10 Tips for Adding Herbs and Spices to Baby Food
The concept of bland baby food is common in the United States, but the idea that bland is healthier is a myth. Just take a look at any number of other cultures around the world and you’ll see that plain mashed potatoes and unseasoned carrot puree are not considered healthy options for little ones.
Starting to introduce herbs, spices, and superfoods to your baby’s diet has a host of benefits. For one, your kiddo will grow up with a more refined palette (#foodieintraining.) They’ll struggle much less throughout childhood and as an adult when traveling or visiting friends’ houses if they’re already exposed to different flavors of food. And variety in your child’s diet is always a good thing, ensuring they’re getting enough vitamins and nutrients.
The following list is a compilation of helpful tips to get you started, but remember to talk to your pediatrician before adding spices to baby food. And always trust your parental intuition before implementing anything new into your baby’s life -- remember, you’ve got that inner wisdom!
Tips for Adding Seasoning to Baby Food
1. Educate yourself on what to avoid. Salt and sugar are generally best avoided before the age of one. (Don’t worry, if your child eventually ends up eating even a healthy American diet, they’ll be exposed to plenty of sugar and salt soon enough!) And while some Latin cultures do use chili and many Indian cultures add curry to their baby food, we recommend avoiding any spices that are overly hot until you see how your baby handles the more mild flavors.
2. Choose the right seasonings. Opt for the aromatic spices when adding seasoning to baby food. Think about experimenting with some commonly used herbs and spices like paprika, coriander, cumin, dill, oregano, cinnamon and thyme. Pick seasonings that are most commonly used on certain foods, like Italian herbs in pasta or lemon zest and pepper on poultry. This will help adapt your baby’s palette to these common dishes.
3. Mash up your own baby food, if possible. Adding spices to baby food that you make is honestly the best way to both ensure ingredient integrity and control spice portions. While you can certainly top a jarred carrot puree with a hint of turmeric and call it a day, homemade baby food tends to be more nutritious (and affordable) than store bought.
4. Start them on spices at the right age. Most pediatricians recommend holding off on any spices until your baby is about 6 to 8 months old. But remember that if you’re breastfeeding and you’re eating seasoned foods, your little one is already getting some healthy (and doctor approved) exposure through breast milk.
5. Less is more. Only add a little bit of each spice or seasoning to start. There’s nothing more frustrating than overseasoning your kiddo’s food only to have them totally reject it. A little goes a long way, especially when it comes to the bolder and more potent spices.
6. Go slow. There’s a “4 day wait” rule of thumb that ensures your little one doesn’t have any GI distress or allergic reactions to newly introduced foods. This means that if you feed your baby apples with cinnamon on Monday, wait until Friday to introduce another food. This will also help you rule out foods in the case of an upset tummy or other adverse reaction.
7. Use seasonings your family uses often. This one’s a key for all babies but particularly those with multicultural heritages. Using the types of spices you commonly use in home cooking is a wonderful way to introduce important and cherished foods and flavors.
8. Steer clear of blends (in general). While buying a pre-made spice blend is easier, it takes some due diligence on your part. Many blends include salt and sugar, so be very mindful about reading the ingredients before adding spice blends to your baby food.
9. Try out different textures. It’s great for kids to be exposed to a variety of different flavors, but don’t forget about texture. Not everything has to be mashed! Give some softer solids a try earlier on and you might be surprised at how well it goes over with your little one.
10. Take non-mealtime opportunities to normalize a variety of foods. This one goes for any type of food, not just those that are seasoned. As your little one grows up, if you find you have a picky eater, try talking about foods at times you’re away from the table. Read books or tell stories about these foods, pretend to “make a meal” with them, and let your little one hold or play with these foods to remove their negative association or emotional charge.
If you’ve tried concocting seasoned baby foods on your own and you’re totally over it, you can always try out a subscription service like Hello Yumi or Tiny Organics. These companies offer safe and healthy foods for your baby and the ultimate convenience for you.
Above all, remember that this journey of parenthood is never perfect. If you manage to incorporate two or three seasonings in your baby’s food, that’s plenty! This tactic is meant to help your children grow up with more options and increased flexibility around mealtimes, but there’s no need to stress over the process. Take note of which spices your baby responds to best. And as your kids get older, you’ll see which seasonings are their favorite and “most requested.” Have fun with it, parents!