With the flu season upon us, I know several mommies—including myself—who are on the lookout for immune-boosting foods to feed their kiddos in hopes that they will dodge the flu-bullet this winter. Lucky for me, my son enjoys many of those immunity building ingredients, but there was one in particular that caught my eye, and my curiosity, at the grocery store: the parsnip.
I am always looking to add new and different fruits and vegetables to Kaden’s diet in attempts to broaden his taste-palate (crossing my fingers that I will not end up with a picky eater… but, we all know that road can lead anywhere), and I placed one of these funny bugle-shaped vegetables into my cart hoping that it would be a winner in both taste, as well as flu-fighting benefits. Once again, luck was upon me, and we will be adding this nutrient rich root veggie to Kaden’s food throughout the flu season (it’s best in the winter months).
It is best to wait until your baby is 6-7 months before introducing chicken or parsnips to them. This is currently my turn-to recipe for a protein- and nutrient-rich dinner for my 8 month old, and it in turn is perfect for warding off any illnesses this winter, and as a mother, that is the best thing I can ask for.
Baking your chicken always ensures that all those good-for-you nutrients are locked into the meat, but if you are a busy mom like me, who is also usually cooking several pounds and varieties of baby food simultaneously, the crock pot is a great alternative. The trick to making certain your baby is receiving all the benefits of your chicken while slow cooking, is to place just enough water into the pot so that your chicken is just covered. I’m talking, place your chicken neatly aligned on the bottom of your pot and pour water over the chicken until the water ever so slightly reaches above the meat. You’re good. Done. Perfect. You’ll be using most, if not all, of the water when you go to puree it, so any nutrients that ran out of the bird and into the water, will get put back into your yummy puree.
The Immune-Boosting Qualities of this Recipe
Chicken – Poultry is a great source of zinc, which plays a huge role in immune system support and also is a vital part of the production of antibodies in your little guy or gal’s body which help to fight infection.
Butternut Squash – Butternut squash is a large source of beta carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A will help regulate your child’s immune system and also fight off infection.
Cinnamon – One teaspoon of this stuff has the same amount of disease-fighting antioxidants as half a cup of blueberries. It’s an added bonus that it might just be my child’s favorite spice in the cabinet.
Parsnip – Parsnips are a huge source of Vitamin C, which helps promote the immune system in several ways:
- Neutralizes free radicals
- Helps kill viruses
- Promotes bone health
- Acts as an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory
An added bonus of parsnips is that the organic variety doesn’t need to be peeled, although I would recommend peeling the non-organic kind to ensure all pesticides have been removed (wash it as well… click here for our favorite fruit & veggie spray!).
NOTE: I often make my recipes in bulk, meaning that they usually yield around 22 ounces or so of pureed goodness. If you want to reduce the amount of food that is made, you can adjust the portions of this recipe however you like; making the vegetables more prevalent or the chicken – your baby may prefer the taste of squash over chicken, more poultry over parsnip… you make the call, your baby will still reap the benefits of this dish any way you mix it.
Here’s What You’ll Need:
- 1 lb. organic, antibiotic-free, boneless, skinless chicken breast – cleaned and chopped
- 1 medium-large sized parsnip – cleaned and chopped
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
- Cinnamon (to taste)
- 1/8 teaspoon Poultry seasoning
- Water – ½ cup to 1 cup, depending
*Note – The squash and cinnamon are not posted in this photo, as I had previously made a butternut squash puree when remaking this recipe, and decided to simply add it in after I had pureed the chicken and parsnip. Follow the recipe for complete, immune-boosting puree.
- Place your chicken neatly in the bottom of a crock pot and sprinkle with poultry seasoning. Toss to hit all the pieces.
- Pour water over chicken until it just barely rises above the chicken. This will ensure that you don’t lose any nutrients from your meat.
- Turn crock pot to the low setting for 6-7 hours until meat is cooked through and very tender, stirring half way.
- When meat is done, place your chopped parsnip and butternut squash into steamer and steam until tender – about 10-15 minutes.
- Place your chicken in food processor and pulse until smooth – using reserved water from the pot to thin out your mixture. The water contains bits of chicken and nutrients, and I always end up needing every drop to make my chicken puree smooth enough for my babe.
- Add your cooked vegetables to the pureed chicken and pulse until combined.
- You can add the cinnamon directly to the puree, or add it at each serving – I opt to add it each time I heat up the puree, since my son is such a fan. If your child has never tasted cinnamon, you may want to do the same—they may prefer the puree without any seasoning at all.
My son and nephew also like when I sometimes add a bit of my organic pear puree to this mix as well. Makes it a bit sweeter, and also much smoother. I add this when I know they are extra hungry. Applesauce would be great, too.
My meat purees get packaged a bit different than my fruit and vegetable purees, since they are a bit thicker and not as easy to pop out of molds. I use Green Sprouts glass baby food containers (they also come in 4 oz. plastic, BPA free containers for larger portions). They are BPA free, and heat thoroughly and easily… perfect for a meat and vegetable combo puree.
One last tip on fighting off illness: probiotics. Kaden has taken probiotics since he was a couple weeks old. Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that keep your gut healthy, thus improving your overall immunity. These can be beneficial for babies with reflux and any digestive issues as well. Before 4 months, we gave Kaden Gerber Soothe everyday on his tongue. After 4 months, my pediatrician gave me a powdered infant probiotic from Klaire Laboratories that I still put in his cereal every single morning, along with his Vitamin D drops (necessary for exclusively breastfed babies). And I have to admit: I have one healthy little boy. Remember: Always talk to your pediatrician first before giving your baby anything new.
Enjoy this immune-boosting recipe, and may all our little ones be happy and healthy this cold and flu season!