Somewhere after the age of 9-10 months, babies start demanding to eat food with their hands. And by all means, let them do exactly that! It will create a mess, agreed, but it is a very important development stage for your baby to do exactly that. It needs to explore the food, get to know it, examine it in every aspect, not just to fill its belly. So, in order for your baby to get to love food for what it is, you need to keep in mind a few things:
- Give your baby a great variety of foods. Use different foods with different colours, shapes and texture and let your baby explore. It will squeeze it, smash it, smear it, and hopefully, taste some of it. The amount that ends up in its mouth is of secondary importance.
- Let your baby decide about what it eats from the things you put in front of him, and how much it eats. After all, your baby is the only one who really knows when its stomach is full. However, you will decide the time for eating, which should be – as much as possible – constant; and about what you put on the table, especially when your baby becomes a toddler and, later, a preschooler. Don’t push your toddler to eat more than it wants to. He will never learn to listen to his body saying “I’m full”.
- Don’ t use distractions like loud music or TV to “trick” your baby into eating. That could cause overeating and establish bad habits.
- Iron rich foods are very important. They should be on your meal plan most days of the week. Such foods are, such as, beef, turkey, chicken, veal, lentils, beans, and spinach. Give a little orange juice to your toddler, or include some Vitamin C rich foods in the menu, such as broccoli or lemon. Vitamin C helps absorbing iron.
- Your baby will create a mess. You will clean it up. Again. And again. And, for an unbelievable number of times, again…
- Have a camera at hand. Nothing beats the cuteness of such a little face covered in sauce!
Having said that, here is a recipe for meatballs with veggies, that helped me with my little girl, who wanted to eat by herself from very early on. She never was much of an eater, so I needed to make every bite count. And, to be honest, we all love eating them!
Ingredients (please consider the age of your baby and what it is allowed to eat by your pediatrician)
- ½ kg minced beef, turkey, chicken or veal meat
- 1 egg
- 2-3 slices of whole-wheat bread
- 2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 red pepper
- 1 green pepper
- 1 zucchini
- ½ cup parsley
- any other vegetable you thing your baby would like (optional)
- 1/4 cup of rice (optional)
- salt, pepper (optional)
- In a food processor, process the onion, the carrot, the zucchini, the peppers and the parsley until fine.
- In a food processor, process the slices of bread until fine.
- Put the minced meat, the egg, the olive oil, the breadcrumbs and the fine vegetables and mush with your hand. Adjust with oil or breadcrumbs, until it has the right consistency and it can be shaped into small balls.
- Let the mixture rest for at least half an hour in the fridge.
- Shape mini meatballs.
- Bring water to the boil and add the amount of meatballs needed. Let them boil for about 15 – 25 minutes, depending on the size of the meatballs. You can freeze the rest of the meatballs for the next time. If your baby is older, you can alternatively bake the meatballs in the oven.