What is gelatin, and how do you use it?
Gelatin (and collagen) are all the rage right now. How do you use them, and do you really need them?
While gelatin can have amazing culinary properties and beneficial health benefits, we don’t think most families *need* gelatin or collagen powders. However, we do like to have it on hand for homemade gummies or to throw it in popsicle and smoothie recipes for a boost of protein.
Gelatin is essentially an amino acid that comes from the collagen of animal connective tissue and bone. It is helpful when making gummies, jello and many other recipes since it dissolves in hot water and has a thick, gummy texture. Gelatin can also help promote joint, skin and gut health. Just one tablespoon has 11 grams of protein, so it’s a potent protein source for those who struggle to get enough of this essential macronutrient.
Collagen peptides are similar to gelatin in that they're made from amino acids from animal connective tissue, but they're cut into smaller peptide pieces and don't have the same gumming effect as gelatin. I like using collagen peptides for clients experiencing gut or skin issues or those who need more protein in their diet. I prefer Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides when recommending it to clients, but work with a healthcare provider if you're experiencing gut or skin issues.
Gelatin is relatively flavorless and dissolves only in hot water - in cold it’s a little clumpy. When we put it in smoothies, we keep quantities small and blend it well. Just don’t go nuts on the gelatin, friends - most toddlers only need 16-18 G protein daily (minimum).
Below is our favorite popsicle recipe using gelatin powder by Great Lakes Gelatin found on Amazon.
Blend in high speed blender and taste - if it’s not sweet enough depending on the fruit used, you may need a dash of sweetener like maple syrup or honey (no honey for babies under age 1). Pour into popsicle molds, freeze and enjoy! Makes at least 8-10 popsicles depending on mold size.
Corn on the cob can have a nutrient-rich place in your family's diet.
What's the deal with corn?
We’ve seen people mention that “corn has no nutritional value.” When it comes to whole corn, this couldn’t be further from the truth, friends!
(By the way, the term “no nutritional value” doesn’t really apply to food when you think about it. Yes, many foods are more nutrient rich than others, but almost every food supplies something nutritionally, even if it’s just calories. This is especially true for veggies and fruits - they all have some sort of nutritional value.)
Did you know that corn has helped sustain civilizations for millennia? If it were void of nutrients it wouldn’t have helped grow populations like it has. Yes, corn byproducts are now overused in the processed food industry and in raising livestock, but whole corn kernels are a great source of fiber, zeaxanthin and lutein (both important phytochemicals), potassium, B vitamins, and magnesium. Sweet corn is also usually non-GMO for those worried about it.
Corn is technically a vegetable - yes, a starchy, higher-carbohydrate one - and kids are drawn to it because eating it on the cob is novel and fun. It’s also a “safe” flavor for many kids who are reluctant to eat new foods, so having corn on the plate may get them going and trying other options. Remember, eating begets eating! Once they’re on a roll they may be more open minded. (We go through all of this in our toddler course!) Babies can have corn on the cob too - they tend to really like it! Just serve it on the cob cooked very well so it's soft.
Side note: corn on the cob holders are fun novelty tools for older kiddos (who won’t pull them out of corn and poke themselves - you know your kiddo best with this)! We found Interlocking Corn Holders by Zyliss at Whole Foods today and were so pumped to use them for corn on the cob with dinner! Check out Walmart, Target or Amazon for great corn on the cob holders.
Switch up the crust.
Who likes pizza night?
Have you tried cauliflower crust pizza? Yes, it's trendy right now, and some see it as "diet-y"...but we like cauliflower crust pizza for those who need a wheat alternative or people who want to add more veggies to their life in a tasty way. Don't feel like you "have to" try it or that other crust isn't "healthy" - it's just an alternative to check out and integrate into your menu if you enjoy it!
Cauliflower crusts come as just crusts that you heat and top or as fully-topped, ready to heat and eat pizzas. You can also make it from scratch, but we usually don't have time for that on busy weekdays!
Our favorite cauliflower crust options include those from Trader Joe's and Milton's brand at Costco, but many retailers are making their own cauliflower crust.
Why try cauliflower crust pizza? Different crusts offer different flavors, textures and nutrition. We want kids to eat all sorts of foods and be comfortable with different flavors so they can have varied, flexible palates and aren't thrown off by new ingredients.
We like to top our pizza with chopped tomatoes and mushrooms cooked from frozen, but choose your favorite toppings! If you can, let your kids help top the pizzas for a fun activity that also makes them excited to eat.
To make cauliflower pizza from a frozen crust (un-topped):
Serve with veggies and/or fruit of your choice! (We did shredded carrots and quartered grapes.)
Ice cube trays add novelty to mealtime.
