Most North American parents are surprised to learn that spiced foods are a mainstay for many babies and toddlers being raised in other cultures. From the time solids are first introduced into the diet, a variety of seasonings and herbs are included in all foods, opening their children’s taste buds to various flavours from around the world.
Experts agree that the sooner certain spices make an appearance on the plate the better. Young children quickly become accustomed to the foods they are given, making it easier to include them as part of a daily diet than if you were to wait and introduce them in the preschool years.
The Hidden Benefits to Adding Spices to a Toddler’s Diet
There is a hidden side benefit to boosting the flavour of your toddler’s food with spices. Not only does it improve their taste buds, but it helps you to avoid adding salt and sugar to a dish, making this a decidedly healthier option. There are also plenty of reported health benefits to many of the popular herbs and spices we keep in our kitchen cupboards, so including them in a dish can only be of benefit to your little one.
What’s the Right Age to Start Your Baby/Toddler on Spices?
A small word of caution though, before you begin experimenting with the bottles in your spice cabinet: refrain from adding spices to the diet until 7 to 8 months of age. This recommendation is more about keeping digestive issues at bay then it is about concerns of allergic reactions, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Let babies and toddlers try a food (i.e. applesauce) a few times first before experimenting with seasonings. If there is no reaction to the solids in their original state, feel free to include the assorted flavourings the next time you serve it.
A List of Recommended Flavours to Start With
If you haven’t already started spiking your toddler’s food with spices, here are some recommended flavours to start with:
- Apple: cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla
- Avocado: Basil, cumin, lemon
- Banana: Cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger
- Beef: Allspice, cinnamon, cumin, curry, garlic, ginger, rosemary, thyme
- Berries: Lemon, lime, mint, pepper, vanilla
- Broccoli: Basil, coriander, curry, ginger, lemon, mint, oregano, parsley, pepper, thyme
- Carrots: cinnamon, cloves, cumin, curry, dill, ginger, orange, parsley
- Cauliflower: Cardamom, cumin, curry, dill, garlic, ginger, orange, paprika, parsley, thyme
- Chicken: Allspice, basil, cardamom, chives, cloves, cumin, curry, dill, garlic, ginger, lemon, lemongrass, lime, mint, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
- Pear: Cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, dill, ginger, nutmeg, orange, parsley, pepper, rosemary
- Peas: Cumin, curry, fill, garam masala, garlic, ginger, lemon, rosemary
- Potato: Basil, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, curry, dill, garam masala, garlic, ginger, lemon, paprika, pepper, rosemary, thyme
- Rice: Cinnamon, cumin, curry, garlic, ginger, lemon, lemongrass, lime, thyme
- Squash: Cinnamon, cumin, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, sage, thyme
- Yogurt: Cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry, dill, garlic, lemon, lime, mint
There is a saying that “bland is not best”, and it’s good to keep that in mind when preparing foods for your young children. This red lentil and coconut stew is a great way to introduce new flavours to toddlers in a simple yet tasty way. Serve it as is, or spoon it over rice.
Red lentil and coconut stew recipe
- 1/4 red onion, peeled
- 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 can (400 mL) coconut milk
- 1 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed
Prep and Cook
- 1In the carafe of a blender or bowl of a food process fitted with a steel blade, process the onion, garlic and ginger into a chunky paste. Set aside.
- 2Warm the coconut oil in a pot set over medium heat. Add the onion mixture and sauté until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander and turmeric. Stir to coat the onions and cook for 1 minute.
- 3Pour the coconut milk and chicken stock into the pot and bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the red lentils, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the lentils are thick and tender. Serve at once. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to three days.