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Eating Wisely

Feeding the Whole Family

Michelle Brode
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 16 No. 6 November-December 1999 pp. 211-12

La Leche League is a wonderful place to get information about all aspects of parenting. Group Libraries provide a variety of books on a variety of topics. The LLLI Book Evaluation Committee is continually adding books to the LLLI Bibliography and LLL Groups choose which of those books will best meet the needs of their members.

A recent addition to the LLLI Bibliography, a cookbook called Feeding the Whole Family, by Cynthia Lair, caught my attention. I love cookbooks and this is a great one, with recipes to please a broad audience. There are vegetarian recipes, fish and chicken recipes, desserts, breakfasts, and lots of stuff for children. I have been feeding my family out of this book for a while and everything we have tried has been a success: fast, healthful, tasty, and appealing to children. This is just about the perfect cookbook.

This book is family-oriented because each recipe can be adjusted for adults, babies, or older children with just a little extra effort from the cook. Each recipe includes hints explaining how to change the food or what to put aside to accommodate different family members. Here is an interview with Cynthia Lair, followed by some of the fantastic recipes from her book.

EW. Why did you write this book?

CL: Because I wanted to make fresh homemade food for my baby but I didn't want to make another whole meal. I thought, "This stuff I am eating is pretty good." So I got the idea to adapt my everyday recipes for my baby.

EW. Define whole foods.

CL: A helpful definition is "food that has only one ingredient ... itself." A food that is as close to the way that nature provides it as possible. Always seek out the best quality of any whole food.

EW. Why should we feed our children whole foods we cook at home?

CL: There is a world of difference between something made in a factory and something made by someone who loves you. Children who sit down and eat with their families usually eat foods that are more dense in nutrients and the foods they eat have more variety. If you care enough to give your children the best nutrition you can from your breast, it's a natural continuation to offer the best foods you can once they start eating solid foods.

EW. What is important to remember about the transitions to solids?

CL: It is important to remember why we are making the transition to solids. Most La Leche League members know that it is not necessary to feed babies solid food in the early months because the nutrients all come from breast milk. Some people hope that their babies will sleep through the night if they eat solids, but that is a fallacy. What we are doing when we start solids is teaching babies how to eat with the rest of the family. You are also training their taste buds. So if you feed them good whole foods that the rest of the family is eating, you teach them to enjoy good food and to enjoy mealtime. This may help to teach them to eat a wide variety of foods. Nowhere is it written that babies need to eat bland food. They will develop a taste for what you give them.

EW. What else would you like to tell nursing moms that is important as their children start eating solid food?

CL: It is good to remember that nursing babies fed on demand have complete control over what they eat and when. They can have particular tastes when they start solid foods. You need to set up your kitchen so that they can eat when they need to without creating so much work for you. It is good if they can sit at the table and eat what you eat with you. That is what Feeding the Whole Family is for.

The following are some recipes from Cynthia Lair's book. She recommends these recipes as her current favorites. Some of the ingredients may be unfamiliar but all are available in natural foods stores or in the health food section of larger mainstream grocery stores.

Creamy Broccoli Soup

1 or 2 large stems of broccoli with flowerets
1 t. extra-virgin olive oil
4 C. chopped onions
1/2 t. sea salt
1 t. coriander
2 C. diced potatoes
1/2 C. chopped celery
3 1/2 to 4 C. water
2 T. cashew butter sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Cut off the broccoli flowerets, cut into bite-sized pieces and reserve. Peel the broccoli stems and dice into small pieces. Heat oil in a 3-quart pot. Add onions, salt, and coriander. Cover the pot and simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions cook down to a nice mush (15 to 20 minutes). Add the broccoli stem pieces, potatoes, celery, and water to the onion mush; cover and simmer until the potatoes are soft (15 to 20 minutes). Put the soup mixture in a blender with cashew butter and blend until smooth. Run the soup through a strainer to remove celery strings.

Bring a pan of water to a boil. Drop in the broccoli flowerets and let them cook about 30 seconds. Stir blanched flowerets into finished soup. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Makes 6 servings

For babies 6 months and older: Reserve some blanched broccoli flowerets and puree with a few slices of ripe avocado.

For babies 10 months and older: Reserve a portion of pureed soup for baby before adding the blanched flowerets.

Tempeh Tacos

1 pound tempeh (2 8-oz packages)
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
3 T. tamari 1/4 C. lime juice
1 T. chili powder or Mexican seasoning
1 onion chopped
1/4 C. chopped cilantro
12 taco shells

Optional taco fixings

  • Shredded lettuce
  • Sprouts Salsa
  • Feta cheese
  • Avocado slices

Crumble or chop tempeh into small pieces and place in a mixing bowl. Combine 1 tablespoon of the oil, the tamari, the lime juice, and the chili powder in a small bowl and pour this marinade over the tempeh. Let stand 10 to 30 minutes. The longer time allows more absorption of the flavor.

Heat the other tablespoon of oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and saute until soft. Add the marinated tempeh and keep mixture moving in the pan until tempeh turns golden brown. Add chopped cilantro just prior to serving. Warm taco shells according to directions on package. Fill taco shells with tempeh mixture and your favorite fixings.

Preparation time: 30 minutes to marinate, 5 minutes to assemble tacos.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

For babies 6 months and older: Serve tacos with ripe avocado slices and reserve some of the avocado for the baby. Puree or mash well and serve.

Brown Rice Krispy Treats

1 t. unrefined sesame oil
1 C. brown rice syrup
2 T. almond butter or tahini
2 t. vanilla extract
6 C. dry natural brown rice crispy cereal

Optional additions:

  • 1/2 C. peanuts (omit if there is family history of allergy to peanuts)
  • 1/2 C. raisins or currants
  • 1/2 C. unsweetened carob chips
  • 1/2 C. chopped almonds

Put oil in a large pot and heat. Add rice syrup and nut butter. Stir and heat until bubbles form. Turn off heat and add vanilla extract. Add cereal and mix well. Stir in optional items and mix lightly. Put mixture into a 9 x 13 pan. With slightly wet hands, press mixture flat. Let set to room temperature. Slice and serve. Lasts a week in an airtight container.

Preparation time: 5 to 8 minutes

Makes 24 squares.

Recipes reprinted by permission from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Moon Smile Press,1998).

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