Lunchtime can be a pain for parents, especially when it involves planning and night-before packing. Fort Greene-based mom, Becky Williamson, is helping to elevate lunchtime with her popular website, Food For Harper. Armed with a bento box and a creative spirit, Williamson inspires her thousands of followers with a daily photo diary of the lunches she packs for her daughter, Harper, three-and-a-half, and her son Adler, 14 months. Her healthy fruit-and-veggie heavy meals always include adorable bento accoutrements and fun shaped foods that somehow don’t seem daunting for readers to try at home. So, of course we were curious to find out what other food tricks she performs at home.
What kind of eaters are your children?
Harper is a great eater. She would rather have vegetables and fruit for her meals than anything else. I can’t get the girl to eat a chicken nugget or a fish stick if my life depended on it! Adler on the other hand, he loves some chicken nuggets! He is a good eater like Harper, but different. He loves fruit, but is a bit picky about his vegetables. I have to trick him and mix his vegetables with hummus or avocado.
What kinds of food did you give them from the start?
At six months, I introduced homemade fruit and vegetable purees. I did not start either one of them on baby oatmeal or rice cereal like most people do.
What’s a typical breakfast like for you and the kids?
My husband and I are so crazed at home in the morning, we barely have time to get a glass of water. I eat my yogurt with granola and a cup of coffee when I sit down at my desk in Union Square at 9am. But the kids eat well! For breakfast, Harper goes through stages. Sometimes she is on a cereal kick. Sometimes on an oatmeal kick. She also loves mini Aunt Jemima frozen pancakes! Whichever she picks, she always has fruit along with it. I am still nursing Adler when he first wakes up in the morning. And about an hour after nursing, he will eat yogurt or oatmeal, also with fruit.
What’s the typical lunch like for the kids?
Harper has a bento box every day for lunch. The bento usually includes all the five food groups. She has some sort of cheese with a lot of raw vegetables and fruit. Crackers or a sandwich is also included. And I try to add in a protein –an egg or a slice of deli meat or even just a handful of almonds. Adler has the same as Harper, just cut up into little bits. Hummus for Adler is usually included too.
Making lunches for your child doesn’t have to be difficult or take a lot of time! Just stock your fridge with plenty of fruit and vegetables, dairy, eggs and deli meats. It never takes me longer than 15 minutes to make lunch. It’s colorful. It’s healthy. I have fun with it. And on top of it all, Harper does too!
Do the kids ever rebel against having a bento box for lunch?
Never! Harper absolutely loves it and she looks forward to it.
What are your go-to dinners for the family?
If we need something quick and easy, we eat a lot of raw vegetables. And eggs with toast are ALWAYS a hit for all of us.
Do you try to eat together or feed them first?
On weekdays, Harper and Adler eat together and always eat before me and my husband. My husband usually gets home after the children are already asleep and I like to eat with him. That way, Harper and Adler don’t eat alone, and neither does my husband.
What do you keep on hand always for last-minute meals?
Our fridge is always stocked with plenty of fruits and veggies. If I need to throw something together fast, Harper and Adler will get an array of different produce with some dairy, maybe yogurt or cheese. And I’ll throw in some crackers. I always have pasta on hand also.
What are your favorite restaurants (for take out or to go out) as a family?
Before my husband and I had children, we ate in restaurants a lot. Probably too much! Since having children, it’s become too hard to do that. We ALWAYS order in bagels on Saturday mornings. There is nothing better than a bagel with cream cheese and some coffee from Bergen Bagels. I look forward to it all week!
On Sundays, we usually go to brunch at Pillow Cafe in Clinton Hill. We absolutely love it there. It is, by far, our favorite restaurant. The owners, Biola and Robin, are amazing and the staff is great too. It is such a kid-friendly place to eat. When we go, Harper always wants eggs and toast. And we share a Ben’s Buttercup smoothie that consists of chocolate, bananas and peanut butter. Sometimes, she’ll share some of my bacon and cheddar waffles. Adler gets to try a bit of everyone’s food.
What’s your policy on sweets and junk food?
Even though I usually eat pretty healthy, I am a major sweets person so it’s hard to tell Harper she can’t have a cookie when I’m standing there eating Oreos right out of the bag. When it comes to sweets for her, I will let her share with me. If she asks for a cookie, I’ll give her one (or two!).
What’s your policy on introducing new food or encouraging your children to eat things they’re not interested in?
If she bites into it and doesn’t like it, she doesn’t have to eat it. I don’t force anything on her, but we encourage her to at least try it. It’s crazy, but I find that she is willing to try new foods if they are mixed in with her favorites. For example, if she has cucumbers and carrots on her plate and she sees a slice of green pepper, she is more willing to give it a try.
Are there any cookbooks you refer to often?
I don’t do cookbooks. I try Pinterest recipes every so often. They are definitely hit or miss!
Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share? Something quick and easy?
I’ve been making homemade granola lately that is amazing! For the holidays, Harper and I made some and put it in mason jars to give as gifts to her preschool teachers and my work friends. The people in my office are still talking about it! I loosely followed a recipe I found on Momables.
4 cups of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats
3/4 cup of almonds (walnuts or pecans work too)
1/3 cup of flax seed (or sunflower seeds)
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 cup of maple syrup
1/3 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of raisins
1/2 cup of dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 250. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, salt, maple syrup and olive oil. In a larger bowl, combine the oats, almonds and flax seeds. Combine both mixtures in the larger bowl and make sure the dry ingredients are coated well. Place the mixture on two sheet pans. Bake for 45 minutes stirring every 15 minutes. Once out of the oven, add in your raisins and cranberries. You can also add a handful of chocolate chips to your granola! Once you take it out of the oven, just let it cool before adding the chocolate.