Meal planning for 1.5 people
July 14, 2017 6:01 PM   Subscribe

Now that baby is on solids and needs to learn how to eat healthy food, I find myself looking at my own diet and realizing it is lacking. I need to cook better for myself too, and ideally in a way so that he's eating what I eat. Special snowflake details inside.

So, the main issues are as follows:

1) I rely heavily on convenience foods because solo new mom. And because I've found food preparation, which all its messiness and time consumingness and dishwashing to very overwhelming. I need easy, but I need healthy too. I think so,e of my food sensitives are a result of undeclared ingredients in packaged food and I don't want baby going down that road.

2) Competing dietary needs. For example, we are waiting on testing for him for a suspected peanut reaction. I can eat peanuts just fine. I am allergic to avocado however, which I know is a great food for babies. I actually had a contact reaction last week just from preparing his. I hate wasting food, and knowing he will eat a quarter of the expensive avocado but I cannot finish it bothers me a little.

3) Portions. I try and eat leftovers for lunches the next day. I'm not sure how to factor in his portion. If I make two servings, he'll eat some of it but not a whole serving, and that's fine but then I have no leftovers. If I make four servings, he'll eat some, and I'll have two full servings for me and then a weird quasi-serving of his unfinished half. What do I do with this food?

Ideally I'd like a rotation where the ingredients vary by day (this minimizes my food sensitivities). So, a chicken day, then a lentil day or whatever. My main criteria though is that I want healthy, less processed food we can both eat together so I'm not cooking separately for him. Where can I start?
posted by ficbot to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
When it comes to protein, would you consider using hard boiled eggs for convenience? One can hard boil them pretty easily -- cover with water in a pot, bring the pot to the beginning of a boil, remove from heat, cover, let sit for (in my case) fifteen minutes if one wants the yolks hard -- and they can be eaten alongside, basically, whatever suits one's needs if one does not want to make egg salad sandwiches or use them as part of a tossed salad or whatever.

I'm not sure how long their refrigerator life is, but I shell mine right after they're done (after chilling them in ice water) and have taken several days to finish off a batch in at least fifty repetitions without getting sick.

I know that this doesn't address the more complicated issue at hand, but convenience has its place.
posted by mr. digits at 6:21 PM on July 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

There's lots of things babies can eat that aren't peanuts and avocados. He can eat the same things you do, if they're not highly spiced. So if you're making chicken, make some of it without salt and pepper, then grind it up (unless he's past that stage). Same for vegetables, fruit, pastas, breads, everything.

The only real rule is, small enough he can chew/not choke and not full of things he's not ready for, like jalapenos.

Mine hated meat (and nuts, and eggs) for a few years, so he ate a fair amount of pasta with cheese for protein until he got ok with other kinds of protein. That's mostly what you have to do, strike a reasonable balance of protein, fat, carbs, nutrients, and avoid sugar/processed stuff.

As far as portions go, don't worry about "how much"'s going to change! His preferences will change, the portions will change, within the next year. Just guesstimate and don't worry when you're wrong about it. If you have a few half-finished things in your fridge at the end of the week, you can reheat them and serve them on the weekend. Or throw them into a stew and say the heck with it.

(Oh by the way, just saw a story today that powedered mac n' cheese mix has been found to be full of pthalates, so if you do mac n' cheese do homemade).
posted by emjaybee at 6:29 PM on July 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Just a tip on avocado: you can buy frozen halves, and you can buy frozen mash with no additional ingredients, at least in decent markets in the US. Or don't bother with them right now, you're really busy. Ditto peanuts, maybe just do without for a while.

And you can freeze leftover portions or partial portions, either for you or for him or both. My rule of thumb for all cooking is: if I'm turning on an appliance, I better get at least three partial mealtimes covered. So if you cook lentils or chicken or meatloaf or pretty much anything except fish which is sort of gross reheated, cook more than two portions. If you'll eat it again within 3 days or so, it goes in the fridge, otherwise put it in the freezer. Embrace grazing meals, much like toddlers tend to anyway; it's not required that you prepare a three-course plated meal every night. If dinner one or two nights a week is Random Plate Surprise made of up the odds and ends of previous meals, there's nothing wrong with that. If half the meal is microwave-steamed vegetables, that's fine.

Don't cook things he can't/won't eat, for now, or at least if you're augmenting for yourself keep it simple.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:33 PM on July 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Convenience food aren't always bad, and often are single ingredient.

- frozen chicken breast
- frozen vegetables
- precut vegetables
-precut fruit.
- canned beans (low sodium)
- heat and eat rice
- fresh pasta

Your freezer should be well in use. Cook for 4. Freeze what you don't use.

And in my mind, my best piece of advice. Start a timer and cook. Something easy but that you think is long and involved..(butternut squash soup is a suggestion). You can get a pot on in 10 minutes, and eat in 30. 10 minutes for fresh soup. Quicker if you buy the precut vegetables.

A lot of people think cooking is hard and time consuming. Set a timer to see long something actually takes rather than how long it feels it takes.

