Now that C is eating solids, mealtime just got more complicated. In the days of baby food, it was easy to pop a few cubes of homemade baby food puree out of the freezer, warm them up, and presto! Dinner!
When I plan ahead, it's not much harder to prepare finger foods for C to eat for lunch or dinner than it was with the purees; on Sundays, I normally prepare all of his food for Monday and Tuesday, and on Wednesday, I prepare his food for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. On the weekends it varies; often, he eats what we eat, or sometimes if we're going over to a friend's house (or if we're eating out somewhere that's not particularly healthy), I find myself needing to prepare a quick meal for Carter that we can take with us. Similarly, in Blair's busy season (which was SEVEN MONTHS this year), he's not home for dinner so I don't cook
THANK GOODNESS a mom friend introduced me to Dr. Praeger's! I'm not advocating feeding your child frozen food for every meal, but on the whole I feel pretty good about this brand of frozen products. So far C has loved every single thing we've tried (and I have too, since I try everything before I feed it to him), and I feel good about the ingredients. Dr. Praeger's slogan is "where you recognize all of the ingredients", which is HUGE for me as a mom. I didn't feed C anything from a package until he was over 10 months old because I hate how "processed" most packaged foods are. However, I read all of the ingredient labels on these products before I buy them and feel comfortable that they are made only of ingredients I recognize. Granted, they're still processed, but at least they don't have any weird chemical-y ingredients....for a quick/convenient dinner option, it has to be better than Kraft Macaroni & Cheese or hot dogs :)
vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and/or GMO Free. They don't always carry them at your regular grocery store (Kroger doesn't carry any of their products; Tom Thumb and Target only carry 1 or 2 items, and not the ones I typically buy). However, they usually carry them at Sprouts, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods. They are usually in the same freezer section as the other "veggie" burgers (think Boca Burger, Morningstar, etc.)
Here are our favorites:
California Veggie Burgers
"We put the carrots, zucchini and edamame right where you can see and taste them"
These are my favorite - I think they taste like the filling inside an egg roll (which is random). Of all the veggie burger flavors we've tried, these cook up the most firmly in the microwave (they probably all do well on the stovetop, but some of the flavors get soggy in the microwave). I've never been a veggie burger fan before, normally because they try too hard to mimic regular hamburgers. These are nowhere close to that - you can actually see the chopped up vegetables in them (it looks, and tastes, nothing like a regular hamburger).
Carrots, onions, string beans, oat bran, soybeans, zucchini, peas, broccoli, corn, soy flour, spinach, expeller pressed canola oil, red peppers, arrowroot, corn starch, garlic, corn meal, salt, parsley, black pepper .
Kale Veggie Burgers
"Packed with quinoa, kale and 9 other vegetables, this is one great tasting burger."
These are my 2nd favorite flavor of veggie burger and a good way to get in kale and quinoa! I always read ingredient labels and often (especially on food marketed for babies/toddlers), I am frustrated by the fact that something will be labeled "kale and quinoa", but when you check the ingredients, the first ingredient is apples or pears (or anything other than what the label on the front says), because they're trying to make it more palatable for kids (aka sweeter). I like that I not only recognize all of the ingredients in these, but that the first ingredient is ACTUALLY KALE! (since ingredient labels list the ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight - so the ingredient listed first is the highest ingredient). These are slightly more soggy than the California burgers when cooked in the microwave (can't vouch for the stovetop version) but hey, what do you expect from cooked kale?
Kale, cooked quinoa (quinoa, water), cooked brown rice (brown rice, water), expeller pressed canola oil, cooked millet (millet, water), onions, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, potato flakes, roasted corn, red peppers, water chestnuts, roasted zucchini, broccoli, rice starch, roasted garlic, parsley, salt, black pepper.
Super Greens Veggie Burger
"With 6 kinds of greens, quinoa, ginger and a hint of cayenne pepper, you’ll see why this burger is so Super."
These are pretty good but a definite 3rd because they are quite soggy when cooked in the microwave. They were also my least favorite flavor of the 3 I've tried.
Collard greens, cooked quinoa (quinoa, water), kale, swiss chard, turnip greens, mustard greens, spinach, expeller pressed canola oil, potato flakes, onions, apples, arrowroot, cooked teff (teff, water), parsley, roasted garlic, ginger, salt, hemp protein, black pepper, cayenne pepper, coriander.
My local grocery stores only carry 4 varieties of the veggie burgers, although the Dr. Praeger's website lists 10 flavors. I have not purchased the 4th flavor that my store carries, the Black Bean burger, because the first ingredient (i.e., the largest ingredient) is "Non-GMO textured soy protein", not black beans (they are the 2nd ingredient, though). I don't know what textured soy protein is but I'd rather stick with the ones that are made of vegetables and quinoa.
Lightly Breaded Fish Fillets
"Wild caught whole Pollock fillets lightly coated in seasoned breading."
I know, these are basically glorified fish sticks. But at least they commit to what kind of actual fish it is (pollock), as opposed to "miscellaneous" and it's wild-caught (not farmed). I cooked this on the stovetop and I'm pretty sure the fish inside the breading was raw until I cooked it (not pre-cooked like most frozen breaded fish). They make an actual fish stick version, as well as a kids' version (shaped like fish), as well.
Pollock fillets (wild), breading (unbleached wheat flour, yellow corn flour, corn starch, yeast, sugar, salt, dextrose, garlic powder, onion powder, spices), expeller pressed canola oil.
That's all we've tried so far, but I've been impressed with the taste, quality, and ingredients on all of these products so far. I'm surprised how many products they offer, looking at their website, since my stores seem to carry so few (or no) different varieties. I'll be keeping an eye out for additional varieties in different grocery stores I visit, hoping to try a few more!
C loves these and will happily eat an entire veggie burger or fish fillet for lunch or dinner. I normally serve it with some veggies on the side (avocado chunks or steamed green beans, carrots, or broccoli, which I always have in the freezer).
Have you tried Dr. Praeger's products? Let me know what you think!