Introducing herbs and spices when weaning
with thanks to Zenia Deogan, @thesensorykitchen
Weaning doesn’t have to mean bland flavours – in fact, it’s the start of a big ‘food journey’. In this blog, nutritionist and sensory scientist Zenia Deogan (AKA @thesensorykitchen) has teamed up with Tidy Tot, designers of feeding bibs and problem-solving weaning products, to guide you through various ways to add flavour and interest to mealtimes, creating a wonderful, sensory experience for you and baby.
When a child first embarks on their big ‘food journey’ it’s an exciting time. It’s also a blank canvas and this is your opportunity to paint a wonderful picture by helping your child see the world through flavour. You want to awaken their senses and let them get stuck in, not only by squelching and playing with food to experience different textures but by experimenting with spices and flavour combinations to help them discover different tastes as they go through their marvellous weaning adventure. Things can get messy, and I always advise parents to encourage the mess, it’s part of the sensory experience of weaning! Tidy Tot’s range of clever bibs and wash mitts are designed to inspire babies to discover and explore their love of food, whilst minimising the clean-up operation afterwards – hurray for that!
How to give that little tummy big flavours
I often hear about the challenges associated with ‘cooking separately’ for your baby due to the difficulty of not being able to season food. There is a big misconception that baby food is hard to make flavourful and spices aren’t safe for your baby. The importance of creating a great tasting meal, even just by adding a small pinch of herbs or spices, goes a long way. This is the time your baby is learning, and ultimately by offering a variety of flavours it decreases the chances of them being picky eaters later in life.
If your baby is doing well with foods, introduce and experiment with herbs and spices from the beginning. Consult your health advisor or paediatrician beforehand if you have any concerns. Remember, if you’re breastfeeding, your baby is already budding into a little foodie as they’re getting a taste of herbs and spices through breast milk.
As salt and sugar should be avoided before your baby reaches one, adding a little spice and/or herbs is a great way to add flavour as they bring added zest, depth and a new dimension to baby food. Furthermore, some have the added benefit of providing auto-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Treat and use each mealtime as a new opportunity to introduce your little one to a new herb or spice. You’ll be on your way to having an adventurous little eater before you know it!
Try these helpful tips to make your baby’s meals more flavourful:
- Treat each spice like a new food. Introduce them to your baby slowly and individually. Leave a few days between each one to assess any potential sensitivities (better to be safe).
- Herbs and spices have different characteristics. It is important to begin with ‘baby friendly’ and aromatic spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander and cumin. Hotter spices (chilli, black pepper, paprika) which create a sense of heat and trigger pain receptors should be introduced later at around 1 year in small quantities.
- Start with a whole herb or spice infusion. This could be subtle tastes from homemade stocks or whole spices added to food and then removed. Next you can use just a pinch of ground herbs or spices. You’d be surprised how a little goes a long way. Think about the quantity of food vs the amount of herb or spice you add – over seasoning could lead to overwhelming the meal.
Visit Tidy Tot to download a mini booklet of flavoursome recipes and to hear more helpful advice from Zenia Deogan of The Sensory Kitchen.
About Tidy Tot
Tidy Tot is the UK’s leading designer of baby and toddler feeding bibs and problem-solving weaning products. Born from one parents’ drive to contain the mess of weaning, Tidy Tot now supports mums and dads through their whole weaning journey into the toddler years. For more information about Tidy Tot’s range of baby feeding products please visit www.tidytot.com or follow them on Instagram and Facebook.
About Zenia Deogan
Known as @thesensorykitchen on Instagram, Zenia is a nutritionist and food scientist passionate about educating families on how to evoke the senses with flavoursome food during weaning and at family mealtimes. With a MRes in Sensory Science and BSc in Food Science and Nutrition, Zenia hosts educational workshops and develops meal plans for families putting nutrition and flavour at the heart of all her work, supporting parents to help their babies become adventurous little eaters.
Disclaimer: The views and advice given in this article are those of the guest writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Weaning World or any other organisations represented on this platform.