Spice Up Baby Food: Why Parents Should Add Flavor From the Start
Cinnamon in your baby’s applesauce? Curry stirred into sweet potatoes? Lemon with spinach? Yes, 100%!
If you look around the world, it’s common to offer babies foods that the whole family eats. That means aromatic, spicy, flavorful food. For example, in India, babies are introduced to curried vegetables and lentils. In Asia, it’s common for babies to eat dried fish mixed into their oatmeal. In Latin America, babies consume garlic, onions, and cilantro.
In fact, your baby has been “tasting” different food flavors from the very start. Sweet and umami flavors permeate amniotic fluid. Flavors from the mother’s diet are transmitted through breast milk. First foods continue this learning journey.
Introducing flavors in early childhood is part of learning about foods and their flavors. Research tells us that early and frequent exposure to a variety of flavors and foods may help children be more adventurous with eating (and less picky) later on.
Additionally, adding herbs, aromatics, and spices to your baby’s food can have other health benefits:
1. Adding herbs and spices, such as garlic and ginger, may enhance immunity.
2. Lemon, lime, and other citrus flavors aid in the absorption of iron and zinc from vegetables, cereals, and beans.
3. Herbs and spices like cinnamon or nutmeg may reduce the need for additional sweetness (which means less sugar).
4. Seasoning foods with basil, oregano, or lemongrass can reduce the addition of salt.
When starting solids, you can ease into adding spices and herbs. Start with mild spices first. Introduce spices with “heat” later, and in small amounts. Whether you are spoon feeding or using a baby-led approach, give these seasonings a try:
Cinnamon – Add this spice to fruit purees, sweet potatoes, muffins, and quick breads – or, my favorite, oats!
Cumin – Whip into pureed beans, vegetables, or meats.
Smoked Paprika – Sprinkle on scrambled eggs, mix into carrots, or use to flavor meat or fish.
Mint – Great with peas, carrots, and pureed fruits.
Basil – Add this to tomato-based dishes, beans, or make a pesto to swipe on toast fingers.
Lemon Juice – Add to vegetable purees (especially spinach, kale, and other dark vegetables.)
Vinegar/Fish Sauce/Hot Sauce – Add a tiny drop to zest things up!