AS the mother of a toddler there are a few things I have to remind myself of daily. Things like: always check the washing machine before putting it on, never leave the house without wet wipes, and not even the most expensive screen protector is effective when your phone finds itself soaring from the sticky-fingered hands of a hooligan of a little boy. But possibly the most important of all is “Embrace the Mess”. Especially considering we went the baby led weaning route with our son. James is now a year and a half old, and a proper little foodie.
Since those first few blissful bites of roast potato at six months old, he’s been gobbling up pretty much whatever we give him to eat. It’s been brilliant. Overwhelmingly messy, but brilliant none-the-less. Dinner is a breeze because he eats what we eat, but as a work-from-home mom, I’ve found myself struggling with his lunches. While I can just grab whatever I find in the fridge and munch it at my desk, I can’t really give my toddler a handful of almonds and an uninspiring hard-boiled egg for lunch every day.
So, I was delighted to discover that UCOOK has teamed up with paediatric dietician Kath Megaw to create an exciting new range of frozen meals specially for toddlers to pre-teens. Its menu includes six meals that promise “No-Nonsense Goodness” ensuring that your littles get all the vitamins and minerals they need. They’ve done this by packing the dishes with a large amount of hidden veggies – which is ideal for parents who have to wage a full-scale war with their kids just to get them to swallow the most miniscule portion of broccoli.
Until now, James has been really good with veggies (I say this while touching every piece of wood within reach, because I know that kids are completely unpredictable and one minute they’re eating like tiny gourmands, and the next it’s all chicken nuggets and Vienna sausages), so right now the hidden vegetables aren’t the biggest draw for me in this range – it’s the convenience and knowing that he’s getting all the goodness he needs with very little effort from me.
UCOOK sent us some of its meals for him to try. We selected the Chicken & Broccoli Bake and the Beef Rump Bites & Root Veg Mash, and they sent us a bonus pack of Double Cheese Mini Pizzas to try as well. They come ready frozen, and you simply remove the cardboard and plastic and pop them in the oven. I scooped them out of the foil bakkies and into his usual bowl, but if your little is on the wrong side of hangry and time is of the essence, they’re fine as they are.
We started with the chicken and broccoli bake. He absolutely loved it. Almost all my pictures had motion blur as he shovelled forkfuls into his mouth, providing his own lunch time background music in the form of enthusiastic “mmmmmms”. I managed to pinch a mouthful too, for science, of course. And it was pretty tasty. An adult sneaking a portion of this might want to add a sprinkling of salt, but for young diners, it’s the perfect combination of tastiness and goodness.
Next up were the mini pizzas. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that toddlers eat pizza toppings first, by mashing them into their faces. These, while smaller and more suited to chubby little hands, were no different. Within just a few minutes I was left with a pile of naked pizza base quarters. But I left them there for the better part of the afternoon because I know that my busy little boy likes to graze between playing. And by the time I cleared up the chaos of the day, every morsel had been munched. These are a hit, and because they’re individually wrapped, it’s easy to just take out one or two to bake. (Shhh, I know it’s not the most environmentally friendly, but sometimes you have to pick your battles.)
The final dish James tried was the beef rump bites and root veg mash. It’s a fairly large portion of carrot, butternut and sweet potato mash, with a small portion of beef cubes in gravy. If your little one enjoys their meat, this one might be a little disappointing. Our serving had just five tiny cubes of beef in it, and I think with a few more, the dish would have been a bigger hit. That’s not to say that James didn’t enjoy it. He emptied his bowl and was a delightful orange mess by the end of it. But he’s used to a little more protein along with his veg.
I’m impressed that the meals have no added preservatives, flavourings or MSG, and are low in sodium. They also use free-range ingredients where possible. And when it comes to the hidden veg, your little one will just assume they’re gobbling up a perfectly normal garden variety lasagne, when they’re actually getting a good helping of butternut, cauliflower, carrot and tomato.
The other meals in the UCOOK Kids range are Mac & Cheese, Beef Lasagne, Mushroom Bites & Root Veggie Mash and Spaghetti Bolognese. It’s definitely worth having a few of these stashed away in your freezer for those days when the only other options are yet another peanut butter sandwich or the half-eaten finger biscuit he fished out of the bottom of the Tupperware cupboard.
To explore the range and order your first taste, click here.
WORDS AND PICTURES: Terri Dunbar-Curran