Weaning is a very exciting time in a baby’s life. They graduate from drinking only milk to a world of delicious tastes and textures. Every day is a culinary journey for them and as a parent, watching your little one discover, taste and explore new foods can be very rewarding… and quite amusing at times. During this time, introducing new flavours to your baby is so important and offering a diverse taste experience. Do not be afraid to be imaginative with food combinations, and the more flavour combinations you can offer your baby, the better. There is no need to stay away from strong flavours. Experiment with flavours.
Think out of the box and make your baby’s food journey an adventure.
When solids are introduced, it is often recommended to start with simpler purees, such as a plain butternut puree or apple puree. Babies will only take small amounts to begin with as they adjust from milk drinking to eating food. Once you are in the swing of things, start experimenting with new tastes and flavours. From personal experience at weaning, there are only so many fruit and vegetables you can offer to your baby, especially if you are focusing on seasonal foods. This is true for proteins as well. The thought of eating the same meals day in and day out would bore any adult, so why shouldn’t we avoid this in our babies and be more adventurous? A common question we get from parents is: How can we turn the basic recipes into a cuisine meal? Looking worldwide, in India they think nothing of adding a bit of curry spices to baby’s foods at a very early age. Thai families often incorporate coconut milk, lemongrass and even chilli when feeding their babies solid foods. Latino babies are exposed to taste of wonderful herbs and spices such as cumin or cilantro. Now it is definitely not recommended to start adding chilli, curry powders, salt, pepper (or sugar) to your baby’s food, but using herbs and gentle spices such as a cinnamon or nutmeg in small quantities are easy on baby’s tummies and wonderful flavour additions (for babies over 6 months of age).
Herbs are a great way to flavour vegetable purees and add new flavour dimensions to any meal. No need to stop at vegetables – herbs can be added to fruit purees as well. A weird thought at first but the combination of sweet and savoury work well. Basil, rosemary, mint, sage, dill and thyme are great examples. Got some space in the garden – grow some of your own herbs and always ensure you have fresh produce on hand. What about spices? Gentle spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cumin are deliciously compatible with a number of fruit purees such as apple or pear, as well as vegetables such as butternut or carrots. The wonderful thing about adding herbs and spices is that you can continue to use your fruit and vegetables as the foundation of the meal, and use the different varieties and combinations of herbs and spices to keep your little one amused and enticed at meal times. Don’t be afraid to combine a fruit with a protein, or a vegetable with a fruit. This doesn’t only apply to babies and the same principal should be continued through the culinary journey from baby to toddler to child. Don’t be afraid of strong flavours such as olives or broccoli. Babies need to be exposed to sweet, savoury, mild and strong flavours to widen their palette of tastes.
In addition to flavours, offering new and different food textures is very important. Follow age appropriate guidelines and be sure to continually encourage your baby to progress with textures. Messy play is a wonderful sensory experience for babies and be sure to keep the culinary journey using the touch, smell and taste senses. A feeding mesh is a great tool for exposing your baby to holding foods and self-feeding and a good stepping stone for progressing to finger foods.
In terms of cooking methods, there is no need to always stick with steaming or boiling. As adults, we don’t steam our food every day and think we would go looney at meal times if all our meals were steamed. Of course steaming or boiling are an ideal way of cooking fruit or vegetables when you wanting a soft consistency for purees. You can however also experiment with roasting or grilling to add a new flavour dimension to you meals. Chop a mix of seasonal vegetables (and proteins when age appropriate), toss into in a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and some herbs and roast until cooked. The flavours of the vegetables will be different and intensified.
Now for all the moms out there who aren’t natural cooks or not the most creative with putting the theory of flavour combinations into practice, I have been on the hunt for enticing recipes for our little ones to make sure their food journey is a rollercoaster of flavour fun. I turned to Google of course and found some wonderful websites for baby recipes. They provide guidance on quantities of herbs and spices so that the meals are not over powered.
The first great website is www.babyfoode.com, which offer adventurous recipes for babies and toddlers. The flavour combinations are so unique and creative, a definite win for our little ones. From Roasted Banana and Rosemary puree (a combination of sweet and savoury) to Pear and Cardamom Puree (a combination of sweet and spice) these recipes will keep any baby on an exciting culinary journey. Be sure to check out the Yellow Squash and Thyme, Broccoli, Asparagus and Tarragon, Strawberry and Salmon, Blueberry, Chickpea and Rosemary Chunky Puree recipes.
Another great website that have some unique baby recipes focusing on introducing herbs and spices is www.hellobee.com. Have a look at these yummy recipes such as Salmon and Dill, Egg and Chive or Avocado and Cumin:
Happy cooking everyone! May the journey be an adventure always.