5 must-read tips to introduce spices to your baby’s diet
Indian spices are known to benefit the human body in various ways, besides adding flavours, aromas and sometimes colours to the foods prepared. Turmeric, cinnamon, clove, basil and cumin are some commonly used spices in every Indian household, and they can do wonders to your baby’s health, by reducing the risk of infections, improving brain functions, and more. While infants depend solely on breast milk for the first 6 months of their life, complementary foods become a necessity after that. And this is the time when parents can shape their dietary habits for a healthy future.
In other words, it is possible to add the usual spices to your child’s diet once he or she is 8 months of age, even though sugar and salt are a big no till they reach the age of 1. By introducing spices, you can make it easy for your baby to accept solid foods, and even watch out for any allergic reaction.
Why is it important for the baby to consume spices at such an early age?
For starters, spices contain a number of useful properties that can strengthen your infant’s immune system and prepare them for the future. For instance, spices like ginger, black pepper, asafoetida, fennel seeds, cumin, and carom (ajwain or omam), help with digestion. Garlic and turmeric have anti-inflammatory as well as antioxidant properties. Red pepper, when used in small quantities, can lower the risk of skin and colon cancer, while nutmeg contains invaluable antibacterial compounds.
Of course, you might feel that your child doesn’t have to start consuming spices immediately after he is 8 months old, and that there’s always time for it later. However, the problem is that, dietary habits are picked up in infancy, and will stay with your child throughout his or her life. So, while bland food isn’t bad for them, too much of it during childhood will make them less accepting towards different textures and flavours. This, in turn, will deprive their body of the important health benefits that come with spices.
So, how do you start introducing spices into your child’s daily diet? Here are some basic tips to get started:
- Not all spices are the same
Spices like garlic, ginger, cumin, asafoetida (hing), fennel, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek (methi), and mustard, are mild yet full of flavour. Once your baby gets used to these milder spices, you can start introducing stronger spices like black pepper and garam masala. Do remember that salt and sugar need to be avoided completely during the first year. They can lead to poor eating habits and health issues like juvenile diabetes, childhood obesity, and heart diseases later in life.
- Introduce the spices one at a time
Introduce only one spice at a time in your baby’s diet. Wait for four days after introducing one spice before you add the next one. This way, you will be able to closely monitor how your baby reacts to the spice and ensure that he isn’t allergic.
- Don’t over-season
Also, keep in mind that your baby will eat very small quantities of food when he or she is around 8 months, and so, season the food accordingly. Keeping the amount of spice on the lower side is much better than risking over-seasoning. Just add a pinch of the spice to your baby’s food to begin with.
- Consistency is key
Make sure you maintain consistency in the quantity of spices you use. If you use a certain amount on one occasion and then double it the next time, your baby’s palate will immediately react adversely. So, stick to the same quantity for a while and then increase it very minutely.
- Balance it out
You should also balance the effect of the spicy food by serving it along with something bland. Curd or raita is a good accompaniment with a spicy dish. Also, be careful when using fresh green chillies, red chilli powder, or fresh black pepper— they might be too much for your child’s sensitive tongue and stomach.
Recipe ideas for introducing spices:
- You can prepare staple Indian dishes like rajma, sambhar, dal, chhole and other curries and can start adding mild spices like coriander, cumin, and turmeric. Make sure you add them one at a time, and use just a pinch.
- You can start adding tadka to your baby’s daal by using whole spices like cumin, mustard, and fennel. You can also use cumin to season your child’s rice.
- Also, start adding very small quantities of ginger and garlic to soups and daals.
- Kheer or payasam is a simple desert that can be fed to your child (without sugar of course). Adding spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom powder will make it even more appetising.
- You can use mint and coriander for garnishing daals, vegetables, curries, poha, and even rice.
Finally, your goal is to ensure that your child eats the same food as the rest of the family by the time he or she is 1-year-old. If you follow the tips mentioned in this article and introduce spices in his diet from the eighth or ninth month onwards, your baby should get well-adjusted to eating regular food by the time he turns one.