Every parent wants the best for their child. From the day that we find out we are pregnant, and onwards throughout their lives, we strive to do the very best for them. Food is a huge topic of conversation when it comes to the whole baby journey, and for good reason. It matters! There is so much information out there to make us worry, its a whirlwind of opinions and judgement and confusion. Do we start solids too early or too late? Should we wait to let baby taste seafood? Should we start them on bland foods? When do we start meat? What exactly is baby led weaning? How do we prevent them from becoming fussy eaters? How do we support their little immune systems to prevent them from getting sick every 5 minutes?
Most babies start solids at 6 months, some even earlier, and when we are planning for this we think of the basics. Pumpkin, banana, peas and basically anything soft and mushy that eliminates the fear of choking and is naturally sweet enough to be palatable. But why does baby food have to be bland? A treasure trove of flavours exists in spices that are baby friendly, assist with developing the palette and also offer a multitude of health benefits to support their underdeveloped immune systems. However most parents fear using them in the baby food!!
I am the proud parent of a delightful and boisterous 8 month old little girl, who drew a 50/50 genetic draw card for palette and fussiness associated with food. I am the least fussy eater in my family, will try new things and eat almost anything given to me. Whereas my darling husband will turn his nose up at most things he isn't familiar with. He's the kind of person who will make comments like "I don't eat soup because it's not actually food it's like eating a hot drink out of a shallow plate instead of a mug" or "these tomatoes weren't ripened in the sun they're far too acidic for this salad" and "I'm allergic to fresh mushrooms but cooked mushrooms (like on a supreme pizza [insert eye roll]) are fine", or "I don't eat things that have been defrosted" and for no actual reason "I don't like sweet potato or beetroot or parsley or"... I think you get the picture.
So when it came time to start introducing solid foods and helping my baby girl learn how to chew and eat foods without chocking and that don't taste like milk, I became that enthusiastic parent who has a Tupperware container filled with sliced ripe papaya in my purse next to the zip lock bag of cooled steamed sweet potato sticks. I was baby led weaning all the way. Dinner time became super fun with many fantastic baby puree combinations that not only taste delicious - but help develop her little palette and boost her flourishing immune system along the way – all this achieved by adding a gentle quantity of a few spices.
One of her favourite combos is steamed Chinese broccoli (leaves, stalks, the lot - well washed of course) with half a roma tomato, a handful of dried lentils, a piece of ginger the size of my thumbnail, 4 dates, 1 carrot (skin on, no problems) and a slice of sweet potato with a pinch of turmeric powder and 3-4 Fennel seeds and whiz this into a puree. Yum.
Breakfast consists of a Weet-Bix with a dash of prune juice, a dash of boiling water, a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon, some coconut yoghurt, 4-5 fresh blueberries and a ripe banana blended into a puree. Extra yum.
I can say with confidence that she's not a fussy baby, and I like to think that it is because I never gave her the chance! After starting day care for a few hours a week about 2 months ago, there have been absolutely no runny noses or coughs or random bacterial or bronchial or any kinda "other kids germs" that has made her sick (touch wood). Whilst I'm sure when she starts to go to day care full time, this may change with increased exposure, but with an immune system boosted by antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, she has a head start in fighting off these contractible infections.
Adding spices to baby food has so many health benefits. Turmeric, delicious when steamed with chicken mince, eggplant, sweet potato and broccoli, contains bioactive compounds with powerful health benefits. Fennel seeds or Ajwain (Carom seeds), when soaked and strained in boiling water, offer fantastic medicinal benefits for a baby’s gassy tummy. For infants that suffer from constant respiratory issues and diseases such as bronchitis, asthma, frequent coughs and so on, Fennel seeds are an absolute blessing.
Adding Cinnamon to yoghurt, blended with Weet-Bix or soft oats, baked apples, pears and mashed into bananas is a wonderful way to offer interesting flavour to baby food without having to add sugar or salt. Cinnamon is rich in vitamin A, K and C. It also contains minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium and manganese. It can improve your baby's immune system, promote their skeletal growth and enhance their blood building process.
Every baby responds differently to new tastes and flavours, so space out your fancy new puree's to allow time for baby to adjust and monitor for reactions. The benefits of adding spices to your baby food is never ending, so get blending!