Standing in front of the fridge daily wondering what to pack your kids for lunch? Do you have a baby ready to start solids? Head straight over to Baby Food Ideas on Instagram and get inspired to create simple food ideas from blogger and mom, Alyssa. She shares meat and dairy free, plant based food ideas for children at the weaning stage and older on IG and on her blog, Baby Food Ideas. Alyssa’s vibrant meals give us baby food goals, and in her Living Well In Motherhood interview, she shares her easy advice for making our own homemade food for all our children.
Tell us about yourself, and your family.
My name is Alyssa Curvan-Malaba. I was born in Montreal, Quebec to parents who are originally from Barbados and Trinidad. I speak both French and English. I studied communications and photography in college, and then got my Bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in professional writing at Concordia University in Canada. I am a happily married mother of three children, ages (almost) two, (almost) four, and six years old. Together we live in Ontario, Canada, where we enjoy life in a quiet neighbourhood.
What do you find the most challenging aspect of being a mother?
I find almost everything about motherhood to be challenging. The reason it doesn’t come with a manual is because there are numerous ways to approach it, and many of these ways are neither worse, nor better than the other. There are different ways to wean, teach, and nurture our children.
The results of each path taken can vary, based on the personalities in the home alone. It truly is a learning experience, and I think the best parents out there, are the ones that are self aware enough to admit that they do not have all the answers, and are less than perfect.
Most of us are doing our best to raise our children to make good choices, to be healthy and do be kind to others. That’s really all we can ask for, is that we try our best.
If I have to pick one thing that I struggle with the most, it would definitely be my inability to juggle multiple tasks. I get overwhelmed at time, and end up putting certain things on the back burner. I fail to remember that with good time management, we can indeed get everything done in a timely fashion.
You’re an advocate and source of great recipes for babies who are weaning, what are some of the lesser known benefits of homemade baby food?
The obvious benefits would be that homemade baby food is cheaper and healthier than store bought (even if they say organic/non GMO!). A lesser known benefit would have to be the impact that store bought food for babies has on the environment. Whether they are put in jars, pouches or tubes, they could all be eliminated if we just made it ourselves.
Do you have any time saving tricks to manage the baby food prep? What tools/products make your must-have list for making baby food?
My biggest time saving trick would be to plan in advance. Of course preparing and freezing food makes life easier, but planning the ingredients in advance helps a lot too. With that said, I never did this! I tend to feed the kids what I eat. So whatever we have in the fridge is usually what their food will be made from for the most part.
I adore reusable feeding pouches, but I understand that families are often intimidated by the whole concept of preparing food for their children themselves. So instead of listing a set of products that could break a budget, I’ll go the other way, and say that my absolute must-have items for homemade baby food are a fork (for hand mashing), and a blender to break down thicker food.
What advice would you give to a mom on the fence about making their own baby food?
We all want what’s best for our children. At the same time, in this day and age, as parents we have a number of duties besides parenthood that need to be done. Some of us work, have household duties etc. I completely understand what it’s like to feel like there’s just no extra time for preparing food.
My words of encouragement would be to remember that homemade baby food does not need to take lots of time to prepare. Most of my recipes require no cooking at all, and are great for the whole family. The other point would be the fact that although store bought food products are convenient, regardless of the ingredients, nothing beats homemade. There are no recalls on food made at home from real ingredients, no added chemicals to keep it edible while it sits on a shelf for weeks at a time.
It’s very important to pay attention to what we put into our children’s bodies, as it has a huge influence on their state of health later on in life.
When you are travelling or on the go, do you still make your own baby food? What are your tips for making this happen? If you don’t, what do you do instead?
I have never fed factory made baby food products to any of our children. I didn’t know much about making it at home, but I knew early on that it was something I did not want to do.
As a teenager, I loved banana flavoured jarred puree. So I sometimes bought it just for fun. In my adult life, as my taste buds became more accustomed to fresh produce, I realized that jar food tastes nothing like real food. It was an eye opener.
So when we travel, again, the kids eat what I eat.
Children are ready to wean when they show interest and show their ability to chew (with their gums or teeth if they have any), so purees are an option, but finger foods work just as well. If for example, I am at a restaurant, and there are no sweet potatoes, banana or avocado on the menu, I can easily cut up some grapes, apple or whatever they have available.
Keep in mind that when traveling, if you are able to bring fresh produce with you, that’s a great backup plan. You can pop a smoothie into a water bottle to feed baby with, or bring some mashed fruit along easily. It can be done!
Will you share a favourite recipe with us?
It’s really hard to select a favourite. I love combos that combine both fruits and greens. One that I really enjoy has to be the Avocado, Dates, Baby Spinach and Banana combo. It always comes out so nice and creamy, thanks to the avocado. (Explore all of Alyssa’s recipes, there are so good!)
Has there ever been a combination of food that you thought would be pleasing but ended up being a fail?
My go-to ingredient is usually bananas, but I once had a follower on Instagram who told me her child was allergic to them, so I had explored combos that did not include banana. I remember experimenting with ingredients, and I had made one that included grapefruit. It tasted horrible and I just couldn’t save it. I ended up throwing it away.
Not only do you make baby food, you create vibrant, healthy toddler lunch box meals. Without meat and dairy, how do you keep the meals interesting, ensuring kids get what they need? Do you have any go-to resources? Do you experiment?
I am so grateful to live in an age where information is right at my fingertips. I simply searched for plant based sources of calcium and protein, and was able to find a beautiful variety of sources that promote health in both children and adults.
Although their lunches consist of mostly fruits (their preference), I do usually include reusable pouches with smoothie combos that include ingredients like raw collard greens and hemp seeds (calcium) and flax seeds or chia seeds (protein). Nuts we only have at home, as we are not permitted to have those at school due to allergies.
Does making your own baby food/fresh food recipes get expensive? Any tips to reduce the expense?
Not expensive at all. The key is to allow the kids to eat what you eat (provided that it’s reasonably healthy enough for their little tummies). If I’m snacking on a banana, baby can have one too. If I’m having an apple, I can thinly slice one up for baby, or puree it quickly.
The only difference is that I have to purchase a higher quantity to feed an extra mouth, but it is still a lot cheaper than factory made food. Some food lasts longer than others. Bananas are fairly cheap and can be purchased, peeled and frozen for a later date. Berries can be bought frozen and last a lot longer than fresh. Sweet potatoes fill us up easily. There are are a number of fresh produce that allow you to get more for your buck.
What’s currently on your nightstand?
Currently I only have a light. I do sometimes have a banana on it overnight. The reason for this is that baby likes to wake up early. Food keeps her quiet, and I really value keeping my eyes closed for an extra few minutes! I am not ashamed of this in the slightest. 😊
What does it mean to you to live well in motherhood?
The definition of living well depends on the person in question. For me it means to be as healthy as I can, and to promote such a lifestyle to the kids. I am not perfect, but it’s a constant learning experience and we are enjoying this journey to a better understanding of our bodies and what we need for nourishment. One thing I need to do is focus on fitness. This is definitely my weak spot! I hate running and I don’t work out. I hope to change this soon, so that I can encourage the children to include fitness routines into their daily lives as well.