Is it really Wednesday already? The weeks are passing by so quickly and I'm finding it hard to believe that the kids have been back at school for a month already!
Life is hectic. Hectic for mum. Hectic for dad. And hectic for kids. Therefore, it's really important to ensure you're little ones are eating right and getting all the energy and nutrition they require from a healthy diet.
This #weaningwednesday is also National Kale Day, so this week's blog post is going to be a special feature on one of my all time favourite 'superfoods' - the dark, green and leafy veggie that is Kale! I think Kale should be a staple in the diet of every household as it provides a bucket load of nutrients and offers many health benefits for the whole family!
Kale is a wonderfully versatile ingredient that comes from the cabbage family and is a well-known 'superfood', which we cram into my beloved Heavenly snacks, including the Yummy Wafer Wisps.
Everyone knows I’m a big advocate of ‘superfoods’. But what exactly is a superfood?
The dictionary defines a superfood as “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. The term superfood describes a food with a high content of nutrients that optimise health.”
I actually believe that you could say any unprocessed food from the major food groups could be considered ‘super’. Most fruit and vegetables, a bunch of grains, including ancient grains such as amaranth and millet, and even oily fish, could be called superfoods because of their excellent nutritional value.
So what is so super about Kale?
It’s well documented in the media and online that Kale is considered a superfood and when you look closely at the nutritional value of Kale, you can see why. It’s jam-packed with essential nutrients, such as antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre, and it’s low in calories and fat, with one 80g portion of Kale containing just 19 kcals.
Kale is a great first food for baby. Their little tummies are tiny, so any concentrated source of nutrition is going to be beneficial. Kale contains the following nutrients in high concentrations:
Vitamin A - important for development of vision and healthy skin
Vitamin C – essential for the formation of collagen for blood vessels, bone, cartilage, gums, skin and teeth. It also enhances iron absorption and is essential for supporting a healthy immune system, helping to ward off coughs and colds. Gram for gram, Kale contains 17 times more Vitamin C than carrots!
Iron – required by the body for making red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. By the time they are old enough for weaning onto solid foods at approximately 6 months old, the iron stores that babies are born with, will be depleted and they will require iron from the foods they are eat. Believe it or not, Kale contains more iron than the equivalent weight of steak!
Calcium - essential for growth and development of strong teeth and bones. One portion (80g of cooked kale) contains 120mg of calcium, this time more than the equivalent weight of milk!
Vitamin K - plays a role in maintaining normal bones and aids blood clotting.
Folate - the naturally occurring form of folic acid found in food, plays a role in normal formation of blood and supports the immune system to function normally.
Fibre - one 80g portion contains 2.2g fibre. Fibre is important for healthy digestion and bowel movements but too much fibre can be very bulky and filling for little ones and may cause constipation, so be careful not to give them too much!
Kale is easily grown and available virtually all year round, being in season from June to February, and it’s cheap!
Basic preparation of Kale:
Purchase organic kale when possible. Simply rinse with cold water and spin dry. Trim away the thicker parts of the stalks, chop coarsely. Kale is really versatile and can be cooked in a range of ways, such as baked, steamed, stir fried or boiled and used in a wide variety of recipes such as soups, smoothies, salads, casseroles and omelettes and other snacks.
I recommend giving only cooked kale to your little ones, so that it is easier to digest. The texture may be tricky when raw as it is very dense and can be difficult for children to chew enough to swallow safely and comfortably. Kale may be hard for their little tummies to tolerate if not cooked and can cause stomach pain, bloating and gas. I have included a few of my favourite super Kale recipes for little ones at different stages in their weaning journey below.
Suitable for 6 months plus:
Suitable for 12 months plus
Cheesy Kale Bites:
These should look like little green meatballs, an interesting but fun shape for little hands. They can be eaten as part of a main meal, as a snack, cool from the fridge or warmed. There is lots of kale in these, so your little one might only want one (remember Kale is high in fibre!)
2 bunches kale, washed, de-stemmed
170g frozen peas, thawed
170g shredded mozzarella cheese
85g grated parmesan
85g polenta or bulgar wheat
½ teaspoon mixed herbs
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line baking tray with baking paper and a light drizzle of oil.
2. Wash the kale thoroughly and dry off using a salad spinner.
3. Bring a pot of water to the boil. Place kale into a steamer and steam for five minutes or until tender.
4. Place the cooked kale and the rest of the ingredients into the bowl of your food processor. Process until the mix is finely ground.
5. Use a 1-tablespoon measuring spoon to portion out the mixture, scooping it up and gently pushing it out of the spoon with your finger onto the prepared baking sheet.
6. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until firm to the touch and just starting to turn golden brown on the bottom. Serve warm or cold with salsa or other baby-friendly dips.
Other ingredients which are delicious to pair with Kale:
Potatoes (white or sweet)
Lily's experience of Kale:
We're well into Lily's weaning journey now and after a couple of weeks of tears, restless sleep and lost appetite, her two front teeth have erupted and she is getting back to her usual self (don't worry mummy's, these are completely normal behaviours for a teething tot, but if you are concerned always check with your health visitor or GP!)
Now that she is just over 6 months old and seems ready to move onto the next level of her weaning journey, I have begun including stronger flavours and adding a little more texture to Lily's pureed meals. I have been using kale as it's super nutritious, in season and definitely affects the pureed consistency of her little meals. For the most part, Lily has enjoyed the taste of kale, but I would always recommend mixing it with sweeter veggies such as butternut squash or sweet potatoes, or a nice sweet cooked fruit like pear or apple.
Lily has also been scoffing down plenty of our Wafer Wisps too and adores the Spinach, Apple and Kale version. She has been teething like crazy over the past few weeks and they have been a great way to soothe her sensitive little gums. They contain absolutely no added sugar, salt, artificial colours or flavours and make minimal mess. They dissolve away in her little mouth too, which reduces the risk of choking. I never leave the house without a pack and because they are individually wrapped into child-sized portions, I can throw a pack into the changing bag, without even having to think about it. I'm delighted to say she truly loves them - whoopee!
What are your thoughts on ‘superfoods’? What are your favourite superfood ingredients? Would you like to see any more Heavenly snacks with kale in them? Do you have any super kale recipes you would like to share with us?