I’m a Registered Dietitian. I know a LOT about infant nutrition.
I’m also a first generation Canadian and grew up on my mom’s amazing Indian cooking.
I’m damn proud of both. I’ve gone through the journey of starting my babies on solid food twice now. The first time was in 2017 with my son (Jaidev) and recently in 2019 with my second babe (Luksh). Even as a Registered Dietitian who had professional experiences with infant nutrition, I still felt a little lost. My personal feeding journey felt conflicted as I was reading and taking in information from Western practitioners while receiving information from my Eastern family members. Some of the suggestions were at odds with one another.
For example, my immediate family would say…
….don’t give your baby large pieces of food, it needs to be mashed (not completely true)
Or…it’s okay to give a little bit of honey (not quite, there a risk of botulism)
Or…for the first month only give rice water (where’s the iron? I can see how this makes some sense in getting baby’s tummy ready, but the truth is, baby’s form all of the enzymes they need to digest food between 3 months and 6 months in their intestinal tract!)
Or…it’s okay if he’s only 3 months, he’s a big boy, look at him, give him food (it doesn’t quite work like that)
Marrying The West with The East
So, I set off on my own to marry Western suggestions with Punjabi foods I knew I wanted to expose my children to.
If your baby is new to starting solids, you may want to jump into our course, Start Solids Confidently. I created a short lesson on how to offer your baby Indian Food along with basically EVERYTHING you need to know about feeding your baby.
Back to my experience.
Jaidev’s first meal was a puree moong daal that I spoon fed him. It included warming spices like turmeric, cumin, and a pinch of garam masala. He loved his first taste and still enjoys it to this day.
Turmeric, cumin, and garam masala for a baby? Yes!
The “traditional” Western way of starting babies on solids is to start them off with bland food. Many people are surprised to learn that it’s okay to include seasonings such as herbs and spices for foods offered to babies!
Even as a Canadian born Indian, I wanted to ensure my children would be repeatedly offered age appropriate cultural foods.
If you’ve ever wondered which foods you can offer, I’m going to share 5 Indian dishes you can feed your baby.
Keep in mind, you’ll need to modify your own recipes to omit:
- cayenne (mirch).
Let’s get started:
Between 4 – 8 months, you can easily and safely offer your baby a variety of daals (lentil soups). I recommend avoiding cream based daals especially early on. Once your baby has established their intake of iron rich foods, feel free to offer cream in your daal if that reflects your families intake. You can puree the daal or leave it mushed. Some examples: sambar daal, moong daal or maa ki daal.
Perhaps one of the most popular Punjabi dishes that is also affectionately known as “chole” can be offered to a new eater. Because chickpeas are small and round in shape, they do pose as a choking risk so you’ll need to modify your recipe before offering it to your baby. My trick is to either puree it or simply mash with the back of a fork! You can spoon feed it to your baby or if it’s thick enough, preload it onto a spoon and let your baby experiment with self-feeding.
Myth buster: I can’t give baby beans, it will give her gas. This is false. Beans are a great first food for your baby since they offer a source of non-heme iron which we know is critical for growing infants. And while beans can be gas producing, your baby’s digestive system will adjust they begin to break down these new foods. We recommend starting with a small portion (1 – 2 tbsp) and gradually offering more. If your baby struggles with gas, consider offering an extra tummy massage or tummy time.
Kichri is a lovely dish that mixes rice and daal together with spices. This is a perfect first food for your baby because it includes both iron from the daal, carbohydrates from rice and depending on your recipe it may even include some vegetables. If you’re following the more hands off approach of Baby Led Weaning, this food combo makes it easier for your baby to self feed! Rice on its own just falls apart. Daal on its own is rather soupy. But together, they make a wet cement that’s easier for those little hands to hold
This is a very common sabzi (side dish) that includes cauliflower and potato. Because it’s often cooked until it’s very soft, it’s perfect to offer a baby. You can cut the cauliflower into large florets so that your baby can pick it up using the stalk. This is great if your baby is into self-feeding! Or, you can also mash the sabjzi and offer it to your baby this way.
Baingon ka bhartha
Bhartha, another popular sabzi that typically includes onion, tomatoes and eggplant puree. Every family seems to have their own special version of this dish but in most cases it’s also a great way to offer your baby eggplant! I would recommend keeping it simple to start. As your baby ages feel free to add in finely chopped bell peppers, mushrooms or peas. I can recall fond memories of Jaidev using bhartha as a “dip” for his naan
Passing on my Ancestry
There you have it, just a few ideas to help you introduce Indian food to your baby (if you’re Indian or not!). When I look back at my personal journey in feeding both of my boys, I feel so great about our experiences in being able to offer them cultural foods that they have now come to enjoy on a daily basis. It’s a little part (okay, big part) of my ancestry that I can pass onto them. All the while, my Dietitian heart sings proudly, because I know I’m offering them nourishing foods, from the start.
Do you have fears or worries about feeding your baby?
We know that starting your baby on solids can feel overwhelming and you may have other worries such as…
- I’m afraid my baby will choke!
- I’m afraid my baby won’t be getting enough of the right nutrients!
- I’m afraid my baby will have an allergic reaction!
- I’m afraid my baby is not eating enough… too much!
- I’m afraid my baby will be a picky eater!
We’ve created a FREE guide for you to address these fears and most of all, help you work through them! Just enter your email below and you’ll get the guide sent to your inbox.