Fresh Fruits and Veggies for Babies and Toddlers

We all know that the cost of baby food can add up. While the little jars of pureed fruits and veggies are convenient, there are healthier and more economic ways to get your baby or toddler to eat fresh fruits.

My kids are well past the baby stage, but it’s still important that they get their nutrients as toddlers! They love their fruit. During the warmer months, I try to get as much fresh fruit as I can. This past winter, I’ve been doing fresh clementines, apples, bananas, and even a few mangoes (my son will eat one or two whole mangoes if I let him), but I also have to get canned and frozen fruits. This spring I’m going to plant as many strawberry plants as I can fit into my hanging pots, and I’m hoping that our blueberry bushes and dwarf apple trees are surviving this freezing cold and snow-filled winter. If I had a greenhouse, I would try to grow my own bananas, mangoes, and avocados!

In any case, growing your own fruits and veggies definitely helps with health—both for your family and yourself! As long as you don’t use chemicals and non-organic products on your garden, of course. Growing your own produce reduces your carbon footprint, gets you outside to soak up Vitamin D, and can also help your wallet if you eat everything you grow.

If you don’t have the time, energy, nor space to grow your own, no biggie. There are still lots of ways to get your kids eating fresh instead of eating from a jar or pouch all the time.

Eating Fresh for Babies

Once you’re able to introduce solids other than rice cereal to your child, it’s tempting to try a variety of different things right away! However, you should only introduce a new food in intervals of 3-7 days (every 5 days would be a safe bet!). This is so you can detect any allergies that your child may experience with the newest food.

What foods should you start with?

You can do foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots, bananas, pears, and peaches. Bananas and peaches can be pureed with water or a bit of formula/breast milk; the sweet potatoes, carrots, and pears would have to be steamed or boiled before pureeing with a bit of liquid. You can move on to peas, apples, and other foods. Once your little one has gone through the foods you want him or her to be accustomed to, you can mix 2 or 3 fruits/veggies together.

While you shouldn’t add any extra salt or sugar to your homemade baby food, you can add spices and seasonings. For apples and bananas, for example, you can add a dash of cinnamon. For carrots, sweet potatoes, or squash, you can add a tiny bit of pepper, cumin, or even curry powder (which might be nice for your baby if you ate a lot of curry during your pregnancy). The one thing you should avoid is honey, because there is a risk of botulism for children under a year old.

Since fresh-made baby food doesn’t keep for very long, you can freeze it and warm it up in the microwave when you’re ready to use it. You can also freeze them in small popsicle molds, which is great for hot summer days or when your little one is teething.

The Ease of a Mesh Feeder

When I first had my kids, I had no idea what a mesh feeder was. Once I got them, however, it made a whole lot of sense! You can put ice cubes, frozen baby food (ice cube shape is best), or even frozen pieces of fruit inside the mesh. The mesh bag is fitted with a handle, so as long as your baby can grasp things, it should be fairly easy for your little one to try to feed him or her self with this.

These are moderately easy to clean. If there’s chunks of food left in the mesh, you turn the feeder inside out to remove any large pieces of food, and then just chuck the whole thing into the dishwasher. Baby may be a bit messy too, but that’s just the name of the game!

With how versatile this feeder is, I would imagine you could put in cubes of baked sweet potatoes (without the skin, cooled to room temperature) or small pieces of fresh fruit (remove skins beforehand if they could be a choking hazard).

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables for Toddlers

We don’t have any trouble getting our kids to eat fruits, although they do have their own preferences. My daughter loves blueberries and grapes, while my son steers away from them, instead preferring bananas, oranges, and strawberries. We do not let our children have juice every day, preferring to only give it to them if we’re eating out. However, I will gladly make them a smoothie if they ask. I use orange juice or soy milk (my husband and I are lactose intolerant) and whatever frozen fruits I may have. I sometimes add spinach leaves to get a nutritional boost and to sneak in a veggie!

Try, Try Again

Toddlers aren’t always going to want to eat their vegetables. Making it fun or making the vegetables look enticing is a good way to get them to at least try their vegetables. For instance, I’ve made spaghetti squash two times, and both times my kids have refused to eat it. Today, they saw spaghetti squash featured in my Burpee seed catalog; it was a photo of spaghetti squash “noodles” and sauce (and they kept saying “meatball” so maybe it had a meatball too). That photo made my daughter specifically request spaghetti squash. She actually ate some too!

