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 12 months).As explored last week, by family meals, we mean your baby should enjoy whatever food is cooked in your kitchen on a regular basis. 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.

4 Ingredients Best Avoided

1) Salt

  • Did you know that too much salt can be harmful to your little one's health? Some foods, like dried fish, soup, curries, and even condiments like ketchup, soya sauce, pasta sauce, and Maggi seasoning cubes can contain a lot of salt.
  • When you're cooking for your family, it's easy to control how much salt you use. But for babies under 1 year old, avoid adding salt to their solid foods. This is because their tiny kidneys aren't ready to handle too much salt, which can lead to health problems later on.
  • Your baby's daily salt requirement is less than 1 g per day, which is mostly met by breastmilk or formula and the foods you introduce in their diet. So, don't worry about adding extra salt. It's also a good idea to limit processed foods, which can be high in salt and other additives.
  • If you're a working parent or are short on time and need to use pre-made foods or ingredients, try to choose ones with less than 100 mg of sodium per serving. And while some people might suggest adding a pinch of salt to your baby's food, it's better to avoid it altogether.

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

    2) Sugar

  • Added sugar can be found in many different types of food, including jaggery, brown sugar, white sugar, palm jaggery, candies, chocolates, honey, flavored yogurt, fruit juices, tomato or pasta sauce, breads and biscuits, canned fruits, artificial sweeteners, coloring and flavorings, sweets, and desserts.
  • Feel free to tell guests or relatives not to put sugar or candy in your baby’s mouth during a home visit or the first time they see your child; it’s a common Indian tradition, but sugar is harmful to babies!
  • Honey should be completely avoided until your baby is 1 year old. Honey contains bacteria that causes infant botulism, which can be fatal.
  • 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.
  • Instead of giving babies sugary foods, it's best to focus on offering them a variety of healthy options like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. This will help them develop good eating habits and support their growth and development.
  • Your baby can safely consume natural sugars found in fruits, dates, raisins, and plain curd/yogurt (non-flavored).

    3) Alcohol

    While you would never intentionally give your baby alcohol, some food items may contain liquor or alcohol. Pure vanilla extract, for example, contains 25% alcohol content. You can use artificial vanilla extract or opt for natural alternatives like cinnamon.

    4) Spices

  • Avoid using hot spices like red chili powder or green chilies when you're making family meals for your baby. Too many spices may trigger a negative association with food in your baby, especially if you're just starting.
  • You can use other spices like cumin, coriander, and turmeric in moderation.
  • You can use oils, ghee, and other spices in moderation.
  • 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!⁠
  • Irrespective of what you choose to follow while cooking for your baby, remember to trust your instinct at the end of the day. You’re doing a fab job of enabling your baby to grow up to be strong, healthy, and happy!

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