Introducing new tastes and textures
Annabel Karmel's must-read health tips
Introducing new tastes and textures to babies and toddlers
When is it safe to give your child eggs, cream, rich cheeses, spices, exotic tastes and superfoods?
Weaning is a gentle process; you have a window of opportunity between six and 12 months of age when your baby will tend to eat pretty well, so take advantage of this to introduce a variety of new flavours.
TIP: Adding flavours that you eat as a family to your baby’s diet within this timeframe is so important, and can help avoid fussiness later on.
When wanting to add more unusual ingredients or those that can be associated with danger or allergies, be cautious, especially if your child has a sensitive stomach or if you have any family history of allergies.
If your baby is doing well with all the different food you’re introducing, don’t wait too long to try adding different flavours. By slowly adding small amounts of different flavours, spices and herbs, your child is much more likely to grow up wanting to try new flavours and have a more developed palate.
1. When you begin weaning your baby, start with baby rice, vegetables or fruit in a liquid purée, and then progress to lumpier, thicker purees, and then lumps. The greater the variety, the easier it will be to progress to a healthy, nutritious diet.
2. Add flavours like garlic and herbs or spices like cinnamon to purées. This is a great way to add flavour without using salt or sugar.
3. In the first few months of weaning, a baby shouldn’t have spices. Their stomachs are only just getting used to flavours, and adding spices early will be a bit of a shock. Start with simple things like adding dried cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger into apple purée.
4. For spicier foods, start adding mild spices such as a mild chicken korma from about one year. Try adding apple slices to give it sweetness.
5. Fats provide the most concentrated energy, and babies need proportionately more fat in their diet than adults. Energy-dense foods like cheese, meat and eggs are needed to fuel their rapid growth and development.
6. Give your baby whole milk (full fat) for at least the first two years, but try to reduce fats in cooking, and use butter and margarine in moderation.
High Risk Foods
• More and more children are developing an allergy to sesame seeds, so don’t give them to highly atopic babies until they’re at least nine months old.
• Eggs can be given from six months, but the white and the yolk must be thoroughly cooked. Soft boiled eggs can be given after one year.
• Some children have an adverse reaction to citrus fruit, berries and kiwi fruit, but rarely cause a true allergy. Rosehip and blackcurrant, being rich in Vitamin C, make good alternatives to orange juice.
• Honey should not be given to children under twelve months, as it can cause infant botulism (a potentially life-threatening disease in which a bacteria that grows inside a baby’s gastrointestinal tract).
• It’s rare to be allergic to tree nuts like walnuts and hazelnuts, but peanuts and peanut products can induce anaphylactic shock, which can be life threatening. Peanut butter and finely ground nuts, however, can be introduced from nine months, provided there’s no family history of allergy. Children under the age of five should not be given whole nuts because of the risk of choking.
DELICIOUS GLUTEN-FREE MUFFINS
Finely grated zest plus the juice of one large orange
250g gluten-free flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp gluten-free baking powder
180g caster sugar
2 large eggs
180ml sunflower oil
180ml plain yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Line a muffin tin with paper cases.
1. Tip the raisins and orange juice in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, and then set aside to cool completely.
2. Mix the zest, flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a bowl.
3. Whisk together the eggs, oil, yoghurt and vanilla, and add to the dry ingredients along with the raisins and any juice left in the pan.
4. Mix together gently and spoon into the muffin tin.
5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until firm to the touch.
6. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, and then cool on a wire rack.
TIP: These are best eaten warm or cold on the same day, and you can freeze them and then defrost for 2 hours at room temperature. Reheat them for 5 to 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2.