The following story, written by Emily Farris, was originally published on Bloom Baby.
You've probably heard that the food you eat during pregnancy and breastfeeding can help shape your baby's tastes. But did you also know that you could undo all your good work if your baby only eats bland cereals and watery purées for the first few months of solids? According to Bee Wilson, author of First Bite: How We Learn to Eat, it's important to introduce new foods during what she calls a "flavour window," when infants are most open to trying new flavours. For most kiddos, she says, that's between 4 and 7 months old. And because many experts recommend waiting until six months to introduce solid food, that doesn't leave much time for culinary creativity.
Luckily, it's easy to whip up some basic baby foods with a wide range of flavour profiles. Here are seven to get you started. Keep in mind you should always start with small amounts of spice, working your way up, and there's no need to add salt! If you have a history of food allergies in your family, it's a good idea to leave a few days between introducing new foods and keep a log of what your baby eats and when. And always talk to your pediatrician before introducing solids and new foods.
- Peas With Turmeric — Keep a bag of sweet peas in the freezer for this homemade baby food you can whip up in minutes. Simply thaw frozen peas in hot tap water, then strain them and put them in a food processor with a little water. When they're sufficiently mushy, stir in a pinch or two of ground turmeric and serve! (Just remember that this vibrant spice leaves vibrant stains, so maybe take off the white onesie before dinner.)
- Scrambled Eggs With Salsa — Eggs are a great source of protein for a newbie eater, especially when they're soft scrambled with milk. To add some excitement and get your baby used to a wide variety of flavours and textures, add a little mild (or even medium!) salsa. Obviously, you'll want to use the smooth kind — nothing with chunks baby would have to chew or could choke on. Start small (think a half teaspoon per egg) and gradually increase the amount until you get to a tablespoon or so.
- Apples With Cinnamon — Apples and cinnamon are such a classic combination, and it's a great way to introduce your baby to the wide world of spices. The easy way is adding ground cinnamon to store-bought applesauce. You can also peel and slice apples, and sauté them until soft in butter or coconut oil, then mash them with a fork (or puree) before stirring in the cinnamon.
- Sweet Potatoes With Ginger — When it comes to homemade baby food, root vegetables are the most labor intensive, but they freeze well, so you can make a big batch and freeze it in small containers or ice cube trays for later use. For this creamy combo, puncture the skin of whole sweet potatoes several times with a fork, then roast in a 425°F oven for about 45 minutes or until cooked through. Let the potatoes cool to the touch, then peel and mash or purée with ground ginger. For an even creamier consistency, puree the sweet potato with a little coconut milk before adding the spice.
- Carrots With Curry — Your baby's not really eating solids until you post a picture to Facebook of her covered in carrot puree, right? (Right.) Well, in addition to providing cute photo ops, carrots are a great vehicle for curry powder — which is made up of a handful of spices and is a great way to get baby used to more complex flavour combinations. Roast or sauté the carrots until soft, then mash or purée before adding a pinch of curry powder. But really just a pinch — since some curries can be on the hot side of spicy, you definitely want to start with a small amount, and as always, taste it before feeding it to your kiddo.
- Avocados With Cumin — Avocados make such great baby food — as long as you can pick out a perfect one at the store. In addition a handful of vitamins, they're packed with good fats, fibre, and potassium. And all you need to turn an avocado into baby food is a knife (to cut through the skin) and a fork to mash it all up. If you want your baby to really embrace spices, add a pinch of cumin, which is good for digestion and immunity. You may not think of it as as super baby-friendly flavour, but your baby doesn't know that.
- Bananas With Cardamom — Like avocados, bananas make for a quick-and-easy baby food. While they're full of nutrients, bananas are also full of sugars, which makes them a perfect vehicle for a bold, warm spice like cardamom. Just mash or purée the banana (maybe with a little water for younger babies) and add a little cardamom. If the response is good, try adding cinnamon or vanilla the next time!
When you're in the thick of food experimentation, make life easier with a high chair that comes with two trays. Sliding one off to reveal another that's fresh and clean is like magic to any parent who is battling the great baby food mess. The Fresco includes both (no extras to buy) and is ready for anything baby throws at (or mushes into) it.
Emily Farris is a writer, recipe developer, prop stylist, and blogger. She lives in Kansas City, MO, with her husband, toddler son, and two rowdy dogs.