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Spices for Babies

Your baby doesn’t have to eat bland food, adding spices to baby food can be a great way to introduce new flavors. I’m sharing some nutrient-packed spices for baby and how you can add them to their food.

baby sitting in high chair at 9 months

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When you think of baby foods, you may think of jarred baby food that lacks flavor and texture.

If you’ve been around a while, you know I’m a fan of baby led weaning, and have done it will all three of my kids.

In the baby led weaning feeding model, you feed your baby what you’re eating, making sure food is properly cooked and cut.

And spices for babies are important.

Babies don’t need bland foods. Think about it – they are exploring many different flavors and textures, so why not expose their palate to herbs, spices and flavors now?

We know that during pregnancy, a baby is introduced to the flavors in the mom’s diet.

The same goes for breastfeeding. Mom eats a food, and the baby develops a taste for that food.

Flavors from mom’s diet transfer through breastmilk.

Expanding your baby’s palate continues as you start solid foods, and introduce spices to babies.

This post will cover spices you can use in your baby’s food and how to include those spices in their diet.

variety of spices in white bowls on dark countertop

Can Babies Have Spices?

Yes, babies can and should have spices and a variety of flavors.

It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that your baby is introduced to a variety of textures and flavors.

In fact, when you are providing different flavors through a variety of spices, you are priming your baby’s palate to happily accept new foods.

serving peanut butter to baby

If your baby only receives bland baby food, seasonings and spices will be a huge change when you do introduce them.

And not many people (grown ups included!) are fans of change.

If you never introduce spices to baby, your child may balk at new foods, demanding foods that are bland and “safe”.

On the flipside, if your baby is introduced to spicy, garlicky, tasty foods with different textures, the game changes.

You can get your favorite Thai takeout and your child won’t hesitate to take a bite. Likewise, you can enjoy dinner at a friend’s house without a big mealtime scene.

Your child can be an adventurous eater and intuitive eater—and not always limited to chicken nuggets, fish sticks and mac and cheese.

Different Spices for Babies

Did you know that spices for babies also provide a nutrition benefit?

Spices are a wonderful source of antioxidants. In addition, most spices and herbs have anti-inflammatory properties and provide a variety of health benefits.

And these benefits are not limited to adults.

We started introducing spices very early, but introducing with baby led weaning at 9 months can be a great start!

You can (continue to) feed your baby what you eat. Meals are shared together and they learn from you.

spices on a spoon

How to Introduce Spices

Giving spices and herbs to babies can be as easy and just mixing them into food.

First, you’ll cut whatever you are eating into bite-size pieces so that it’s easy to grasp for your baby.

You’ll be surprised at how willing your baby is to try new foods, especially if they taste good!

Of course, you don’t want to just start with super-spicy foods. Starting with zucchini foods can be great because it is typically bland and spices bring it to a whole new level.

Here are some great zucchini recipes for baby.

shredding zucchini on grater

Ease your way into it by including some of the following spices in your baby’s food as you prepare. Start small.

You’ll notice that salt isn’t listed here, since it’s not recommended to serve babies too much salt. We can get flavor through a variety of other spices.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a versatile spice that can be used in many different recipes, from baby energy balls to baby french toast.

We even love adding it to this parsnip baby puree.

Not only is cinnamon delicious, but it also has been shown to have antidiabetic, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties.

Try cinnamon on baked apples or leftover sweetpotato recipes. Additionally, here are some recipes that contain cinnamon that baby can try:

Tumeric

A spice that has been well-studied for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, turmeric for baby adds a beautiful golden color to soups, stews, and sauces.

Top potatoes, eggs, or sweetpotato spaghetti with turmeric to add an earthy, peppery flavor to your baby’s food.

The following recipes include turmeric for babies:

white bowl with turmeric spice in it

Garlic

Garlic’s sweet, pungent, and spicy flavor is enjoyed by many, including babies. It’s easy to add to any vegetable recipes, like baby parsnip recipes.

Not to mention that garlic has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, heart protective, antibacterial properties, and more!

You can use garlic cloves or garlic powder in many different recipes to add flavor to your baby’s food without using excess salt.

closeup of garlic cloves in white basket

Some baby-friendly garlic recipes are:

Nutmeg

Nutmeg is a warm and fragrant spice that helps create the pumpkin spice we all obsess over come fall.

