Baby’s first feeding is a huge milestone. And while we know it’s fun and exciting, it’s also overwhelming and sometimes even nerve-wracking. It’s not always easy to create healthy, nutritious meals when we’re busy or distracted or simply trying to adjust to a picky palette. But, what your child eats during those first few months and years has the potential to impact him for his entire life.
Nobody knows this better than the founder of Happy Family Brands, Shazi Visram, who’s been helping moms provide healthy food for their babies for 10 years. “From the moment you conceive through your child’s second birthday is a vital period where everything you feed yourself and your child will ultimately shape their healthy eating habits,” she says. “Tastes develop in the womb and these seemingly small decisions will result in big outcomes for your child’s future.”
Shazi’s celebrating Happy Family’s 10th anniversary in a big way -- she just published The Happy Family Organic Superfoods Cookbook For Baby & Toddler, with more than 70 easy-to-prepare recipes made with wholesome and easy-to-find ingredients for children from 4 months and beyond, AND gave birth to her second baby, Asha (son, Zane is 6 years old).
Below, Shazi shares some insights on balancing her babies, business and book, and provides 3 easy recipes for your baby, no matter what his stage. Read along, then make your own baby feeding journey easier by winning a package of Happy Family baby & toddler food and Shazi's new cookbook here!
How's the juggle with Baby #2 going and when will she start eating solids?
It’s crazy but we’re excited to add to our family, Zane is loving being a big brother. We recommend starting at 6 months, but different babies have different timelines and some express an interest early and are developmentally ready to start sooner. It's really up to the parent, but they shouldn't be in a hurry to introduce solids, it should be from the baby's cues. Zane started at 6 months after starting to want to eat and was leaning in when he was near foods so we started with avocado. My guess is Asha will likely start around then with an egg yolk and freeze, or dried liver and then avocados..but we will see!
What prompted you to write a cookbook?
We want young families to embrace a life of health together and this begins in the kitchen. We want them to share and connect with food and get involved with the process of cooking with the family because it builds a lifetime of fun memories. However, if busy families don’t always have time to get in the kitchen, we offer a wide range of convenient and nutritious products for babies through adults.
What are some of your favorite baby "superfoods" when you're cooking for your own family?
For me, personally, I like to use salmon because of the healthy fats and omegas. Chia is great if you want a plant-based version. I'm always looking for more healthy fats!
What's your best piece of advice for a new mom starting her baby on solids?
This will be a developmental period for you and your child, but it will be an enjoyable one. Babies will let you know when they are ready by leaning in and showing an interest in food. Try one item at a time over a few day or a week and go slow! I know it’s fun to see your baby make progress but don’t push it! Start with a veggie or a protein like egg yolk to not, start with sweet fruits…and you can use breast milk mixed in to make the first bites easy to accept!
4+Months: STEAMED VEGETABLE PUREES
CHOOSE ANY ONE VEGETABLE OPTION:
10–12 green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 small to medium zucchini or yellow summer squash, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 11/2 cups)
4 medium carrots, peeled or unpeeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
4–5 cups chopped Swiss chard (leaves coarsely chopped, stalks finely chopped; see Note)
Breast milk or formula, as needed 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
MAKES ABOUT 1 1/2 CUPS
1. Fill a pot with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Put the vegetables in a steamer basket and place in the pot. Cover and steam until tender, about 7 minutes for green beans and zucchini, 8 minutes for carrots, and 3–5 minutes for chard. Remove the steamer basket and let
the vegetables cool. Reserve the steaming liquid.
2. Working with one vegetable at a time, transfer the vegetables to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Add the reserved steaming liquid or breast milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed to thin the puree; it should pour easily and have a consistency slightly thicker than heavy cream. Blend in the butter until melted.
3. Serve immediately. To store, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days, or freeze in individual portions (see page 16) for up to 3 months.
Note: It’s best to wait until baby is at least six months old to introduce dark leafy greens so she can digest them. But when you start, don’t overlook Swiss chard. It’s just as nutritious as kale and spinach. It’s part of the beet family and has vitamins A and C, as well as magnesium, potassium, and iron. Select red Swiss chard or rainbow chard, which are sweeter than the white-stalked variety.
6+months: CARROT -CINNAMON BROWN RICE WITH YOGURT
Stimulate your baby’s senses with this sweet, lightly spiced puree. It boasts beta-carotene, protein, fiber, and vitamin B6, as well as the calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium that are beneficial for growth and the formation of bones. Both cinnamon and cumin give baby a taste of something unique.
Spices like cinnamon help expand your baby’s palate.
3 carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
MAKES 1 1/4 CUPS
1. Fill a pot with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Distribute the carrots in a steamer basket and place in the pot. Cover and steam until tender, 8–10 minutes. Remove the steamer basket from the pot and let the carrots cool.
2. In a food processor or blender, combine the carrots, rice, yogurt, raisins, cinnamon, and cumin. Puree until smooth or until the desired consistency is achieved.
3. Serve immediately. To store, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Switch it Up: If your child is dairy-free, use an unsweetened Greek-style coconut yogurt in place of regular yogurt. Naturally lactose-free, it complements the flavor profile and provides healthy fats and B vitamins.
12+ months: CARROT & SPINACH MEATBALLS
Give the classic meatball a nourishing makeover! There’s no picking around the veggies here, since the carrots and spinach are mixed into the meat. Ground turkey is a lower-fat alternative to beef, and the veggies enhance the meatballs’ beneficial nutritional profile. This dish also includes fat-soluble vitamins A and K for eye health, immunity, and blood clotting.
1 lb ground turkey
2 large carrots, peeled and shredded (about 1 cup)
1 lb frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup bread crumbs
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
11/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/ 1 2 teaspoons dried dill
Salt and pepper (optional)
MAKES ABOUT 40 MEATBALLS
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
2. In a large bowl, combine the turkey, carrots, spinach, cheese, bread crumbs, eggs, oregano, dill, and a pinch each of salt and pepper, if using. Mix with your hands until well combined.
3. Form about 2 tablespoons of the turkey mixture into a 1-inch ball and set it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining turkey mixture to form about 40 meatballs. Bake the meatballs, turning once halfway through baking, until golden brown, 20–24 minutes total. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or freeze for up to 4 months.
Switch it Up: Meatballs can be served on their own with a favorite sauce or with pasta of your choice. Make the dish gluten-free by using gluten-free bread crumbs.