemon
    Grated Parmesan

    Directions:
    1. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, saut? the onion and garlic in the oil until soft.

    2. Add the thyme, followed by the asparagus and ham. Cook over a moderate heat for 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally until the asparagus is slightly softened.

    3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta shapes according to the instructions on the packet. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the water and lemon juice, followed by the drained, cooked pasta. Mix well and stir in the Parmesan.

    4. Serve immediately with a salad. For variation, try using crispy cooked bacon instead of ham.

    Makes 2-4 servings. PregnancyAndBaby.com

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