A culinary gift for a new baby

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Bringing home a new baby can be overwhelming, whether it’s the first child or the fifth. In most cases, family and friends have blessed the expecting family with enough knitted blankets to tarp their whole house and enough onesies to cover the child until prom (with some letting out, of course). As nice as those gifts are, once that baby comes home from the hospital, the newly-expanded family embarks on a rapid transition to find their new normal. Most parents are too exhausted to even remember what day it is, let alone pull together a meal plan, which is why taking a meal to a family during those first few weeks of newborn life has been a time-honored tradition for decades. Friends just shouldn’t let friends live on peanut butter and jelly.

Consider your ingredients

While new parents will be grateful for whatever meals they receive, there are a few things to consider in deciding what to make for a family with a new baby. The first and most obvious recommendation is to check with the family for food preferences or allergies. Next, try to find a meal that incorporates lean proteins such as chicken and pork, as well as whole grains and vegetables. This is particularly important for families with a newborn, as it not only helps bellies stay full, but also boosts energy and help mom’s body produce milk if she’s breastfeeding. Hold off on the Texas five-alarm chili, since spices and some flavors can pass through breast milk to the baby. Considering which foods will support a new mom’s nutritional needs, as well as that of the rest of the family, are vital during this transitional time.

Consider the whole family

When choosing the meal you’ll make, be sure to think about the family as a whole. Are there young kids in the home? Older children are more likely to eat whatever has been prepared, but if the children are around the age of five, it may be best to stick with simple kid-friendly favorites like pasta, rice or a ready-to-bake cheese pizza. While it’s not mandatory, consider taking something sweet for dessert, as it’s sure to please even the pickiest of eaters.

Before delivering the meal, be sure to let the family know whether the meal you’re bringing will be frozen, in need of some warm-up time or ready to eat. This way they’ll know ahead of time what’s needed for preparation on their end. If at all possible, try to make enough food for leftovers. Providing a dinner makes you a great friend, but having enough to cover lunch the next day makes you a saint.

Consider going further

If you want to add even more jewels to your crown, arrange a meal train to get other family, friends and/or co-workers on board. The Internet has an abundance of meal train planning websites that allow people to pick the day they want to take a meal, as well as give them access to dietary preferences, number of people in the home, etc.; all the information someone would need without having to get the family on the phone to get it.

At the end of the day, whatever meal you decide to make will be invaluable to a family adjusting to life with a new baby. However, choosing the right meal that both helps the new mom recover and meets the needs of the rest of the family is a priceless gift. Below is a recipe that is simple to make, reheats easily and is packed with protein and vegetables to help keep mom and dad moving, as well as enough cheese and pasta to keep the kids happy.

Chicken Alfredo Bake

2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 lb. whole grain penne pasta, cooked and drained

2 cups prepared Alfredo sauce

ΒΌ cup milk

1 16 oz. bag of frozen vegetables

2 cups Italian shredded cheese

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9″ by 13″ baking dish, mix pasta, chicken and vegetables. Combine Alfredo sauce with milk and pour evenly over the top. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake for 45 minutes.

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