Introducing Taste & Texture To Your Baby's Diet By Annabel Karmel

Up until now your baby has been content with breast or formula milk whilst dabbling in the delights of pureed fruits and root veggies, but now’s the time to let them discover a world of tastes and textures.

Between six and nine months, once first tastes have been accepted and your baby’s digestive system is maturing, you can start to increase the amount and variety of food you give your baby. Babies are developing quite rapidly at this stage, so this is a window of opportunity to help them master the art of chewing.

The key to introducing tastes and textures successfully is to take it slow and follow your baby’s pace – after all the experience can be quite daunting for them. There’s no point in pushing them when they’re not ready as they’ll just kick up a fuss and it will be harder next time around. You simply have to be patient and persistent.

TACKLING TEXTURE

So you’re a first foods pro but now tackling texture? Don’t worry if you’re unsure where to start, just follow my top steps to introducing texture.

Make purees thicker

I would start by making the consistency of the puree thicker. Try mashing a portion of their food then adding it to the puree; gradually increasing the ratio of mashed the pureed food. Once she’s open to a thicker texture then you can slowly stop pureeing and simply just mash the food by hand.

Finely chop the veggies

Dicing vegetables finely is also a good way to introduce texture. Start by softening small cubes of carrots or apple which will allow their gums to squash them when they try to chew.

Be careful when you do this as surprise chunks can really startle your baby and put them off. Making your own baby food will allow you to control the size of the lumps and in turn, you can gradually increase their size.

Add chunkier foods

With my son Nicholas I soon realised that if I added baby pasta shapes to his favourite puree then he’s been more receptive because it was a flavour he was familiar with. Give rice or couscous a go too - you might be surprised at what gets wolfed down.

For a sweeter option, try cereal or porridge with a little cow’s milk which can now be introduced when your baby is 6 months plus.

CONQUERING TASTES

I never liked bland baby food. I could never find anything that Nicholas would eat which is why I set about devising my own recipes.

I began experimenting with garlic, herbs and spices to liven-up his food and that’s how I stumbled upon winning flavour combinations which I published in my Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner cookbook.

Use garlic, herbs and spices

At this stage it’s important to avoid salt, sugar and honey so instead try thyme, bay leaves, parsley, dried oregano, ground coriander and cinnamon etc... If using a stock cube for flavour make sure you use unsalted cubes.

It’s surprising how these ingredients really pack in a punch of flavour and often it’s a taste your baby will love.

Cooking chicken

Chicken is an ideal first meat as it blends well with root veggies and fruits. It’s also packed with protein and vitamin B12 to help babies grow. Chicken can be diced finely and blended with sweet potato and apple or butternut squash and tarragon for a top tea.

I would advise that as well as chicken breast try also using the thigh meat – the dark meat of chicken contains twice as much iron and zinc as the white.

Feeding fish

Fish is a tricky ingredient to get babies eating, particularly because it’s bland and can be tough when overcooked making it harder to swallow. Fish like salmon or cod provide the important fatty acids needed to help aid your baby’s brain, nervous system and vision development.

Try mixing fish with stronger tastes such as carrots, tomato and grated cheddar and always check for bones before serving.

Important iron

Babies are born with a store of iron inherited from their mother. At six months this begins to run low so introduce foods rich in iron such as meat, leafy green veggies and pulses.

Vitamin C can help aid iron absorption so give foods such as broccoli or citrus fruits.

RECIPES

AROMATIC BEEF WITH SWEET PEPPER & APRICOTS
Suitable from 6 months 
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Makes: 4 portions

Ingredients
1 tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and diced
4 dried apricots, chopped
1/2 red pepper, deseeded and diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
150g lean mince beef
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tbs sundried tomato paste
150ml water

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan.
  2. Add the onions, carrots, apricots, red pepper and garlic. Fry for 2 – 3 minutes, then add the mince beef and spices and brown with the vegetables.
  3. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and water.
  4. Bring up to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes until tender.
  5. Blend to a chunky puree.

HADDOCK, CARROT & PEA
Suitable from 6 months
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Makes: 5 portions

Ingredients
20g unsalted butter
1⁄2 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
75g celery, washed and chopped
175g potato, peeled and chopped
200ml water
150ml milk
50g frozen peas
175g haddock, skinned and chopped
50g mature cheddar cheese, grated

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan.
  2. Add the onion, carrot and celery and fry for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the potato, water and milk. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the peas and haddock and simmer for another 4–5 minutes.
  5. Blend until smooth, then stir in the cheese.

For more recipe inspo, visit www.annabelkarmel.com and if you’re about to start tackling texture, check out Annabel’s range of Stage 2 Organic Baby Purees, inspired by her home-cooked recipes.