Maybe you have a toddler and a baby at home. Or your child’s nursery is closed and you are extra short on time. If that’s the case it’s good to know you don’t always need to reach for a complicated recipe, to make a nutritious meal. For babies, there are so many no-cook purees, for example mashed avocado and banana. You can also save time with vegetable prep, with some easy hacks. Cut a butternut squash in half, removes the seeds and brush with oil, cook it cut-side down for 40 minutes and then scoop out the squash. This will give you lots of portions, so divide them up and freeze them so they are easy to grab when you need them.
You may be finding it harder to get to the supermarket regularly or perhaps your local shop now has less fresh fruit and veg. Try not to panic and go frozen instead. When fruit and veg is frozen soon after picking, nutrients are locked in and this actually makes them a more nutritious option than those that have been sitting on a shelf for days.
If you are spending more time at home with your toddler or child, why not let them help you prepare food. Not only will you be teaching them a life skill, but there are so many lessons to be learned. Cooking together is great for bonding and improves hand-eye coordination and creativity. You’ll also be teaching counting and measuring, weights and time.
Many parents have been moving away from giving babies and toddlers finger foods during lockdown as they are worried about choking and needing medical help when services are stretched. But finger foods are important to help with hand eye coordination and to help your baby learn to chew and accept different textures. So, try not to be put off and follow safety advice instead. When you start weaning make sure finger foods are really soft, for example ripe banana, or very well steamed carrots. Stay away from choking hazards such as whole grapes or fruits with a stone. Always stay in the room with your child when they are eating and access a first aid course online if you don’t already have these important skills.
Your baby or toddler needs a source of iron twice a day. Low iron is the commonest nutritional deficiency in children aged 6 months to 2 years and this can lead to reduced immunity which we all want to avoid in current times. Iron is easily absorbed from a meat source, such as red meat or chicken thigh, which has twice as much iron as the breast. If you are struggling to get hold of meat right now, your store cupboard essentials are also a good option. Remember, that if you are using a plant source of iron, you need to add a vitamin C source to help unlock the iron. So, a daily menu could include a fortified breakfast cereal with strawberries for breakfast and a lentil puree with tomatoes for dinner.
The second critical nutrients are essential fatty acids, which are important for healthy brain and visual development. These should be given twice a week and the best source of this is oily fish such as Salmon. An easy way of achieving this is to prepare Annabel’s easy fish balls. Take a piece of salmon and cook it in the microwave for one minute. Then take some carrots and tomatoes and sauté them in a small amount of butter which will help release antioxidants. Mash the vegetables and fish together with some cheese and then either make into balls and freeze or blend into a puree. If you give these twice a week you can easily give your little one an abundant supply of these critical nutrients.
Babies and children who are not eating a varied diet and who are not getting enough sunlight are often deficient in vitamins A, C and D. There may be higher risk of this during lockdown, with less access to foods and longer parts of the day spent indoors. So do follow the Department of Health guidelines which advise all children aged 6 months to 5 years are given a supplement containing vitamins A, C and D daily, unless they drink over 500ml of formula milk, which is already fortified.
You know your child better than anyone and if you think something is not right, seek help. Annabel says ‘My first child Natasha died from a viral infection, I knew there was something wrong with her as a mum but I was told she was ok and five days later she died. I should have trusted my intuition more. Parents need to feel like they are the ones in control and remember that they know more than anyone, because they are the ones that spend every day with their child.’
As a parent you may feel there is so much pressure to get things right all the time, but remember, there isn’t always a right and you need to do what works for you. It’s also important to relax and enjoy the experience too.
If you would like some extra professional support during lockdown, Happy Parents. Happy Baby. are running free daily events on their Instagram for pregnancy and parenting @happyparents.happybaby. They are also still running their antenatal, parenting and first aid courses virtually at www.happyparentshappybaby.com.