By: Kristen Yarker ()
A question that I’m asked at practically every workshop and presentation that I give is when you can introduce babies to herbs and spices.
In short: Any time. (Yes, even right away at about 6 months).
I find it interesting how strongly the “fact” is shared that babies need bland food. Because they don’t. In fact, in many cultures around the world, babies are fed foods with layers of flavor, even as very first foods.
Babies are individuals, just like us adults. Some prefer bland foods. Some like foods with herbs. Some like garlicky foods. And, some like spicy foods.
For example, I knew a child who loved hummus. I mean loved it. You couldn’t let him spot it in the fridge, otherwise he would make a big fuss until you gave him some. Imagine having to hide hummus out of sight in the back of the fridge in case you opened the fridge while holding your baby on your hip! His enjoyment of hummus sure made his Greek relatives happy. And mom enjoyed knowing that he got so much enjoyment from a healthy, iron-rich food.
I knew another child who loved spicy food, the spicier, the better. Her mom told me about the day that she discovered her daughter’s love of spice. She was feeding her daughter some refried beans and was noticing that her daughter was really gobbling them up – much more than when she fed them to her previously. When mom took a bite of beans from the spoon she realized with horror that in her sleep-deprived trip to the grocery store, she had bought the can of refried beans with the chilies in it. After her wave of mommy-guilt passed she realized that serving her daughter the spices wasn’t doing any harm. In fact, her daughter was obviously loving them. Where that little girl got her love of spicy foods is a mystery. She had no cultural background to explain her love of spicy foods – her mom is Dutch and her dad is from Atlantic Canada. But that didn’t stop her from loving spices!
While babies are individuals, with unique preferences and dislikes, we also shape our babies’ enjoyment of foods through repeated exposure. The enjoyment of salty, bitter, sour and spicy are created through repetition. If you eat foods with layers of flavors, you will want to repeatedly introduce these to your baby.
The exceptions to the rule are salt and sugar. For information on these, check out this previous post here.
So go ahead and give your baby foods with flavor. Especially if you eat a lot of foods with herbs and spices. You may find that your baby likes the heat. Or, you may find that your baby will grow to like these over time through repeated exposure. Remember, you’re teaching your baby to join you at your family table. Share your family foods with your baby – you’re sharing your love, your cultural connection, and meeting their nutritional needs.
Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD helps moms and dads support your picky kids to get good nutrition today, and instill a lifelong love of healthy eating.
Find out more: www.KristenYarker.com