Even if your child refuses to eat a certain food, keep presenting it to them. Find a really yummy-looking picture of that food and show it to your child, or entice your child by preparing the food in a different way. We actually got my son to eat a plain spinach leaf by saying that dinosaurs eat leaves, and that he should show us how dinosaurs eat. It may also be about texture. Some people like their broccoli a bit crispy, while others like their broccoli well done. Experiment and see what your child prefers!

Here’s a video of my son eating that spinach—the video is a year old and I can’t believe how much he’s grown! (Please forgive the mess in the video!)

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One of the things I’ve added to my already busy life this past year has been something that I never thought I would do…but it’s been extremely rewarding and I can’t imagine myself not doing it anymore! What is it? Vegetable gardening!

This past summer we had loads of spinach, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. It was my very first time gardening, and I’m sure I made tons of beginner’s mistakes. For example, we had gone off on vacation for a week and when I returned, all of my broccoli plants were eaten up by groundhogs! I also think I planted way too many spinach and cucumbers. As for the cherry tomatoes, they started to suffer from late blight because I wasn’t pruning and harvesting as often as I should have been.

Now, with the snow and the cold wintry weather, I’m yearning for the warmth of late spring and the days where I can earnestly work on my vegetable gardening outside. My itch to garden has been so bad, I often find myself browsing gardening supply websites, ordering seeds, and planning on what I’m going to do for my garden this upcoming year.

But first, here’s a montage of my gardening this past year!

Building a raised garden

My husband built the raised garden (according to Ree Drummond's instructions!) and we planted spinach seeds, broccoli seeds, and I transplanted in used bok choy stems

Spinach, Broccoli Plants

A lot of spinach and my broccoli plants (that did not survive...)

Harvested cucumbers and cherry tomatoes straight from the garden!

Harvested cucumbers and cherry tomatoes straight from the garden!


We grew sunflowers too!

Upcoming Garden Plans

Right now, my raised garden bed is covered in snow. We actually constructed cheap hoops using short pieces of rebar and PVC pipe, and I covered it in a row cover. I actually had to clip my row cover to the PVC pipe several times because it was so windy when I installed it! If I knew we (in Pennsylvania) were going to have this much snow this December, I would have bought at least 2 of these row covers.

Why? I actually still have vegetables in my garden! I have several baby bok choy plants that I had been snipping leaves off of before the frost and the snow (the bok choy just keeps growing and growing), some broccoli (since my summer season broccoli failed to groundhogs and subsequently cabbage loopers), and 2 strawberry plants that we just started this past year.

Hanging basket standI actually bought this 4-arm plant hanger so I could have even more strawberries, and I can move my existing strawberries out of the raised garden and into hanging baskets. My son and daughter both love fruit, so it makes sense to me to work towards having our own fruit supply. I also just bought cantaloupe seeds, so that will be another fruit we will hopefully have this upcoming year. Oh! We also bought 2 dwarf apple trees in the fall. I don’t know if they’ll produce this year, but it’s definitely something to look forward to.

As for vegetables? I’m planning on growing corn (the seed packet says this variety will grow up to 7′ tall! Taller than my husband!), a little bit of spinach, a slicing tomato, some green beans (using the 3 sisters method), some bok choy, and some carrots. I also have some kabocha squash seeds, but I hated cutting those (they have a skin that’s very hard). I do have some new green onion seeds that I would like to try, as the ones I planted last year didn’t germinate.

Although I absolutely love broccoli, I don’t think it’s viable for me to grow it. They take forever to grow, and I keep getting cabbage loopers (from the little white butterflies that fly around). Spinach grows fast, and I find myself buying spinach all the time to cook with eggs, pasta, and everything else, so I will definitely do 1 or 2 squares of spinach (as opposed to the 4 squares I did this past year).

I’m seriously thinking about doing sweet potatoes…I found the most perfect way to cook sweet potatoes in a skillet, and even my daughter likes it. Hmm, I may have to feed my daughter sweet potatoes all the time, especially if it helps with congestion (she’s been home sick all week).

Are you a vegetable gardener or are you thinking about gardening? What are you looking forward to doing once the weather warms up?

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