Spice It Up! Why You Should Add Spices & Herbs to Baby Food

By Stacey Segal, RD
Cooking baby food with spices and herbs is rooted in history. In many cultures, it’s natural to gently season baby food with traditional spices/herbs. But speaking from my experience, parents are often hesitant to venture away from BLAND.

Parenting teaches us how to be flexible and to constantly challenge our way of thinking. I hope after reading this article, you’ll feel liberated and free to abandon any worries or concerns about giving your kiddo food with bold flavors. And if you are already happy to do so, I hope you’ll be inspired.

Confession of a dietitian mom

When my kids were babies and I was introducing solids, I made a running list of some of the bolder foods or spices I was offering, and drew a little smiley face or pouty face next to each one. Not for every food obviously(!), but for lots of new adventurous foods/spices/herbs. I still have the list in their baby book and have used it for inspiration for multiple clients looking for ideas. I’m glad I kept it because so many things we lovingly do as new parents just seem to get erased from our memory (read: sleep deprivation). It’s also my anecdotal proof that babies CAN and DO enjoy bold flavors.

When can babies have spices & herbs? And how much?

You can jump right in at 5-6 months, but be cautious not to over-do it with the quantity of spice, as it could cause stomach upset if you add too much. I would start with about an 1/8th of the amount you’d add to your own portion, then gradually add more as time goes on. So perhaps a tiny sprinkle to start. It is not safe to give babies spices/herbs in the supplement form. They should only be used as a gentle seasoning in baby food (homemade or packaged prepared baby food).

When it comes to spices, start with adding about an eighth of the amount you’d add to your own food.
Stacey Segal, RD

Pediatric Dietitian for Cerebelly

Which spices & herbs should I give to my little one?

It’s best not to overwhelm the flavor of the food itself, so I suggest adding in mild aromatic seasonings.

  • Basil
  • Cardamom
  • Cilantro
  • Cinnamon
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Dill
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Parsley

Don’t confuse spices with spicy! There is a list of spices that are better suited for a more developed palate, given their heat levels. 

  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Chili flakes
  • Bold curry powders
  • Intense levels of ginger or garlic.

Do they add nutritional value?

In truth, the amount of spice/herb you’ll be giving your baby will not have significant nutritional value. But the ‘value’ is in seasoning a food to make it delicious without adding sugar or salt.

That being said, spices/herbs can have health benefits for kids as they get older (and for adults too), as the amount you use increases with larger portion sizes.

Some examples: 

  • Basil – Beta Carotene, Folate, Lutein
  • Cinnamon – Magnesium, Phosphorus, Lutein
  • Cumin – Iron
  • Garlic – Potassium
  • Ginger – Selenium, Potassium
  • Thyme – Choline, Lutein

How seasoning impacts taste preferences

Introducing spices/herbs is a way to expand babies’ taste preferences. We know that babies have an innate preference for sweet tastes, but adding flavor shouldn’t be with sugar (or salt for that matter). Buying prepared baby food with aromatic seasoning is a fantastic way to familiarize babies with the flavors.

Feeding kids is all about familiarization. New tastes are often scowled at by kids (I don’t need to tell you that). But honestly, repeated exposure in small amounts to make that new taste ‘familiar’ is the key. Some kids will prefer bland food, and that’s okay too. Be gradual about it. Another trick is to let them see you take a taste of the same food at the same time you offer it to your little one. Be enthusiastic about the deliciousness and make eye contact with them. It’s our job to role model enjoyment of food AND to also be open to offering flavors that we may not love ourselves.

If you are a parent, you know that feeding kids is hard and can be all-consuming. But humor me for a minute and consider the positive. I’m often inspired by how the flavor or scent of a food can invoke a feeling of warmth or refreshment or comfort. Food is more than just nourishment. Kids need to make a healthy emotional connection with food just like we do. Let them experience how cinnamon can warm up pumpkin, or how cumin can liven up white beans or how rosemary brings out the savoriness of beef broth. Yes, even for babies! I say –go beyond the bland. You’ll be surprised and liberated.

Have more questions? Send us an email at parentingisanart@cerebelly.com and we will be sure to get back to you! 

pouches with punch!

Excite your little one’s tastebuds with these seasoned pouches.

did you know?

All Cerebelly products undergo rigorous, independent testing for over 400 different contaminants including heavy metals, chemicals, plastics, pesticides and other toxins?

It’s true! We are the first shelf-stable baby food to receive this incredible honor and are excited to lead the way.