Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Toddler ready meals

Samuel enjoying his Little Dish Mild Chicken Korma
As much as we'd all like to cook fresh food from scratch for our babies and toddlers, sometimes time does not allow us to. Perhaps you've gone out for the morning, fully intending to come home for lunch, but then you bump into a friend and decide to go for a coffee together - and the cafe doesn't sell anything suitable for your little one to have for lunch! This is where ready prepared baby food comes in handy. We're all used to seeing the little jars lined up on supermarket shelves, but what about when your child is eating proper, chunky meals at home - a jar just isn't going to cut it. I decided to roadtest the different offerings available for a child of Samuel's age (22 months), and I have to say, I wasn't disappointed in any. 


First up, we tried Plum's Taste Adventurers range. These meals are designed to be stored at ambient temperatures, making them perfect to pop into the changing bag for use in an emergency. They can be warmed or eaten cold, and come in their own disposable bowl - very convenient. They are aimed at babies aged 10 months or over so are a little smoother than Samuel is now used to, but served alongside a chunk of bread with some cheese squares and fruit, they make a great, convenient meal for a hungry toddler. The range includes Mediterranean Paella and Salmon, Root Vegetable and Beef Casserole, Aubergine and Lamb Moussaka, Sweet Cape Curry with Beef and Chickpea and Chicken Tagine. One criticism of them is that they don't have a lid (which would make the bowl format even better). They also have that "baby food" aftertaste that I can't quite pin down, but Samuel enjoyed them all, especially the Chickpea and Chicken Tagine. 



Next up was Little Dish's range of kids ready meals. These are my favourite by far as they are more like conventional ready meals, in that they are stored in the fridge and taste much more fresh than other ready prepared baby foods. In fact, my husband is always hoping Samuel isn't having a hungry day when there's a Little Dish meal on the plate, so that he can finish it off! However, the fact that they are fridge stored does mean they are not as convenient, as you can't really carry them round in case you need them. They are however wonderful for those evenings when you've had a long day of play and you just need a quick meal at home, especially as they show on the sleeve how many portions of veg they contain.Samuel adores the Mild Chicken Korma, although all the range went down well. The range is aimed at children aged 12 months plus and includes Beef Lasagne, Fish Pie, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Chicken Risotto, Chicken and Butternut Squash Pie, Pasta with Cheese, Peas and Broccoli Trees and Pasta Bolognaise. Little Dish also sell a cookbook, full of wonderful recipes to cook at home.



Then we tried the Organix range of Mighty Meals. These, like the Plum meals, are stored at ambient temperatures, but they are more similar to the Little Dish meals in that they are more chunky, aimed at 12 months plus. They do still have that baby food aftertaste which Little Dish have avoided, but look more like a meal than the Plum meals that are aimed at slightly younger children. Samuel particularly enjoyed the Vegetable and Chicken Korma; the range also includes Hearty Lamb Hotpot, Tomatoey Beef Bolognese, Creamy Chicken Pasta, Pork Meatballs, Herby Salmon and Potato Bites, Beef Stew and Dumplings and Spinach Falafels.We are going away on holiday next week and plan to take a bag of these with us!

The one criticism I would have of all of these ranges is that there are very few vegetarian options - Little Dish just have their Pasta with Cheese, Peas and Broccoli Trees and Organix the Spinach Falafels, while Plum don't have any in the Taste Adventures range. I would like to see more vegetarian meals for families who choose not to eat meat, either ever or just as a break, but still want to eat a healthy, balanced meal.

Just to try something different, we have Ella's Kitchen's new range of cereals a try. Samuel really enjoyed the Wakey Wakey Round Ones (aimed again at children aged 12 months plus), which I was a little surprised at as he is used to Cheerios and Weetabix in the mornings. I did think these may not be sweet enough for what he is used to as they have no added sugar but he wolfed them down. It's great to have a cereal like this that is aimed at toddlers as it's hard to find no added sugar cereals that they will enjoy.

So, next time you're planning a day out and you're worrying about what to feed that energetic bundle of noise and love, don't worry - reach for one of these options and you can be sure you are getting a good, healthy meal into them.

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