Real Parents, Real Meals

Today we are launching our series on Real Parents Real Meals. In these posts, we talk to busy families about their food routines and time-saving tricks. We’re kicking off the series with our very own Dr. Maria. What does she feed her toddler?

Maria & Zayn

Maria is a pediatrician with a background in public health. Maria knows the rules around nutrition, and those who know her might say she is a perfectionist! Maria used to give a lot of advice to her patients that backfired with her own son. Here are some of her favorites:

  • No food during tantrums
  • No sweets until the child is 1 year old
  • Start with vegetables
  • Your baby will eat anything

Being a parent has changed her view on food. Can you relate? Now that Maria is a mom, she talks to parents differently about food. For example, her son hated the first 10 things she gave him. Zayn had preferences, and he let her know about them.

Here is what Maria says now:

  • Don’t label foods as “good” and “bad.” Making some foods off limits creates perverse incentives–your kids will just want them more. Sometimes my instinct is “that is bad so he can’t” but then I realize it’s OK in moderation! It’s better for your kids to try cookies and chips, so nothing is out of reach. We don’t restrict any types of food. All food is food.
  • Safe and Unsafe works! For my patients with food allergies we talk about “safe” and “unsafe” foods and the advice above still can work, but with that extra vigilance we know food allergy parents must have. Foublie’s food allergy basics goes into this a bit, check it out here.
  • Make food taste great! We want healthy foods, but don’t lose sight of flavor too. I try to make things taste delicious because who wants to eat boiled and mashed broccoli? It’s OK to use salt, butter and spices. Zayn started to eat more kinds of foods when I added spices and started giving him things I was eating.
  • No Juice. This is actually the only recommendation that did not change after Zayn was born. Juice is called empty calories because it is mostly sugar and highly processed. Try water instead.
  • Eat together. We keep meals low key but we try to eat together when we can. If not everyone eats, we do sit together and chat.
  • Make mealtime fun. I don’t pressure him to eat things he doesn’t want to eat.
  • Take a breath. When Zayn doesn’t like something he throws it across the room. Deep breathing gets me through.
  • One meal for everyone. Kids do better when they get introduced to all foods, not just the healthy foods. We all eat the same thing, which helps with balance and variety. I am Latino and my husband is Arabic. Our son doesn’t like things plain. He won’t eat french  fries which I think is so weird. He hates white rice. He needs rice and beans. Check out my rice and bean recipe below!

Make life easier with base foods you make ahead of time.

Maria makes a lot of rice and beans. Zayn loves it, and it is comfort food for Maria! Did we mention, it’s easy? Talk about a win-win-win. She makes a pot of beans every Monday and uses  them through the week. Here is her favorite recipe, but she uses the beans all week

For the beans

Modified this from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 teaspoons of pre-cut garlic
  • 1 Tbs cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 12 1/2 cups dried black beans. *I don’t soak them, but I rinse them.  
  • 1 dried whole ancho chile
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • Freshly ground salt (I say 10 turns on the grinder)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (10 turns on the grinder)
  • 8 cups vegetable stock

Put all of this into a slow cooker or instant pot.

Instapot: Run the bean function 2 times

Slow cooker: 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low (do what time fits you best)

For the rice: I just buy instant rice and make it as directed. I make about 2 cups at a time.

Maria & Zayn’s Rice & Beans

  1. Make the beans
  2. Make rice
  3. Fire up a pan and add a little bit of canola oil
  4. Add the bean and warm them up.
  5. Add the rice.

You want a 1 to 1 rice and bean ratio.

Serve with a scrambled egg and avocado slices.


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