Like many women today, I was one of those working “new” moms who felt the need to purchase, boil, puree, freeze and serve my own organic baby foods. While that loving chore was fun and rewarding, it was also a lot of work, and not something any family challenged by cancer would feel up to doing. By the time my second child came along, I realized that it really wasn’t necessary to go to these lengths to provide her with healthy food. I discovered a way to feed her that didn’t need either a lot of time or energy, a possible boon especially for those in treatment.
By the time a baby is reaching for food, he or she will know what to do when you give them their own. They love to grasp, feel and taste food, even if they don’t appear to be eating much. Even toothless gums are surprisingly strong and can “chew” soft foods, and experimenting with textures is a wonderful way to expose them to new foods. Be prepared: These culinary “teachable moments” will be messy, but letting your child navigate through mealtimes will more than justify a little cleaning up.
Of course, it’s best to follow your pediatrician’s advice about which foods to introduce and which to avoid, always being mindful of allergies and choking hazards. As foods are added, keep a list, and soon you will have a “menu” of quick, healthy, easy foods that you can feel good about your baby eating. And if you’re feeling exhausted because of treatment, letting a child literally take a hand in his or her own feeding can be a small but welcome break.
Here are a few foods that usually work well:
- Peel a banana halfway and cut away the peel at that point, leaving half for the child to hold onto.
- Spread mashed avocado on soft bread cubes.
- Frozen, thawed blueberries or raspberries are nice and soft. Cut in half if they’re too large. Obviously, fresh organic berries are even better.
- Black beans such as black, white, or pinto beans can be squeezed or pulped to soften them a bit.
- Tofu strips are firm for easy holding but easy to chew.
- Stalks of soft cooked carrots are easy to pick up and hold.
Bridget Bennett is an Oncology Nutritionist (and Mom) at Continuum Cancer Centers of NYC
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