Welcome to Blogmas 2017! We are so excited to have Jo from www.weaningful.com joining us today to help us get ready for the Holidays with Baby and Toddler friendly Christmas Dinner Ideas!
Oh, Christmas. The holiday you’ve been waiting for all year. That time of the year when you start decorating your house with lights and climbing Santas and buy a huge Christmas tree just to outshine your neighbor’s. That whole month of shopping for presents for your better half, your parents, your better half’s parents, your grandparents, your boss, your friends and your co-workers.
Let’s not forget food. By the time you have to sit down and create the menu for the big family dinner, you’re probably exhausted from all the running, queuing, wrapping and decorating. The least you want to do now is come up with a 5-course meal plan that takes into account the youngest member(s) of the family, your own preferences, grandma’s diabetes and dad’s blood pressure.
The game is on and time is scarce. You need to deliver something healthy, quick, tasty and fulfilling at the same time.
What you can do is cater to the needs of the pickiest of eaters. I promise that this plan is going to work. Why? Because the adults will see it as something new and exciting, while for your little ones it’s going to be business as usual.
Here are some tips to make it work for you.
How to plan a kid-friendly dinner for Christmas Eve and stay sane while doing it
STEP 1: ASK
You might not be familiar with this theory, but Ryan Levesque figured out how to find out what people really want: by asking them what they don’t want.
Now, if you have a little baby or toddler who has yet to master the gift of speech, then this step might resume to thinking about what his or her least favorite dishes are and scratch those from your list.
If your little one can express himself quite clearly, then listen to what he has to say. It might surprise you to find out what his opinion about food is and what his dislikes are. Chances are there aren’t many and you would have gone straight to the source to find possible recipe ideas that might just work.
You are looking to find either something that he didn’t mention on his dislikes list or a new interpretation of a dish you know for sure he doesn’t dismiss the taste of.
STEP 2: KEEP IT SIMPLE
Christmas dinners are usually about quantity and complexity. People want to feel it’s a special meal and usually go out of their way to prepare fancy food that they usually only eat around this time of year.
Having babies or toddlers at the table changes all that. They don’t care about the number of courses, the quantity of available gravy or the stuffing in the turkey.
Make your meals as simple as a cooked meat/seafood/poultry, a side dish, a dip and maybe something to eat with your fingers. I believe these are the main types of food that people usually enjoy and they don’t take days to prepare either. You can cook everything that same morning and just heat everything up when it’s time to eat.
There is the chance your little one might not even eat the food, despite your well designed questions in step 1. So what would be the point of a cooking extravaganza in the first place?
STEP 3: SPICE IT UP
Babies and small infants should not eat a lot of added salt or sugar, of any type or form (yes, that includes maple syrup!).
If you take out the salt and sugar out of your meals, the adults would probably go bonkers and decide on a last minute trip to the nearest fast food just to make sure they do get to eat something.
So to replace the unreplaceable, you will have to master the art of adding the right seasoning to compensate. Spices can help you do that. You have loads of available options and they aren’t all oriental, trust me.
Just make sure to add them one pinch at a time. A pinch makes the difference between roasted potatoes with rosemary and rosemary with roast potatoes. You get my point.
You can find more about this and which spice goes with what dish over here.
As for sugar, I believe it is easier to replace than salt, if you don’t have a total sweet tooth; in which case I suggest waiting till everyone is asleep to dig in that cake you bought for yourself the other day.
The most common replacements for sugar are:
- ripe bananas (trust me, since having my baby I found out you can add banana to almost any dessert!)
- full-flavored homemade applesauce (just grate an apple on a small sized grater; no water needed): Fuji apples are the sweetest, followed by Gala and Granny Smith
- Pearsauce (made in the same way as the apple sauce)
Other options include cherries, mango, grapes or pineapple. All of these and the above have 10% or more total sugars.
The sweetest fruits that you can find to buy are the dried ones. Whether they’re dates, figs, plums, apricots, pears or raisins, they have between 38% and 70% sugar.
(Just to compare, honey has around 80% sugar and maple syrup around 68%.)
If anyone complains about the lack of sugar in your Christmas dessert, grab 2 apples, one carrot and one ripe mango and make them some juice.
STEP 4: HAVE BACK-UPS
Babies are different. Toddlers are different. This means that there is no guarantee that they will eat what you cook for Christmas. They might be teething, going through a phase or be sick.
What always works for my little one is yoghurt, pasta, raspberries, salmon, peas or toast. I am aware this might not be the ideal Christmas menu, but hey! We are doing our best and Christmas shouldn’t be about food in the first place.
It’s about sharing a table together, sitting down, bonding and finding Joy.
Wherever you are this Christmas, make sure you take time to cook with your little ones in mind. They need a good start in life and what better way to do that than by eating healthy food?
Hi there! My name is Ioana (you can call me Jo). I am a 29 year old living in London with my husband and little girl Emma. My passion is baby nutrition and always reading food labels. I share baby recipes and weaning advice over at www.weaningful.com.