Are you apprehensive of flavouring your little one's food with herbs and spices? Don't be. Add these 10 amazing condiments from your kitchen to your baby's food to give a health boost.
By Priya Kathpal
“In my travels, I also noticed that kids in Thailand like spicy food, and kids in India love curry. I’m hoping to introduce my son, Hudson, to lots of veggies and spices when he’s young. I say that before he’s started on solid foods, so it could be easier in theory than practice!” — Curtis Stone, well-known Australian chef and television personality.
Are you guilty of offering bland and tasteless food to your baby, because you are apprehensive of introducing her to spices? As chef Curtis says, it may be easier said than done. But, by keeping your little one away from spices, you are denying her the health benefits she can get from them. After all, herbs and spices not only add flavour to food but also help build your baby’s immunity and keep infections at bay.
Spicing up your baby's food has other advantages too. If you want your child to be open to different flavours, it is important to introduce the little one to a variety of preparations. What better way to do this, than to add a small amount of different spices to your baby's food every day? Moreover, if you don’t want a fussy eater at home, providing a variety in taste as early as possible is a good idea.
However, table salt should be avoided until the child turns one. This is because the sodium needs in infants are very less and breast milk provides them the adequate amount. That does not mean baby food should be bland and boring. We have so many natural flavouring agents in our traditional herbs and spices, which can take your baby’s food to a different level.
Add only small amounts to make sure your baby takes it well. Too much spice could be harmful. Each child may react in a different way to different ingredients. Some of these could be strong for some babies than for others. Be prepared, as chances are that your baby may reject the flavoured foods, the first few times. Don’t get disappointed and try out different permutations and combinations of ingredients. It will help you understand what suits your baby and help the little one accept the new taste faster.
Pick mild, aromatic herbs and spices for your baby. You can start with the ones commonly used in your home. You can introduce these once your baby starts solid food — at around 8–9 months. Here is a list of herbs and spices we recommend you add to your baby's food:
1. Garlic: You can use finely chopped or grated garlic for tempering baby foods like khichdi and dal. Garlic keeps the common cold at bay, boosts immunity and helps in getting rid of harmful intestinal worms. Garlic gives an aroma to the dish, which most babies enjoy after they get used to it.
2. Ginger: If you are making chila, dhokla, khichdi or pulses, you can add grated ginger in it. You can also use fresh ginger paste. It helps reduce flatulence or gas and associated stomach pain — a common issue in babies. Ginger also reduces nausea and motion sickness. It is also recommended to alleviate dry cough.
3. Black pepper: A pinch of black pepper powder in snacks like roasted lotus seeds can improve the bland taste, without the need for salt. It helps improve overall digestion by producing more hydrochloric acid in the body. Ensure that pepper is added in very small amounts — it should not be hot (spicy) or overwhelming for your child.
4. Cinnamon: Any sweet preparation is incomplete without a pinch of cinnamon. Cinnamon is high in antioxidants, thus improving the immune system of your child. You can add the aromatic spice in powdered form to baked goodies like cupcakes, chiroti, pancakes and cookies.
5. Turmeric: All Indian savoury preparations call for turmeric. We use it for the colour and flavour, as well as for its medicinal value. It has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Make the good old turmeric milk a bedtime ritual for your child.
6. Cumin seeds: Cumin or jeera is commonly used in most Indian recipes, either as whole seeds in the tempering or in powdered form. This spice promotes digestion and reduces the risk of food-borne illnesses. Cumin has anti-microbial and antibiotic properties. Add a pinch of cumin powder to your baby’s porridge, dal or khichdi.
7. Asafoetida: Hing or asafoetida helps relieve stomach issues like colic in babies. A pinch of this spice can do wonders. It will give a unique flavour to the food and also help your child digest it better. Hing reduces flatulence and helps in the treatment of respiratory problems.
8. Carom seeds: Roasted and powdered carom seeds can be added to porridge, khichdi or any other baby food. It helps in the treatment of cold and cough, eases digestion and colic pain, and helps cure diarrhoea.
9. Coriander leaves: Use coriander as the first leafy greens your baby tastes. Start by adding a teaspoonful of freshly chopped coriander into your little one's food; it works perfectly in most dishes. Fresh coriander is an appetite stimulant and prevents food poisoning.
10. Fenugreek: You can season your baby’s food with the pungent fenugreek or methi. However, make sure you don’t leave any fenugreek seeds behind in your child’s food as it tastes bitter. Take a strainer, put fenugreek seeds in it and pour hot oil through it to flavour your child’s dal, khichdi or bowl of veggies. Fenugreek is good for your baby’s digestion and helps prevent infections. It also promotes hair growth and keeps stomach disorders at bay.
Apart from these, there are many herbs and spices like nutmeg, star anise, basil and parsley, which can be used in your baby’s food to make it more flavourful, not to forget the innumerable health benefits that these ingredients have to offer to your child. This also helps raise a child, who is open to trying out different foods.
The author is a nutritionist and founder at Nutrify.
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