As adults, we don’t like tasteless, boring food, so why should babies? Annabel Karmel explains what’s safe to introduce and when to do it
In those early months, when your baby is exploring solid foods, they’ll experience lots of new flavours and textures.
Babies grow more rapidly in their first year than any other in their life. When your baby is aged between six months and one year, there’s a window of time when they’ll be pretty good at trying all kinds of food, so make the most of this opportunity!
How to introduce flavour
Getting your baby to try different flavours is so important whether you’re spoon-feeding or baby-led weaning (which means giving your baby soft food that they can pick up and eat themselves). The best way is whichever way you – and your baby – feel comfortable with.
A great way of introducing flavour is through a variety of herbs, spices and seasoning. You’ll be surprised at the amount of options you can add to your baby’s meals. Try to introduce one aromatic spice every four to five days in a food that your baby has already tried, to check they can digest it without any problems.
Safe spices and seasonings to try
Here are some of Annabel’s favourite spices and seasonings, and how to work them into your weaning recipes.
- Turmeric – This spice has bitter notes. You could add a little turmeric to sweet root veg such as sweet potato or carrot to add a gentle hint of bitterness.
- Dill – Once you know your little one can handle eggs and fish, try using this herb in mini fishcakes or mash up hard-boiled eggs with finely-chopped dill.
- Cumin – This warming spice is perfect in a Moroccan-style tagine and then blended to get them used to this new flavour.
- Thyme – Use this herb alongside a soft-but-textured couscous and roasted vegetable medley.
- Garam Masala – Serve this seasoning in a curry. Once your baby is seven to eight months old, they’ll probably like a mild, aromatic masala (and you will too!).
- Garlic – A key ingredient of houmous, alongside chickpeas, tahini and lemon juice. You can buy it or make your own. You can add other vegetables or herbs to create new houmous flavours, too, try roasted red pepper, roasted beetroot and thyme, and avocado and coriander.
Seasonings to avoid with young babies
There are some ingredients you should avoid – or use in moderation – while weaning.
- Salt – It’s important to avoid adding salt until your baby reaches 12 months, and even then, there are alternative ways to add flavour. Use herbs and aromatic mild spices instead, such as cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, nutmeg and turmeric.
- Sugar – There’s no need to add sugar to your baby’s food as it offers no nutritional benefits. As an occasional treat you can use it in things like cakes. Even then, you could swap it for things like dates, sultanas, apple and sweet root vegetables like carrot and beetroot.
- Honey – This should be avoided in the first year as it can cause infant botulism. Although it’s very rare, it’s best to be safe with a baby’s immature digestive system. Maple syrup is a good alternative, but as with sugar, you should go easy on it.
- Chilli – We’ve all experienced the varying heat of chilli so it is best to err on the side of caution with babies. Introduce a little heat gradually from one year.
For lots of recipe inspiration, essential advice, tips and meal planners, buy Annabel’s New Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner – the No.1 guide for giving your baby the very best start. Visit www.annabelkarmel.com.