As it’s Halloween I thought I would focus on autumn’s signature squash - the pumpkin, which is another one of my favourite superfoods! Pumpkins have been associated with Halloween for many years and are often carved out to make lanterns. According to history, turnips and potatoes were traditionally used to make lanterns in Ireland and it wasn’t until Irish immigrants made their way to America that they decided to make them out of pumpkins.
Babies can start to eat pumpkin from 6 months old. Depending on which stage your baby is at in weaning, they can be given plain in pureed or mashed form, mixed with other fruit and veggies, cereals or meat and chicken, or baked and sliced as a sweet tasting, soft textured finger food.
Pumpkins are part of the ‘gourd’ family, which includes cucumbers, courgettes and honeydew melons and they are in fact fruits. They are jam-packed full of nutrition and cram in some powerful healthy perks and are ideally suited for the development of babies, including:
Pumpkins are an excellent source of Vitamin A and Beta carotene. Beta carotene gives pumpkins their bright orange colour and is converted into Vitamin A in the body, when it is eaten and digested. Vitamin A is essential for eye health and development in babies and is well known for it’s immune booting powers.
They are crammed with B Vitamins including folate, which babies need for brain and nervous system health.
They are a solid source of Vitamin C and E, which help to boost the immune system and ward off cold and flu symptoms, including runny noses and sneaky sneezes. They are also important vitamins for healthy gums and teeth.
Vitamin K is required for blood clotting and helping to keep your little ones bones healthy.
Pumpkins are loaded with Calcium and Magnesium, which help to build stronger bones and for the regulation of energy production inside the cells.
They also contain a good amount of Phosphorous which aids digestion, brain function, protein formation and hormone balance, Potassium which is great for healthy heart and kidney function in babies and iron, which helps to produce haemoglobin and red blood cells.
Pumpkins are low in fat, low in calories and high in fibre, which is required to support a healthy digestive tract.
Babies are prone to infections not only from microbes, but also from macroscopic organisms such as worms and pumpkins are known to prevent and cure worms when consumed regularly.
How to prepare and cook pumpkin:
Clean the pumpkin thoroughly on the outside, peel it and then cut in half.
When scooping out the flesh and seeds of the pumpkin, you might encounter hard ‘strings’. These are the veins of the shell. To avoid these in your puree, scoop the insides out gently, not too closely to the shell.
Pumpkins can be boiled, steamed, baked or poached and they should be cooked immediately after cutting, otherwise you’ll find that mould begins to develop. Pumpkins are very watery so baking is the best method. Baking pumpkins will ensure the most flavour and nutrients are retained for your baby. If you have baked your pumpkin enough, any strings/veins should easily fall away from the shell as the meat is separated from it. Smaller pumpkins should be less stringy.
Though they are not suitable for your baby as they can be a choking hazard, whatever you do, don’t throw away the seeds you scoop out of your pumpkin. They are packed with protein, magnesium, potassium and zinc and contain high levels of phytosterols, which research suggests can reduce cholesterol and help prevent some types of cancers. They can be roasted or gently tossed in your frying pan and make a delicious on-the-go snack for the rest of the family, or a nice addition to breakfast, salads or baking.
Basic Pumpkin Puree (suitable for 6+ months):
1 Pumpkin, baked, cooled and cut into cubes
1. Wash the pumpkin thoroughly. Halve the pumpkin and de-seed.
2. Place halves face down in a baking pan with approx. 1-2 inches of water
3. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for approximately 40-60 minutes (skin should be wrinkled and feel soft when pressured)
4. Scrape out the pumpkin flesh and mash/puree as required
Adding a sprinkling of cinnamon will give your baby a nice introduction to the world of spices and start to extend their little taste palettes. Pumpkin is a really versatile ingredient and the options really are endless. It can be mixed with sweeter ingredients like apples, pears or bananas, or savoury ingredients like broccoli, lentils or meat and chicken.
Halloween Breakfast - Apple, Pumpkin and Oatmeal (suitable for 6+ months):
This little gem has been one of my messy little baba Lily's favourite meals to date! The apple and pumpkin mix are deliciously sweet and my homemade baby cereal adds extra nutrition to the meal.
The poor little thing has been teething like mad again so her appetite is pretty much non-existent AND she had a horrible head cold last week. Her little ears, nose and throat were very sore and she just wouldn't entertain solids in the slightest. Thankfully (for everyone in our house!), she is feeling much better this week and I'm going to begin to introduce some protein into her diet now that she has hit the 7 month mark. Will feature some new recipes with chicken, lentils, beans etc in the coming blogs!
With this recipe, you can add a little pinch of spice such as cinnamon, ginger or nutmeg if you believe your baby is ready. Remember, you know your baby best so you make the rules!
1 cup cooked pumpkin puree (see recipe here)
1 cup baby cereal (see recipe here)
1. Wash, peel, de-seed and chop the apple. Steam over boiling water until tender
2. Prepare 1 cup cooked pumpkin as per previous recipe
3. Prepare 1 cup baby cereal as per previous recipe
4. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger
5. Blend to desired consistency using your NutriBullet or stick blender. You may want to add a little bit of your babies’ usual breast or formula milk to change the consistency.
6. Spoon a portion into your baby’s bowl and serve at body temperature
7. Mix the remaining puree into ice cube trays or small containers, cool and freeze for a maximum of three months.
Sweet Pumpkin Pie (suitable for 8+ months):
Blend pumpkin puree (see recipe here) together with a spoonful of natural yogurt. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for approximately 20 mins or until the top of the mix is slightly crispy. Top with crushed Happy Halo Bites for some extra texture and crunch. Slice into little squares and serve as a delicious finger food.
Pumpkin Hummus (suitable for 10+ months):
Combine 2 cups pumpkin puree (see recipe here), 2 tbsp tahini, 1 clove garlic, 1 tsp olive oil and ½ tsp group cumin. Serve with our Mini Italian Breadsticks for a yummy finger food or lunchbox snack.
Halloween Pancakes (suitable for 8+ months):
These pancakes are great for a little finger food and will travel well in your little ones lunchbox if you are out and about.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup baby cereal (see recipe here)
1 cup your baby’s usual breast or formula milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tbs melted Coconut oil
3 egg yolks
½ cup apple juice (use water if you prefer a lower sugar recipe)
Sprinkling cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or a dash of vanilla
1. Mix all ingredients together and add enough juice to make runny consistency like ‘regular’ pancake batter
2. Cook in frying pan as you would with ‘regular’ pancakes. Remember not to flip the pancakes until you see lots of bubbles, this will show you that the pancake is almost cooked.
Enjoy and please let us know what you think of these recipes in the comments section below.