How to Modify Your Family Meals So Your Baby Can Enjoy Them Day 1: How to Modify Your Family Meals

How to Modify Your Family Meals So Your Baby Can Enjoy Them

While it’s good to start your baby’s solid food journey with single foods and purees, it's equally important to make the transition to family meals as soon as possible (this can be started before 1 year).

By family meals, we mean the food that’s cooked in your home every day. This way, you’re helping your little one get used to eating the same foods as the rest of the family.

3 Reasons How Meals Cooked for the Family Help Your Baby Eat Better

1) Diverse range of nutrients: Offering foods cooked in your kitchen provides your baby with a diverse range of nutrients. By exposing your baby to a variety of different foods, you're ensuring they receive all the essential nutrients they need to grow and thrive. Plus, the more diverse their diet, the better their nutrient absorption will be. It's a win-win situation!

2) Expand your baby’s palate: Family meals help expand your baby's palate. By introducing them to a range of flavors, textures, and tastes, you're helping them develop a positive relationship with food. This means they're less likely to become fussy eaters in the long run. And who doesn't want a child who happily eats their vegetables?!

3) Healthy eating behaviors: Sharing family meals is a great opportunity to model healthy eating behaviors. When the whole family sits down to eat together, your baby gets to learn firsthand how everyone eats all kinds of food. This includes how to bite and chew, as they mirror family members in these activities they need to learn.

3 Ingredients Best Avoided

While modifying your everyday meals, it’s best to avoid these 3 ingredients in your baby’s food.

1) Salt: When you're cooking for your family, it's easy to control how much salt you use. For babies under 1 year, avoid adding salt to their foods. Their kidneys cannot handle too much salt. If you're using pre-made foods or ingredients, check the nutritional table and ensure it has less than “100 mg of sodium per serving.”

DID YOU KNOW: Your baby doesn't need salt or sugar for flavor, and their taste buds are still developing.

2) Sugar: Avoid added sugars like jaggery, brown sugar, white sugar, palm jaggery, candies, chocolates, honey, flavored yogurt/curd, fruit juices, tomato sauce, breads, biscuits, canned fruits, artificial sweeteners, coloring and flavorings, and sweets. Also avoid honey for babies less than 1 years as it can cause infant botulism. Research shows that excessive sugar intake can lead to tooth decay, weaken the immune system, and increase the risk of conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity later in life.

3) Spices: Avoid using hot spices like red chili powder or green chilies when you're making your baby’s food. You can use powders like cumin, coriander, and turmeric in small quantities.

How to Modify Family Meals for Your Baby

Modifying your daily family meals to suit your baby can seem overwhelming at first. But don't worry, it doesn't have to be complicated. Simply choose healthy, nutrient-rich options from your own plate, and make sure the food is cut into pieces such that your baby can pick up and hold it with their fingers or a spoon.

Here are 4 tips that might be a good guide:

1. Prepare meals for the family with less/no salt and spices. Keep a portion aside for your baby’s meal. Then, add spices, seasonings, or a nice chilli tadka to the larger portion that will be consumed by the family.

2. Deconstruct ingredients into really large shapes like strips, wedges, or rounds for the baby to pick up and eat. This makes it easier for your baby to grasp the food and feed themselves.

3. Foods like grains or rice can be tricky for babies, so a good way to serve these foods is to mix it with curry form like dal, sambhar, rasam, curd, yogurt, kadhi, gravy, etc. Serve it on a preloaded spoon or encourage your baby to use their hand for eating.

4. When serving meat, make sure it is very tender, moist, and soft for your baby. Slow cooking meat is a great way to ensure it is safe and easy for your baby to eat.

Examples of Baby-Friendly Family Meals

Option 1: Classic Indian Kadhi or Dal or Sambhar or Rasam or Stew or Curd

Tip: Cut the veggies in bigger pieces so they are easier for the baby to grab and hold. Make sure veggies/meat are very soft and tender.

6-8 Months

  • Rice: Mix the kadhi/dal/sambhar/rasam/stew/meat gravy with rice, make into large balls, and serve your baby. Alternatively, mix the gravy with rice and serve as is, so that they can scoop out with the hand or give them a preloaded spoon to hold and bring to their mouth.
  • Chapati/dosa/idli: Make long slit pieces, pour some kadhi/dal/sambhar/stew/gravy over the cut-up pieces, and serve in a plate or bowl.
  • 9-11 Months

  • Mix the gravy with rice and serve as is, so they can scoop out the food with their hand or give them a preloaded spoon to hold and bring to their mouth.
  • Offer the meat/veggies cut up in smaller diced pieces to help them practice their pincer grasp.

  • 12 Months+

    Not much modification needed at this stage. You can serve them food in the same way you and the rest of the family would eat.

    Option 2: Sandwiches, Rolls, Wraps

    Tip: Deconstruct the components of a sandwich, roll, or wrap into long strips, so that it’s easy for your baby to pick up, hold, and eat. Use curd or plain Greek yogurt or homemade chutney like mint or coriander chutney (mildly flavored and baby-friendly without salt) to add moisture to the deconstructed ingredients.

    At 6 Months

  • Deconstruct each component of the roll into long strips for easy grip by your baby. Cut the wrap (bread/roti/pita), cheese, paneer, chicken, avocado, peppers, carrots, etc. into thin, long pieces.
  • Cook chicken and other meats to be very tender.
  • Serve veggies in their raw, whole form as a highly resistive food (foods that babies can gnaw on, like edible teethers) or serve them cooked (well roasted and soft).
  • Serve hard to grasp foods, like rice, with mashed beans or chicken on a preloaded spoon.

  • At 9 to 12 Months

  • If your baby has their pincer grasp, offer small bite-sized pieces of the wrap or sandwich filling on a plate, so they can practice using their pincer grasp and pick up smaller pieces.
  • Cook these foods such that they’re soft enough for your baby to mash between their gums (soft carrots and tender chicken).
  • Or serve hard to grasp foods (rice) on a preloaded spoon/or let them use their hands.
  • Or let them get messy and use their hands!⁠

  • WE SUGGEST: Irrespective of how you cook your baby’s food, trust your instinct. You do know what’s best for your little one.

    Tomorrow, we will explore how to prepare your baby’s foods in a safe and hygienic way.