Blanching Vegetables

Steamed vegetables are a nutritious and great choice for snacks. The best way to cook vegetables is a method called blanching. This simple technique maintains a vegetable’s nutrients and flavor while keeping its crunchiness. Blanching is especially good for green vegetables.

Steamed Florida Vegetables

Ingredients

  • Assorted Florida vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower, green beans, zucchini and squash.

Preparation

  • Fill a saucepan halfway with water and place on medium-high heat. Cover with a lid and bring water to a rapid boil.
  • Add cut vegetables to boiling water. Vegetables will cook quickly so check them every other minute to see if they are cooked. Vegetables should be slightly crisp but tender at the same time. See below for suggested cooking times.
  • When the vegetables are cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer them from the pan to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Let the vegetables cool completely.
  • Remove vegetables from the bowl and dry with a paper towel.
  • Repeat the process for each type of vegetable. You can use the same boiling water and ice bath.

Tips: Cut vegetables into bite-size pieces or sticks for easy toddler handling.
Store in an airtight plastic container or bag for later use. The blanched vegetables should last at least 3 days in the refrigerator.

Estimated Cooking Times for Selected Vegetables

Note: Cooking times vary based on which vegetables are used and how large they are cut; therefore, cook one vegetable type at a time.

  • Broccoli, chopped or stalks – 3 minutes
  • Carrots – diced/strips – 2 minutes; whole baby carrots – 5 minutes
  • Cauliflower – 3 minutes
  • Eggplant – 4 minutes
  • Greens (spinach, collards) – 2 to 3 minutes
  • Okra – 3 minutes
  • Bell pepper, strips – 2 minutes
  • Snap Beans – 3 minutes
  • Zucchini, slices or chunks – 3 minutes
  • Squash, slices or chunks  – 3 minutes

Toddler Diets

Having trouble getting your toddler to eat right? Here are some tips and guidelines for feeding your little one!

  • Stick to 3 meals and 2 snacks at regular times and avoid additional foods in between. Establish times for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Wholesome snacks are important several times a day because children’s stomachs are small and they usually do not eat enough during each meal. Choose nutrient-rich snacks similar to the meals you prepare.
  • Toddlers do a good job of determining how much food they need to eat. If you are worried that your child may not be eating enough, look at his food intake over a week and not over a day. A general guideline to calculate children’s caloric needs from 1 to 3 years is to multiply your child’s weight by 45 calories.
  • Make sure your child is getting enough iron in her diet for proper development. Iron-rich foods include fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables and beans, as well as tofu, poultry, fish and meats.
  • It is recommended that whole milk and dairy products be served until the second birthday. Extra fat is necessary for proper growth and brain development during this period. Milk is also an important source of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Water is a perfectly good drink to serve your toddler. You can add a small amount of juice for variety, but juice and sweetened beverages do not offer much nutrition. For children ages 1 to 6, intake of fruit juice should be limited to 4 to 6 ounces per day (about a half to three-quarters of a cup). Too many sweet drinks can cause tooth decay and add unneeded calories to your child’s diet.
  • Check labels to make sure you are not giving your child unnecessary calories and sweets. As a rule, every 5 grams of sugar equals about one teaspoon. Be especially careful when purchasing juices, cereals and snack foods.
  • Talk to your pediatrician before introducing high allergenic foods such as milk, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.

Starting Solid Food

Is there an easy to way to know when baby is ready for solids? Well, every child is unique, so there are no definite timetables. Always follow a recommended diet from your pediatrician or health care provider to provide a fully balanced diet to meet your baby’s nutritional requirements. Many doctors recommend beginning solids at six months.

Typical signs that indicate your baby is ready for solids include:

  • The ability to sit without help
  • Active interest in food that others are eating, watches people eat
  • Does not use tongue to push solids or spoon out of mouth
  • The ability to signal she wants to be fed or has had enough to eat
Here are some general guidelines for when starting solid foods:
  • Consult with your pediatrician or health care provider if you have any questions concerning introducing foods.
  • Breast milk or fortified formula should be continued until the first birthday. Cow’s milk should not be introduced until the baby is at least one year of age.
  • Always check with your doctor or health care provider if you think your baby is not eating enough of the right foods.
  • Use a high chair or infant specific chair when feeding your baby.  If your baby is sitting is upright, he is less likely to choke.
  • Never leave your baby unattended when eating.  If possible, feed baby with the family.  This will get your child on a regular feeding schedule and enjoying a familiar routine.
  • Juice should be given after regular fruit has been introduced.  Try waiting until 10 months of age.  Juice intake should be limited to 4-6 ounces/day for children 1 to 6 years of age.
  • Do not get discouraged.  Children’s appetites and tastes are finicky and change throughout development.
Think your baby is ready to start solid foods? Here is more help on starting solids with a suggested timeline of when to introduce different types of fruits and veggies.

Creating Healthy Habits

Lifelong taste preferences and eating habits are established in the first several years of life. One of the first ways babies learn is through food. Babies are born with a strong preference for sweetness and a dislike for sour and bitter tastes. As they get older, these preferences change and children learn to like and dislike certain foods. You can teach your child healthy habits by feeding and offering a variety of nutritious foods, eating well yourself, and maintaining a healthy environment.

Here are some simple tips to create healthy habits:

  • Developing good habits takes time. It requires patience and effort to establish a daily routine and commitment.
  • Studies show that the earlier children are introduced to fruit and vegetables, the more likely they are to eat them later.
  • Be conscious of serving sizes and do not serve too much. A good rule of thumb for portion size is one tablespoon for every year of age.
  • Offer and eat a variety of nutritious foods. Stock the house and pantry with low calorie, nutritious foods. Save treats for something special, don’t keep them in plain sight or don’t buy them at all.
  • Limit snacks. Eating sporadically can eliminate the ability to sense hunger and lead to over eating. Teach yourself and your children to eat when hungry not out of boredom or emotional reasons.
  • Do not use food as a reward or to promote good behavior.
  • Do not encourage eating during other activities such as watching television or riding in the car which can lead to overeating.
  • Eat at regular mealtimes with three meals and two snacks daily.
  • Eat as a family and make mealtime enjoyable. Family meals not only encourage better diets they also reinforces family relationships.