With everyone’s favourite root vegetables in season, and warming soups back on the menu, winter is a great time to start weaning. But where do you begin?
It may be cold and dreary outside, but that’s all the more reason to get cooking inside. There are plenty of seasonal fruit and vegetables in the supermarkets, many of which make great first foods and are ideal for batch-cooking. From winter-warming recipe ideas to the some natural immune-boosting superfoods, here are Annabel Karmel’s top tips for weaning in winter.
What’s in season?
“Root vegetables are at the very core of weaning. They’re easy to digest and unlikely to provoke an allergic reaction, making them perfect for getting started. Carrots, parsnips, beetroot, squash and cauliflower are all in season in winter and are easy to steam or boil. They also taste great roasted in the oven. Squash and parsnips are particularly good for starting weaning with because they have a natural sweetness, similar to breastmilk.
“If you are adopting the baby-led weaning approach or looking to introduce finger foods alongside purées, then you can very easily bake or steam sticks of root veg too.
“When it comes to fruit, always remember to taste it yourself first and check it’s ripe before giving it to your baby. Apple and pear are in season during winter and make great first fruits. These can be steamed or cooked in a saucepan. You can also look to mix fruit with savoury ingredients. For example, why not try combining apple with beef. Salmon with carrot and orange also makes a good combination. Or try a purée of chicken with carrot, parsnip and pear.”
Batch cook purées
“When there’s a baby to look after and you don’t have much time, batch cooking is the way forward. It can be difficult to blend small amounts of food, so instead, prepare purées in larger quantities. You can then freeze individual portions in ice cube trays or small freezer containers ready for when you need them.
“When it comes to defrosting individual portions, take the purée out to defrost in the fridge overnight and reheat it in a saucepan or microwave – stirring thoroughly to heat it through and get an even temperature. Remember you must never refreeze a purée that has already been frozen and don’t reheat foods more than once.”
Make meals for you and your baby
“Although there are a few foods you should avoid giving to your little one, there’s no reason why you should feel like you always need to cook separately for your baby. If you’re making dinner for yourself and roasting some carrots or squash then just add some extra to the tray and pop in the oven. Once they are soft, leave to cool and simply mash or blend to the desired consistency, adding a little water or milk if needed. There you have it – a simple but delicious purée packed full of in-season goodness. Just remember not to add salt to the veggies before roasting: grown-ups can season their own afterwards.
“Alternatively, once the vegetables have cooled, you could simply serve as finger foods for babies who are self-feeding.”
“As the temperature drops, we start craving that extra helping of comfort food at meal times. And little ones will be in agreement once you start to cook up some of your favourite winter warmers.
“So many recipes you cook for yourself can also be given to your baby when they are ready. From slow-cooked beef casserole to cottage pie or your favourite curry, simply omit the salt, choose gentle spices instead of chilli and mash to the desired consistency. If you’re making a chunky soup for yourself there’s no harm in blending it to the right consistency for your little one. You can then add extra stock and seasoning to your version for a different consistency if you prefer.”
We’ve all been there – winter arrives and with it comes a spell of coughs and colds, so it’s important to try to keep your baby’s defences supported. Here are some of Annabel’s favourite natural foods to support normal immune function.
“A real culinary superhero, it’s high in iron and vitamin K, and great as part of a purée combo. If your baby isn’t sure about the taste, mix it with a sweet-tasting vegetable like squash or sweet potato. For older children, you can bake it in the oven to create some tasty and nutritious kale crisps.”
“A powerful source of vitamin C, broccoli helps support your baby’s immune system and helps the body to absorb iron. It also contains beta-carotene, folic acid, iron and potassium. Don’t feed your little one too much broccoli though as it can give your baby wind.”
“They’re packed with vitamin C, an essential ingredient for your baby throughout the year, which can help them fight off colds. Vitamin C also boosts iron absorption, so it’s important to include citrus or berry fruits in your baby’s diet. But remember, because of their acidity, give them in small quantities to start with and combine with other fruits like apple and pear.”
“You should avoid adding salt to baby food until they reach 12 months, but use it sparingly even then as too much salt is bad for children and adults. Instead, for babies, you can use herbs and aromatic mild spices to add extra flavour. Cinnamon, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger and turmeric work well with bitter foods such as broccoli and spinach. Introduce one aromatic spice every four to five days, to check your baby can digest it without any problems and in a food that your baby has already tried.”
“Turmeric, garlic and ginger all have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties so are a great idea if you are feeling under the weather. Why not make a mildly spiced family curry to help keep illnesses at bay? You can then blend it to the desired consistency for your baby.”
Read more about introducing spices and seasoning in weaning with Annabel Karmel
Starting your weaning journey? Annabel’s New Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner is the No.1 guide for giving your baby the very best start. Filled with more than 200 quick, easy and nutritious recipes, as well as essential advice, tips and meal planners, it’s the must-have kitchen essential for this exciting milestone. Visit www.annabelkarmel.com.
The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.