When I had my babies,my husband cooked. Baked chicken breast, new potatoes, green beans. Super easy, low prep meal. It's good and healthy. We forget that is doesn't have to be complicated.
posted by Ftsqg at 6:44 PM on July 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

This is just a single cooking-free dish, but I'm guessing it may be acceptable for lactose-tolerant babypersons? Pomegranate molasses is something you can get in stores that carry products used in many Middle Eastern cuisines, though despite the name it isn't produced from sugarcane at all, just pomegranates. I've found I really like it on cottage cheese. The flavor combination would probably be good on top of a salad too.
posted by XMLicious at 6:44 PM on July 14, 2017

I got heavily into The Art of the Casserole back then. You can pack everything you both need into one. Also sweet potatoes, crab cakes, frittatas, quiches, spaghetti squash, bacon, more bacon, bean thread noodle stir frys, garlic mashed potatoes, cheese plates with fruit. I didn't mind eating that way at all.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:50 PM on July 14, 2017

Not clear if he's on finger foods or purees, but some ideas:

Beef stew was a bit hit with my toddler--basically broth with very mushy carrots and potatoes and onions and celery (I got all the chunks of meat). I cook that in the slow cooker, which is the best--I love not having to cook at dinner time.

Potato leek soup is super easy and best served cool, so another great make-ahead.

Hummus feast, as we call it--hummus, pita, veggies to dip in it, maybe some feta. He can eat whatever parts of it fit his swallowing needs. (If his peanut allergy prohibits hummus, as I believe some do, make it with white beans).

Breakfast for dinner is a favorite easy meal for me--scrambled eggs or an omelet, with sliced tomatoes on the side (and any veggies you want to put in it; basil or spinach is good).

Roasted vegetables (eggplant, onion, and pepper is my favorite combo) then pureed with a little olive oil makes a delicious and baby-friendly dip; add a little cheese for some protein, dip bread in it.

I agree with Lyn Never that it's okay if meals are just random healthy foods on a plate, and that the freezer is going to be a huge help, lunch and dinner-wise.

I have a lot of trouble when I try to cook based on what makes me feel like I "cooked" something. Planning ahead and eating leftovers saves me a lot of the brainspace that is the most frustrating part of cooking for me.

Good luck.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:51 PM on July 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Invest in some of these to portion out meals for the kid. We have two young children and leftovers end up in these to be used later in the week or frozen (or sent to daycare).

Embrace grazing! Kids love to eat a little of everything, you can just feed the kid off your own plate without altering portions too much and supplement with fruit/veggies/cheese/yogurt/whatever.
posted by lydhre at 8:07 PM on July 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here's a few super easy things that my baby loves.

Cooked peas
Deconstructed minestrone
Greek yogurt
Cottage cheese
Sweet potato
Tiny pieces of dried fruit (I break raisins and dried cranberries in half.)

You can buy steamer bags of pre-cut veggies. Microwave them and serve small pieces of the veggies to your kiddo. Softened cooked veggies in bite-size pieces will be ok if he or she has teeth. Otherwise a food mill or a masher is an easy solution.

Some relevant tips:
Shredded cheese spread out within their reach is a great way to entertain the kid while you actually eat.

Ditto for giving them a giant food item they can't possibly eat, if you do so safely. I managed to finish my minestrone while solo traveling by giving my baby a bread stick to "eat." You have to monitor and take it away when it gets soggy.

Invest in a silicone place mat. I have one for the road and one in the same color for the house. It sticks fairly well to the table with some moisture and your child gets used to using that space to eat. It saves me the trouble of sanitizing the table in public and is a nice "plate" as I bought one with dividers. My kiddo enjoys hunting food out of the different compartments so it is good motor skill development too.

If you're feeding lots of cheese, purchase some prunes and feed small pieces to your child also.
posted by crunchy potato at 8:09 PM on July 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

There is a wonderful site called that offers exactly this, healthy food for babies and toddlers that can also feed adults (in some cases they give the same version of the meal in toddler, baby and adult styles but in most cases the one meal serves all.) The recipes are tried and tested for children's palates so they generally work, plus they are designed by a dietician. There is also an app, book and magazine if you want to go either of those routes. Oh, and my friend is the author but I would recommend them regardless, I used these ideas so much when my kids were very young.
posted by Jubey at 9:37 PM on July 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

Regarding the avocado, if you really want baby to have some but can't get through a whole avocado and don't want to have a reaction, you could buy guacamole, and spread it on toast, like a jam. Kids don't know that's weird. :) Cut the toast into several vertical "fingers" -- babies can eat those fairly early in the finger food experience. We used up all our extra baby purees as spreads on toast fingers -- carrots, apricots, whatever, they don't know the difference! Hummus on toast is a complete protein and my kids loved the shit out of that.

You could also sometimes do things like make two servings, one for you and half of one for baby; then baby has the other half the next day and you have something not-baby-friendly like a sandwich, or a big salad. Or make four servings, three for you, two halves for him, and for his third meal he gets hummus on toast while you have the third leftover. Etc. You can have a few super-easy meals that are adult-only or kid-only that you use to even out the portions like that. Alternative, adjust the portions a bit so that you make two-and-a-bit. Or make two and take a tiny bit out of each portion so you have a 7/8 portion and a 7/8 portion for you (for dinner and leftover lunch) and 1/4 portion for him for dinner. Very few recipes are really strict about portions being un-breakdown-able.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:18 PM on July 15, 2017

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