How would you like boring, unimaginative baby food day in and day out? I bet you wouldn't. Babies may be young, but their taste buds are developing very quickly, so it's smart to introduce new flavors early on, rather than later. Also, many herbs and spices are healthy food additions and can even fight off colds and flu. If you haven't ever made homemade baby food before, it's not that hard. You can easily make homemade baby food with a pot and fork or potato masher, or get fancy with an easy to use baby food maker. Oh, and although jarred baby food isn't as healthy or as fresh as homemade, you can add herbs and spices to it in order to liven it up as well.
Rules for Spicy Baby Food
When adding spices to homemade (or jarred) baby food there are some basic rules you should follow.
- Always follow safe food handling practices.
- Add single spices until you know your child doesn’t have a food allergy. For example, if you mix two herbs into carrots, and then your child has a reaction, it makes it impossible to know which herb your child reacted poorly to.
- Use organic and Fair Trade herbs and spices when possible.
- Use fresh herbs when possible. In fact it’s easy to grow your own organic herbs if you have a small patio or even just a sunny window. When using fresh herbs make sure you chop them up well and remove any stems.
- When using dried herbs and spices a little goes a long way. I’d start with 1/8 teaspoon of any dried herb or spice per 1/2 cup baby food and increase to taste from there.
- Don’t get crazy with hot spices until your baby is older. For example, while a dash of a curry may not insult baby’s taste buds, it is possible and additions like super hot pepper and mustard seeds aren’t really great for baby food unless used in very tiny amounts.
Cinnamon & Nutmeg
Cinnamon is an awesome medicinal and tasty spice. Cinnamon supports good digestive health and some research says it can even ward off bacteria and the lively scent has been said to boost brain function. Nutmeg is noted as a relaxing spice, so it may help your baby catch some zzz’s and it can sooth sore tummies. Cinnamon or nutmeg make excellent additions to pumpkin, apples, yams, berries, chicken or pears. You can also use both in brown or white rice baby food dishes, in soups like split pea or in beans.
Mint is a lively and flavorful addition to many baby food purees, such as peas, apples, potatoes, or berries. You can also add mint to soft baby cookies, rice or even meats. Mint helps sooth tummy aches and may fight off harmful bacteria and fungi. Mint is also rich in vitamin C.
Lemongrass is very strong, especially if you find a nice fresh bunch of it. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way. Also be aware that fresh lemongrass is a bit fibrous and somewhat stringy, so you have to cook it until very soft for a baby. Lemongrass is known to support healthy digestive tract function, stop nausea and some studies show it can even calm down fever. Chicken dishes, rice, broccoli and carrots all benefit from lemongrass’ unique flavor.
Cilantro is thought of as a more adult-minded herb, but it actually fits in well in baby dishes too. Research about cilantro shows it may help remove heavy metals from the body, plus it helps stimulate healthy digestion, relieves gas and may even ward off Salmonella bacteria. Cilantro can be added to any number of baby purees but goes especially well with foods such as chicken, fish, melon or avocado. Oh, one more thing, for best results, cilantro should be cooked only lightly – so add it near the end of puree making.
Ginger has long been known to fight off nausea, but it’s also good at helping immune systems fight off colds and flu, is a natural painkiller and can be used to sooth motion sickness. Both fresh and dried ginger are pretty potent, so use in small amounts when adding to purees of lentils, peas, carrots, yogurt, bananas or apples.
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