There’s a longstanding belief that children don’t like veg – but their food journey can be made much easier with vegetable-led weaning, which helps them enjoy healthy eating habits from the start.
According to organic baby food experts Babease, studies have shown that babies who eat a wide variety of vegetables during this phase go on eat more in later childhood than those that don’t.
Introducing solids is known as complementary feeding or weaning, and it is the introduction of foods which complement your baby’s usual milk – rather than replacing it.
“Your little one’s palate is like a blank canvas and is easily shaped by each new taste experience. During the first year of life babies are receptive to all five basic tastes to differing degrees, preferring those that are sweet or salty,” say Babease.
Parents can often struggle with how to introduce new flavours, but may be surprised that their little ones can enjoy a much wider range of tastes than they thought.
“It’s really important to start with vegetables in as much variety as you can manage. Introducing the more bitter tasting vegetables such as broccoli or kale may need more perseverance than the easily accepted sweet tasting vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potato, or fruits such banana and mango but it is definitely worth the extra effort.”
Choosing organic also makes a huge difference in terms of flavour – plus there are no synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers.
As babies get older, instead of juggling different dishes for everyone, using a veg box as the basis for meals can lead to a fresh approach to cooking that’s both simpler and healthier.
Here are three easy recipes devised by Babease using Riverford’s organic veg that that the whole family can enjoy together.
Serves two adults and two children, from around seven months
175g risotto rice
1 small courgette
2 carrots peeled
400ml homemade or no salt stock
A knob of butter
To make the stock, pop all your veg trimmings into a pan of water and bring it to a simmer. Leave to simmer while you chop up the veg and start the risotto.
Dice all the vegetables, cut the corn off the cob and put them all into a saucepan with a glug of olive oil and cook gently for 8-10 minutes, before adding in the risotto rice and stirring.
Add in the vegetable stock, a ladle at time, stirring well and adding more stock as it absorbs. Once the rice is nice and soft, add in a good knob of butter.
Serve just like that or with a grating of cheddar or parmesan cheese.
Tip: Make plenty of stock with all your veg trimmings from the veg box. Freeze any leftover in an ice cube tray; it is full of vitamins and minerals and is a super way of adding flavour to your baby’s dishes.
Apple and vegetable tray bake
From around ten months old, your little one will be eating more and working their way towards three solid meals a day, so this recipe has bigger bites and more complex flavours with additional spices and herbs, perfect for growing foodies.
Serves 2 adults and 2 children, from 10 months
1 squash, peeled
2 courgettes, cut into chunky rounds
1 fennel, sliced and diced
3 carrots, peeled and cut into fingers
2 apples, peeled and cut into wedges
200ml stock, homemade or no salt
2 sprigs of fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, mint)
Dice the squash and cut the potatoes into halves or quarters, depending on their size.
Put everything onto a roasting tray with a glug of olive oil and some vegetable stock.
Give everything a good toss, then top with herbs and pop into a preheated 180 degrees oven for 25-30 minutes.
Tip: For a meaty version, sausages, pork chops or chicken breasts are great additions. Place on top of the veg before putting in the oven.
Organic September crumble
Pouch of Babease yoghurt with peach, rhubarb and oats to serve
Peel and dice your apples and pears into small cubes, then sweat them gently in a saucepan with half a cup of water and the lid on. They will take around 5 minutes to go soft.
Once soft, tip them into a baking tray. Next, make the crumble topping by rubbing the oats and butter together with your fingers, then spread over the top of the fruit.
Cook in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 10 minutes. Serve with a spoonful of the yoghurt breakfast pouch.
Tip: For adventurous eaters, add nuts or seeds to the oaty crumble and a few spices to the fruit, such as cinnamon or mixed spice. The crumble topping is a great recipe for getting your little ones involved with cooking, so give them a bowl and let them squidge the ingredients.