This week, Pegah Jalali of @pediatric.dietitian discusses the importance of adding fat and flavor to your little's diet + how to introduce herbs and spices:
It is commonly believed that babies and toddlers should only be offered plain/bland foods, which is simply not true! When they eat solids, rest assured that babies and toddlers can safely eat spices, herbs, and fats.
Do babies need fat in their diet? YES.
Babies and toddlers actually need a high-fat diet to support the development of their brain and central nervous system. This actually makes higher fat foods seem tastier to them! Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend that babies and toddlers consume a high-fat diet (approx. 40-55% fat). Remember, both breastmilk and formula are high in fat because babies and toddlers have growing brains in need of fat.
Avocados, eggs, olive oil, nuts, seeds, salmon, yogurt, and butter are all good sources of fat for babies and toddlers. Parents sometimes tell me that they only offer plain steamed vegetables to their babies. This, of course, requires the parents to do extra work while also ensuring that the food lacks flavor and fat (critical for your baby/ toddler).
Season Those Veggies!
Whether you are doing purées or baby-led weaning, I recommend roasting vegetables for BOTH you and your baby/toddler with spices and oil (which can also be mashed or pureed for your child). This helps you make vegetables that are delicious for the whole family. If your family likes steamed veggies, then please go ahead and offer them to your baby, but add some fat + spices after steaming…
Babies can safely consume spices like garlic powder, oregano, cumin, turmeric, sweet paprika, onion powder, and nutmeg. I recommend starting with spices and seasonings that you commonly use in your own cooking. This will help your baby develop a taste for your food. Start with a tiny pinch and then work your way up from there!
Here are some examples of food and spice combinations:
- Oregano: chicken, fish, eggs, pasta, veggies
- Turmeric: chicken, fish, grains like rice and quinoa, veggies
- Garlic powder: animal proteins, veggies, grains
- Nutmeg: can be very overpowering (use sparingly), but is great with fruits, cheese, yogurt, and oatmeal
- Vanilla bean powder: fruit, baby cereal, nut butters
Salt is pretty much the only spice that you should actively try to avoid in the first year of a child’s life. Babies can safely eat some salt, so don't worry if it’s unavoidable, just try to keep it to a minimum. Spicy foods can also be hard for a baby's palate or irritating to their delicate digestive system.
For these, start with TEENY TINY amounts of the "spicy" seasonings and slowly increase the amount until you are sure your baby tolerates them. Similarly, cinnamon (which we LOVE to use), can cause skin irritation in some babies, so be careful and start with a tiny amount.
Want more expert feeding tips? Check out Pegah’s insights on mealtimes and baby feeding schedules!