How to add flavour when weaning
Nutritionist and sensory food scientist, Zenia Deogan, of @TheFlavourAcademy talks to us about adding herbs and spices at mealtimes to give your baby an exciting, flavourful sensory weaning experience.
When a child first embarks on their big ‘food journey’ it is one of the most exciting times. It’s a blank canvas and this is your opportunity to paint a wonderful picture – your chance to help your child see the world through flavour. They will begin to learn about the most important thing in life – food – through you! Zenia Deogan (AKA @TheFlavourAcademy) is a nutritionist and sensory scientist, as well as a mum, and passionate about flavourful food for babies. She’s joined us for our first Tidy Tot Sensory Kitchen initiative which involves a live workshop as part of National Weaning Week, plus loads of helpful advice and yummy recipes to give you everything you need to cook with confidence using herbs and spices when weaning. Don’t forget to pick up one of our bibs before you get started!
- Sight – not only does a balanced and colourful plate excite little eyes but getting creative with vegetable cutters to produce fun shapes and animals will really enhance their eating experience
- Sound – Give your baby interesting foods that will help them experience different sounds e.g. kale crisps, melty puffs, baby rice crackers/rusks
- Smell – Create different references for the same food in varying formats e.g fresh and dried – lemon vs lemon rind/any citrus fruit, fresh herbs vs. dried herbs
- Taste – Allow your baby to experience fruits and vegetables in different forms (ensure they are size appropriate for your baby’s age) e.g. grated, spiralised, ribboned, sticks. Each form will vary in taste and smell due to the nature of how the plant cells have been cut therefore releasing different quantities of aroma volatiles
- Touch – Present your baby with more than one texture at meal times, this doesn’t have to be something they are ingesting it could just be something they are feeling. One great thing to do is offering your baby whole fruits – melon, orange, apple – each have different skins and textures and to a certain extent smells depending on ripeness.
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/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. Although consult your health advisor or paediatrician if you have any concerns before you offer any herbs or spices. 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.
Herbs and spices add depth and flavour
As salt and sugar should be avoided before one, adding a little spice and/or herb is a great way to add flavour to your baby’s food as they add zest, depth and a new dimension. Also with the added benefit of providing autoinflammatory and antioxidant properties. Treat and use each mealtime as new opportunity to introduce your little one to a new herb/spice.
- 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/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/spices. You’d be surprised how little goes such a long. Think about the quantity of food vs amount of herb/spice – over seasoning could lead to overwhelm.
Mood-boosting foods for mamas
There is no hiding the fact that being a mama can leave you feeling extremely exhausted. The temptation to reach out for high-calorie foods is completely natural – our bodies are yearning for energy, we have evolved to think of that in the form of sugar – explaining why we tend to reach out for biscuits. Below I have highlighted some mood-boosting food recommendations including foods rich in nutrients such as fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals.
- Throughout the day, try and ingest slow releasing foods such as smoothies and oats
- Dried fruit and nuts are a great way to gain some energy, specifically dates which are also high in iron
- A little meal prep at the beginning of the week will help with potentially reducing the chances of reaching out for all those sugary snacks. Vegetable sticks, boiled eggs, quinoa/chia seeds added to morning porridge and salads throughout the week, rice crackers with peanut butter and honey all possess some great nutritional value leaving us feeling great
- Last but not least, DARK CHOCOLATE! Yes, I’m telling you it’s perfectly fine to eat chocolate, but just don’t forget that it should be at least 70% cocoa or above to really reap the benefits it can have on stress levels, inflammation, mood, memory and immunity.
Give them a try and see your energy levels soar!
Visit our Sensory Kitchen page for some great recipes involving herbs and spices and download our free Tidy Tot Sensory Kitchen recipe booklet here.