How do you use ice cube trays? My sweet hubby picked up these summery silicone trays at the Target Dollar Spot (I’m sure my 5 year old had something to do with it) and it got me thinking of ALL the ways ice cube trays can be helpful with kids - and adults - of all ages! Here are some of our ideas:
Weeknights just got easier!
Asian Grilled Salmon, Feta Lentil Salad and grilled corn on the cob make a delicious and filling summer dinner! I will be the first to admit two things:
Here’s how to make it:
Grilled corn on the cob:
Lentil feta salad (a Trader Joe's original recipe):
We served the salmon, corn and salad with cherries, but any seasonal fruit of your choice works! Be sure to modify cherries for babies and kids under age four by removing the pit and cutting it into quarters lengthwise.
Your next go-to dinner is here!
I’ll be honest - cooking a whole chicken kind of intimidates me. That’s why I love doing it in the crockpot. (I admittedly haven’t tried it in the Instant Pot, and until I get a new lid after I melted my IP lid on a hot stovetop, I won’t be able to try!) I still love my trusty crockpot and adore making this chicken recipe, even if I've made chicken recently.
I created this recipe after experimenting with various recipes online, so feel free to explore the interwebs to find various crockpot whole chicken recipe ideas. This is just what worked for us.
We serve this with fruit (optional) and Trader Joe's cauliflower gnocchi (2 bags because this was sure to be a hit with our family of 4).
To make the cauliflower gnocchi, add 1 T olive oil or butter to a large pan on medium heat. Heat gnocchi on oil until cooked though, and as it’s heating add another tablespoon olive oil to prevent sticking. Sprinkle with Parmesan. (We altered the heating instructions from what’s on the package as suggested by an awesome follower!)
Super simple, super yummy!
A delicious dinner doesn’t have to be complicated! This dinner only needs the following ingredients:
Here’s how we made it:
You can also cook the chicken in the instant pot on high for 7 minutes. We hope this helps inspire you on busy weeknights!
Need a little extra protein?
We love using unsweetened whole Greek yogurt! The possibilities are endless! One of our favorite brands is Maple Hill Creamery because of its creamy, smooth texture. (As always, this post is not sponsored - we just enjoy their products!)
Here are some of our favorite ways to use it:
Note: It's Important that you buy unsweetened/unflavored Greek yogurt if using it in savory dishes or as a sour cream replacement.
Don’t forget to check out our Instagram posts and stories for more inspiration on our favorite foods!
Grilled cheese made even easier.
How do we make the most PERFECT grilled cheese? The secret’s in the cooking method - use a toaster (or regular) oven, people! I don’t know if I’m just not good at skillet-made grilled cheese (or if I get way too distracted when I’m supposed to be watching it brown), but I tend to burn grilled cheese made on stovetop. Perhaps you do too!
A few years ago I discovered that it is absolutely amazing in the toaster oven on convection bake setting at 350F. If you don’t have a toaster oven, use your regular oven and a baking sheet but watch it closely! Use it the next time your kids are hangry or the rain starts pouring - it pairs nicely with tomato or vegetable soup, especially when cut into strips for dipping!
Here’s how to make it:
Allergy note: use dairy-free butter alternative and dairy-free cheese + gluten-free bread if needed!
Spices are recommended for babies.
For decades parents were advised to serve babies plain, unseasoned foods. Dietitians and feeding professionals are now realizing that in order for children to learn to enjoy a variety of flavors, we have to serve them a variety of flavors!
Of course, it's important to go easy on salt - we do recommend avoiding salting baby’s food until after 12 months when possible, as their kidneys are immature. A little salt is OK - they’ll likely get sodium in naturally salty foods or restaurant/packaged foods anyway. However, all other safe spices are fair game!
Does that mean baby can have spicy food too? Yes, but start small. Some babies love spicy food and will take to it well, while others may not enjoy it for months or years to come.
Spices aren’t just for flavor - they have health benefits too! Cinnamon may improve blood sugar, and turmeric has potent anti-inflammatory effects! We love pumpkin pie spice, which is a blend of cinnamon, ginger, lemon peel, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom, usually available during the holiday season (but we use it year-round). It’s awesome in oatmeal, yogurt, muffins, quick breads and coffee for you!
Raising adventurous eaters involves offering all types of safe textures, food shapes, and flavors. That means serving food both with and without spices/herbs, cooking it in various ways, and presenting it differently as often as you can. If you have our online course for infants, make sure to check out the Baby-led Weaning Grocery List for all the ways to safely serve foods from all food groups!
Megan and Judy, co-owners of Feeding Littles, bring you helpful info on food, nutrition, picky eating, and feeding young children. Megan McNamee MPH, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Judy Delaware, OTR/L is an Occupational Therapist specializing in feeding therapy with children 3 and under in Boulder, Colorado. Megan and Judy are both moms of two and love helping families develop a healthy appetite for all foods!