I was completely lost for a topic for today’s #AtoZChallenge and then while lazily browsing through my phone gallery for old camera pictures I chanced upon this photo of #babyT eating his first solid meal at 6 months – mango. And how he savoured it. It was the month of June, that he turned 6 months and we were almost finishing mango season here in India and so I was very keen that he get his share of mango that year and not wait a whole year to have it.
So for today’s challenge #Tisfor Taste.
If you had a chance to visit my earlier blog post #Oisfor Olfactory then you would have read that sense of smell and taste develop while babies are in utero, i.e. when they are in their mother’s womb. Add to that the fact that babies have a highly heightened sense of taste, even more advanced than most adults, pleasing their taste buds is not all that difficult.
Exposing baby to a wide variety of tastes and flavours in their early years is vital. It sets in place an openness for babies and then children to try out a wide variety of foods – read: fruits and vegetables, which so many parents struggle to do. While there is no set pattern for this and every baby is different just as their environments are different, and they also have their own personalities, it cannot be said with 100% accuracy that if you do X then baby will do XYZ. But you can try! 🙂
If your baby is still breastfeeding, he can probably taste what you had for lunch. This was very evident to me when I used to eat crab curry for lunch and then the following breastfeeding sessions, would have babyT smacking his lips and clicking his tongue in approval. I observed this on multiple occasions when he was exclusively breast fed and now that he is eating solids, he does enjoy a good meal of fish in spicy coconut gravy. So if you are breastfeeding right now, go indulge in your favourite foods, eat some healthy fruits and veggies too, your baby may develop an affinity for that flavour.
And once you do start solid foods, aim to offer as much variety of natural flavours as you can – this includes all types of fruits, veggies and regular meals that you eat at home as a family. This is another reason why Baby Led Weaning is a win. One of the first foods I started for babyT was broccoli as I was very keen that he develop a liking for it. So at 6 months, it was steamed broccoli, carrots and beetroot that he was offered. And these have been our saviour today. Not only does he love it, but any restaurant that we go to – be it Indian, Chinese or Italian cuisine, we are assured that we can always call for a bowl of these steamed veggies for babyT if he doesn’t fancy the main meal. 🙂
(Why did I give Broccoli? because we always have it in the fridge and it is a superfood – Broccoli is a very good source of dietary fiber, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin E, manganese, phosphorus, choline, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), potassium and copper. Broccoli is also a good source of vitamin B1, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, calcium, iron, niacin and selenium.)
Similarly it is important not to build a preference for a particular taste, mainly for sweet foods. This is why it is not recommended to add sugar to baby food. As most doctors advise these days and most parents follow, we too ensured we gave no sugar and no salt to babyT’s meals before he turned one. Everything that is needed by the body is provided by milk – breastmilk or formula. Also it is not required to flavour baby food with fruits and dates in order to entice them to eat it up. Let them eat porridge plain – let them feel the natural flavour of oats, or ragi or rice or mix grains, whatever your porridge consists of.
It is ideal to offer fruits separately as a snack or a mid-morning meal, but not really mandatory to add it to baby porridge every time. I do add a spoon of homemade strawberry jam to babyT’s Sunday oats as a treat, but he knows its reserved for a special occasion.
Taste is also for fun. Introduce them to sour (Lemon), tangy (Mint chutney), bitter (Bitter gourd), watch them pull some funny faces (or not) … click some cute pics. They’ll surely make you wonder where and how the time flew by.