Not only do herbs and spices add lots of flavour to foods and are a great alternative to using seasoning such as salt and pepper, but they also help the transition onto the family foods that you eat. Going from simple vegetables and fruit onto stews and soups that you eat as a family that are full of garlic and different seasoning can be quite a jump. Get those flavours in early and they will love these flavours from the off. They are also a great way for you to cut down your own intake of salt as well!
Whilst you only use a pinch or sprinkle of herbs for flavour enhancement, many herbs have been used for centuries for their therapeutic properties. For example, mint is thought to aid digestion and help with feelings of nausea, and research has recently shown that rosemary may help with memory and concentration. You need to use a lot more than a pinch of a herb to have a therapeutic effect, but we love to use them for their flavours and enhancement of certain ingredients.
Try pairing your own herbs with dishes to see what a difference it can make to add a few fresh basil leaves to a sauce, or add springs of thyme to root vegetables before roasting them.
Top Tips for Introducing Herbs and Spices
- Smell is one of the first senses your baby will experience, so when they are just a few months old, try placing a sprig of mint or rosemary under their nose and they will often react to these delicious smells.
- Try growing your own, and let your children as they get older pick leaves, rub them between their fingers and experience the smells. This is especially fun with different mints. Get them to tell the difference between a spearmint, a lemon mint or even the cocoa mint!
- Introduce these herbs and spices from the get go. It’s a great idea to sprinkle a little dried cinnamon or ginger over cooked apples or into porridge or baby rice.
- In savoury dishes try grating a little garlic or fresh ginger into dishes as they are cooking such as a rice or lentil dish or into a meat stew.
- Experiment a pinch at a time. Add a pinch of dried spices such as turmeric or cumin to a vegetable or meat puree of if you are cooking pulses such as lentils.
- When using fresh herbs, they are often best either chopped very finely or blended.
- Start simple. Add a pinch of a soft, warming spice such as cinnamon to add flavour to a porridge or accent cooked apples. Or add a little dried or fresh mint to frozen peas.
Top Herbs and Spices?
You can give pretty much any herb or spice from first foods. You only need a tiny amount (a sprinkle) when you start, then slowly add a little more. Great herbs to introduce from first foods include parsley, coriander, mint, basil, rosemary or thyme. For spices, try cinnamon, dried ginger or nutmeg, or even a little cumin or turmeric.
A lot of parents worry that adding herbs and spices will be too much for young palettes, but we are not talking about a whole lot of herb on a tiny portion of vegetables! A little herb or spice goes a long way. It’s just to get that hint of a flavour to compliment the main ingredient. A little sprinkle or pinch is all you need to get started. Each new flavour you introduce to your baby is a new milestone, and they are much more sensitive to new flavours than we are, but this doesn’t mean they don’t love new flavours – you will be surprised by the strong, bitter, sour and savoury flavours some baby’s love. They may make a funny face as they get used to it, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t enjoyed the experience!
Which are Safe to Use?
Whilst you may not feel comfortable starting with the stronger or spicier spices. You can use pretty much all herbs and spices. If you have a dried herb or spice in your kitchen cupboard, you can probably use it. Whilst I would avoid using dried chilli flakes or extra strong curry powder in first foods, you can try pretty much anything else. It is more important to think about quantity and use only a tiny amount to start. See our herb and spice guide for all the brilliant herbs and spices you can use and what they go well with. *
Fresh or dried, the types of herbs and spices you add to your baby’s food is entirely up to you. You can use all the spices and herbs that are typically used with your own cooking, just slowly introduce in small amounts.
Using spices and herbs in your baby’s foods is a great way to offer a variety of interesting flavours without using sugar or salt.
Great ideas for adding herbs and spices to baby food
Cooked apple: try a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, or ginger
Pears: try a pinch of ginger, cinnamon, or even mint!
Bananas: try a pinch of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, or vanilla powder
Sweet potato: try a pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon or cardamom
Butternut squash: try a pinch of sage, oregano, basil, chives, cinnamon, or nutmeg
Carrots: try a pinch of cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, mace, nutmeg, paprika, parsley, or rosemary
Green beans or broccoli: try a pinch of basil, chives, curry, dill, garlic, ginger, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon or thyme.
Cereals/Grains & Dairy
Pasta: try a pinch of oregano, garlic, basil
Oats: try a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg or a little vanilla
Rice (sweet): try a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, cardamom, or ginger
Rice or Quinoa (savory): try a pinch of black pepper, basil, oregano and others parsley, corriander, chives, dill and tarragon.
Plain Yogurt: try a pinch of mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, ginger, allspice, cardamom