Aurelia, April 2011, eating a questionably tasty blueberry banana spirulina puree.
When I was pregnant and soliciting advice from other mothers, I learned two things that have served me best. One: Love your kids unconditionally. Two: Wear flats and pack snacks.
Children and those who run after them are prone to Hangry Moments – that cranky place where hungry meets angry. Oh – another early parenting lesson is that the majority of everyday life will suddenly revolve around feeding your child. From breastfeeding to baby led weaning to food sensitivities to sneaking purees into things, keeping your little one nourished is no small task. Confession – I put shredded raw liver in a lot of Aurelia’s food when she was a baby. Sorry, honey. More parenting advice: If you won’t eat it, don’t ask your kid to.
But beyond feeding little ones, we adults need to be better about eating real food, more often. Before I had Aurelia, I would often call coffee breakfast, have a deli sandwich for lunch, and then eat way too much (mostly carbs) between 6 and 9 p.m. Now, I wake up and eat an egg, often with a side of meat. I have a mid day snack, a salad with protein for lunch, a mid afternoon snack, and dinner, which you often get to see. It takes a lot of energy to be a parent. If we don’t feed ourselves well, how can we best feed our children? Believe me, at 2 years old, Aurelia is becoming a great replicator of my every behavior. (Yikes.)
Ideally, we’d be home through the majority of each day and I could make our mini-meals with fresh vegetables and protein from the fridge every 3-4 hours. But that’s not exactly doable (or desired) for many of us. As much time as I spend in the kitchen, we eat from a cooler bag as often. I have several insulated bags and ice packs from my year of pumping and toting around breastmilk alldaylong. I use one to go to work, one for Aurelia when she needs a lunch or snack packed, and a bigger one for any outing over a couple hours. I use bell jars and plastic lids for most things. Although they are glass, they’re sturdy, have survived many drops to the floor, and are environmentally kinder than disposable or plastic options. Really, I just hate buying things you throw away over and over when there is a cheaper way to reuse the same thing with minimal effort. I’ve learned not to leave the house with my toddler without at least a couple healthy options. The suggestions that follow are just ideas. They’re not perfect, but they do travel well, are inexpensive compared to what you would buy eating out, and can give both children and adults the real food fuel we need to stay away from Hangry Moments.
Celery sticks and peanut butter with a bit of jam or honey.
Dehydrate marinated skirt or flank steak for jerky.
Cut up watermelon.
Pureed watermelon for freezer pops and ice cubes.
Chocolate zucchini muffins – adapt a zucchini bread recipe by subbing some cocoa for flour, using whole grain or nut flour, and substituting a bit of honey for the sugar!
Banana Apricot Bread – sliced, wrapped in wax paper, and ziplocked in individual portions. Recipe below!
Banana Apricot Bread
Adapted, a lot, from Exclusively Food
2 cups (250 grams) whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup butter, softened (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 very ripe bananas
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup very firmly packed chopped dried apricots*
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan and line it with parchment paper, then butter and flour the parchment a bit. I usually just make a sling about the width of the pan for easy removal. Put the chopped apricots into a small bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside. Into another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Place butter, honey, almond extract, and banana in a food processor. Process for one minute, until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add egg and yogurt and process again until smooth. Add the flour mixture and process for about 15 seconds, until just combined. The mixture will look somewhat curdled. Stop the processor and scrape down the sides. Add apricots and process for about 5 seconds, just until the dates are distributed through the mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 70 to 80 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Wrap well in plastic wrap or in individual servings and store in the refrigerator. Because this bread is so moist, dense, and full of fruit, it will keep best chilled. Trust me, it’s a treat cold!
*I have an abundance of dried apricots at the moment, but any dried fruit would work. Try raisins, dates, craisins, or dried apple, even.
Don’t forget drinks! Insulated cups and ice can keep milk or water cold for many hours.
Protein shakes for the adults. While not ideal, the protein will satiate real hunger.
Cheese sticks or low-sugar yogurt cups. Again, not ideal. But very toddler friendly.
Cut up, cooked steak or chicken pieces.
Single serve guacamole.
Salad in a jar.
Have your own suggestions? I’d love to hear them!