One of the most rewarding moments for BLW parents has to be the first meal away from home: watching babe tuck into a lovely lunch in a restaurant, giving you enough peace to have some grub with a friend or partner. BLW also seems to be endlessly entertaining for onlookers - prepare yourself for comments from other resto patrons (“Your baby likes broccoli? Amazing!”). I always felt very proud 😃
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though - preparing for lunch on the go can be a bit perplexing. What kind of food can you pack that won’t make a royal mess at your friend’s house? What’s compact and crumb-free to take on a long flight? What could you order from the restaurant menu for your little one?
Worry not my hungry friends, here are a few ideas to get you through meals-on-the-go:
What to order from a restaurant menu for baby
Most restaurants have a few healthy options suitable for wee ones, even in the beginning stages of weaning. Look for these items on regular adult menus:
Steamed veg - This is by far the easiest option, as steamed veg like broccoli, peas, green beans or carrots are easy to ask for “undressed”, i.e. without salt or dressing. I’m the typical Brit who would wilt with shame if I were to ask for any changes to a menu item, so this option was always my saviour!
Mashed veg - Many restaurants have mashed sweet potatoes, squash, mashed potatoes, creamed corn or spinach on the sides menu. Just ask for it to be prepared minus any salt they might usually add. You may also want to ask for it without butter if they use the salted variety.
Sweet potato fries - A great option for little hands, who can handle the skinny or chunky chip varieties. Again just ask for no salt to be added.
Breaded appetisers - Often on the appetiser menu, these have a breaded coating and a savoury filling. Think veg croquettes, fish cakes, goujons and even cheese sticks. Because these are often baked or deep fried, be sure they’re not too hot inside before sharing with babe.
A big lovely salad - I often shared salads with my wee man. Tex-mex salads are a great option as they often come with avocado, corn, tomato and beans which are easy to share with baby. Nicoise is another great option with tuna, egg, and green beans. Just ask for dressing on the side to keep an eye on sodium, and don’t offer hard veg to baby before they’re developmentally ready to handle a bit breaking off.
Pasta - Pasta with a simple tomato or creamy sauce always goes down a treat.
And remember, if you’re eating out with an infant, you can always pack food to bring with you if you don’t feel confident that you’ll find menu options that work. For under-3s, bringing food into a restaurant is totally acceptable as long as you’re ordering from the menu! This was a bit of a mental block for me when wee man was young but I quickly got over it, and never heard anything but compliments from restaurant wait staff!
What food to pack for baby
If you’d like to pack a meal to eat on the go, try foods which don’t require refrigeration, easy to pack, and easy for babe to eat without making a huge mess. Here’s what fared well with our family outings:
Banana - Ah, gotta love the food that comes with its own packaging! When it’s time to eat, cut just half of the peel off and it comes with its own handle 😃
Avocado - Cut the avocado into slices, keeping half the skin on each slice (see below for a helpful photo). This helps baby grip onto that slippery avo flesh!
Pancakes or Pikelets - These are super easy to make a huge batch, freeze them, and then defrost before you want to serve. And for eating on the go, they are easy to grasp and there’s very few crumbs. You can make endless varieties: our favourites were cheese and spinach; ricotta and raspberries; and banana coconut! There’s a great pikelet recipe at My Kids Lick the Bowl.
Mini Pitta Sandwiches - Using a pocketed pitta as a container for any filling is always a relatively mess-free option. Try filling with homemade hummus and grated carrot; ricotta and spinach; cooked lentils and squash; or tuna and cream cheese.
Easy eating on the go: What equipment to bring
There are a few things that will make meals on the run a bit easier.
Wipes. Never, ever forget them. I have personally made this mistake my friends, and have lived to regret it!
Nearly all family restaurants have highchairs these days, but there are also baby booster seats you can pack with you which can be quite handy to fit to regular chairs.
Distraction snacks! I don’t know about your little one, but mine had zero patience for waiting on his ordered meal! I would always bring a small snack, like mini rice cakes or fruit, to tide him over until the meal arrived and cooled down enough to eat.
I’d love to hear your tips for eating on the go with baby, share them in the comments below!