Like the other spices, nutmeg has antioxidant and antimicrobial effects.

While nutmeg is yummy in beverages like a pumpkin spice latte or chai tea, you can use it in a variety of recipes for babies to get nutmeg benefits for babies.

Here are some that contain nutmeg:

full nutmeg with grounded spice

Herbs for Babies

In addition to adding spices to your baby’s food, you add herbs for babies, too!

Both spices and herbs come from a plant, which is why they have so many health benefits.

The difference is that herbs are the green and leafy part of the plant, whereas spices are usually the ground root, flower, bark, or seed.

Herbs can be a little less potent than spices.

different herbs in a shopping cart

Often fresh when they are used, herbs have a wonderful aroma and add different flavors to your food.

You can also use dried herbs, which store well and are convenient to have on hand, especially when making baby breakfast recipes.

Many herbs contain polyphenols, powerful plant compounds that fight inflammation and oxidative damage. Here are some common herbs you can add to your baby’s food.

Cilantro

Cilantro has a unique and distinct flavor that is often used in Latin American and Thai cuisine.

It contains vitamin K, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds.

bunch of fresh cilantro

There seem to be two camps with cilantro—you love it, or it tastes like soap.

This is related to taste receptor genes.

But don’t assume that because you don’t like it, that baby won’t. It’s always worth a try.

Here are some recipes that include cilantro:

You can also grind it and add it to baby yogurts (so many benefits of yogurt for babies!), smoothies, and pestos, like this spinach pesto without nuts.

Parsley

Parsley is a popular herb that can be used in many types of food and also has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

You can add parsley to just about any savory dish to introduce your baby to its earthy and peppery flavor.

bunch of parsley on cutting board

Here are some easy ways to serve parsley to babies:

Basil

Nothing says Italian like the smell and taste of basil.

Plus, it has a potent phytochemical—eugenol—that helps to lower blood pressure and acts as an antioxidant.

fresh basil leaves on plant

An easy herb to use both fresh and dried, you can add basil to just about any savory dish.

Here are some ideas for using basil:

Thyme

With its distinct earthy, sweet, minty flavor, thyme is a common component of Italian spices.

And guess what? It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Do I sound like a broken record yet?

bunch of fresh thyme

I love to use thyme in soups and for seasoning chicken.

You can use thyme in place of Italian seasoning in any recipe.

Here are some ways you can introduce thyme to babies:

How To Make Bland Baby Food Taste Better

In short, serving spices to baby and herbs to baby can enhance nutritional value and flavor overall.

You don’t have to stick with flavorless, pureed foods for baby.

You can make your baby’s food taste better by giving them foods that have been seasoned.

baby eating yogurt in high chair

Add any of the previously mentioned herbs and spices to baby food, and you’ll be adding complex flavors AND nutrients to their diet. Win-win!

In an effort to get your child to try a new food, it may be tempting to sweeten it up.

However, it is recommended that you limit added sugar and salt. Babies under 1 year old should not be given honey.

Herbs and spices add so much flavor that you won’t need the salt shaker or added sugar.

No need to pressure your baby to eat.

Your child is much more willing to eat if they see you eating that same food.

References:

  • Spahn JM, Callahan EH, Spill MK, Wong YP, Benjamin-Neelon SE, Birch L, Black MM, Cook JT, Faith MS, Mennella JA, Casavale KO. Influence of maternal diet on flavor transfer to amniotic fluid and breast milk and children’s responses: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Mar 1;109(Suppl_7):1003S-1026S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy240. PMID: 30982867.
  • Mennella JA, Jagnow CP, Beauchamp GK. Prenatal and postnatal flavor learning by human infants. Pediatrics. 2001 Jun;107(6):E88. doi: 10.1542/peds.107.6.e88. PMID: 11389286; PMCID: PMC1351272.
  • Infant Food and Feeding. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.aap.org/en/patient-care/healthy-active-living-for-families/infant-food-and-feeding/. Accessed 9/10/2023.
  • Hariri M, Ghiasvand R. Cinnamon and Chronic Diseases. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2016;929:1-24. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-41342-6_1. PMID: 27771918.
  • Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A Review of Its Effects on Human Health. Foods. 2017 Oct 22;6(10):92. doi: 10.3390/foods6100092. PMID: 29065496; PMCID: PMC5664031.
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