We all know that added sugar and salt is not recommended for consumption by babies because their immature systems cannot cope with it. Fortunately nature has provided us with many ways to flavour our babies food while adding an extra dose of nutrition. Here are some ingredients I used to flavour my babes food when salt and sugar were a no go and even afterwards when I realised that limiting sugar is in his best interest. Also look out for harmful food additives such as Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) which is commonly added to spice and soup mixes.
For stews curries and stir fries, you can throw the following ingredients into the oil before the main ingredients to add some mild flavour. It really does make a difference. Try cinnamon sticks, cloves, star aniseed, cardamom, bay leaves and curry leaves. These spices release flavour into your oil and give you a fragrant and tasty dish. The spices are big enough to see and remove before serving to your baby.
Smaller spices such as coriander seeds, fennel seeds and cumin seeds can be dry roasted in a pan till fragrant and then ground to a fine powder and then added to the dish. A combination of these seeds and spices are what constitute Garam Marsala often used in Indian cuisine. Try making your own Garam Marsala at home.
Onions are an obvious addition to impart flavour to a range of savoury dishes. Add it to your oil to soften and cook till translucent or brown. The longer you cook the onions at low temperature, the more flavour they impart.
Dried and or fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, parsley, coriander, mint, rosemary and thyme can make food more exciting for your baby.
Also try ground spices such as turmeric and paprika. Use very little turmeric since it has a strong flavour.
Coconut oil or coconut milk can add a lovely tropical note to your dish.
Adding flavourful vegetables such as sweet potato, pumpkin and celery can also take the bland out of your dish.
This is indeed a tricky one but cooking without sugar can certainly be done. If you keep at limiting sugar you can save your sweetie’s smile and help temper his tantrums.
Try using naturally sweet ingredients to sweeten your baked goods instead of sugar. Try bananas, sweet potatoes, blended dated or raisons and other fruit. Berries not only add sweetness but also a depth and dynamism to the flavour of the dish. The absorption of sugar that comes in fruit form is slower since it comes with fibre and you add nutritional value to the dish. Remember that dried fruit packs a heavy punch when it comes to sugar, since we usually end up serving up bigger portions of dried fruit than we would if it were the fresh version. For example: don’t serve more raisons than you would grapes.
Adding spices such as cinnamon (sticks or powder) and cardamom to cooked sweet dishes also lifts flavour.
Don’t assume that your baby will not eat the unsweetened version of something just because you wouldn’t. After I realised the destructive power of sugar, I weaned my son of sugar and he now gobbles up unsweetened yoghurt with sliced almonds or fruit. Once you restrict sugar in you or your child’s diet, all foods taste sweeter than they did before. You will even relish the sweetness in your unsweetened peanut, cashew or almond nut butters.
Babies cannot eat honey under a year old because of the danger of Botulism, so don’t introduce honey too early and when you do, like with all sweet things, moderate its use.
Do not use artificial sweeteners in your baby’s food. Evidence suggests that they may be very dangerous to our health and that of your child. Better safe!
There are a number of flavour combinations you can create to keep your little one interested without harming his/her health with harmful salt sugar or food additives. I hope that this article inspires you to think outside of the biscuit box and come up with your own ideas from your heritage and your lifetime of food experiences. Why not try onion, sweet potato and thyme as the base flavour for your next stew and let me know if it is a hit. Share your ideas in the comments section below.