If you’ve been following along with us over at @happyhealthyeaters – you might have noticed one of us, Nita, uses a food called ghee for babies. In this blog post you’ll learn what ghee is, how to make it, and how to use it.
What is Ghee?
While it might seem like ghee is a new and trendy food, the truth is that it has been around for centuries. Simply put, ghee is a type of clarified butter. It’s also affectionately known as “sacred fat” or “liquid gold” as it has many applications in Hindu traditions.
We felt it was important to share this respectfully because ghee is truly seen as being a sacred and divine food. It also has deep roots in an ancient form of medicine, Ayurveda.
A fun fact: when I (Nita) got married at a local Hindu temple, we used ghee during our ceremony. To this day, you’ll see ghee in the homes of many Indian people not just for food application but to light a diya or as part of ceremonial prayers. A diya is an oil lamp usually made from clay with a cotton wick. The wick is submerged in oil, or, ghee. For this reason, ghee is tied to many religions and used by Hindu’s, Sikh’s and others.
Just like other fats you may use for cooking, ghee is another cooking fat option that’s made by removing milk solids from butter that has had an opportunity to simmer. The result is a beautiful gold and creamy fat.
Some key features of ghee include:
- Staying solid at room temperature
- Tasting nutty and aromatic
- Having a high smoke point, which means it can withstand cooking at high temperatures
- Having less lactose and milk proteins than butter
- Having a longer shelf-life than butter
So, what about that fat and why is it important for my baby?
If you’re reading this…like us…you may have been victim to the “low fat” trend in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Here’s the thing: we know so much more about fat now!
When it comes to your baby, it absolutely needs to be a part of their diet. Your baby and their brain is growing so rapidly during that first year of life and they are essentially trying to triple their birth weight!
The nerdy nutrition facts are that fat plays a critical role by
- offering up essential fatty acids (those not made by the body)
- helping to absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K,
- playing a structure role for the millions of cells that make up your baby.
Something we also found fascinating in preparation for this blog post is that human breast milk is higher in fat when compared to even whole cow’s milk! It goes to show…fat is important! If you’re really into numbers, babies that are between 7 – 12 months require around 30g fat/day. When we did the math, that’s an average of 30% of their caloric needs.
Is ghee healthier than other fats?
This was a difficult question to answer, especially as a Hindu woman. Objectively speaking, ghee is fat. And to some degree, fat is fat is fat. In this case, ghee does contain saturated fats which we may want to be mindful of as adults depending on our nutrition goals, but for babies, the general recommendation is that we don’t need to worry so much about saturated fats.
When comparing ghee to butter when cooking at high heat (such as pan-frying or roasting), the ghee withstands high heat better, resulting in fewer oxidants. Ever heard of antioxidants? They’re used to scavenge oxidants in the body, which can damage cells. So the fewer the oxidants we ingest, the better!
In general, we want babies to enjoy a variety of fats from a variety of sources including nuts, seeds, avocado, plant based oils, and dairy fats if that fits into your family.
How is ghee made?
It’s actually really simple. While Nita grew up with her mother’s homemade ghee, she recently made her own batch! Friends, this is adulting and there is a first for everything!
All you need to do is purchase some unsalted butter.
Let it melt. And then simmer gently.
When the milk solids fall to the bottom of the pot after a few minutes, strain and discard the solids.
Let your liquid gold cool and watch it harden into a creamy fat!
Store in a cupboard or in the fridge.
Watch How to Make Ghee!
How can ghee be used as a baby food?
Once your baby starts on solids, you can introduce ghee to your baby! While the milk protein content is fairly low, do keep in mind that ghee is still considered a dairy product and milk proteins are one of the top priority allergens.
Traditionally ghee is used to cook masala, sabzi’s (vegetable dishes) and to melt onto roti’s. Some people have also ventured out and used it in place of butter for baking, which is also acceptable!
Personally speaking, Nita also loves adding a generous dollop of ghee on homemade soups, daal, curries, and toast strips.
Okay okay, so now that’s we’ve got that education out of the way. If you’d like to make some ghee, I’d like you to know you are more than welcome to, regardless of your cultural background.
You may also be interested in: 5 Indian Foods to Offer Your Baby!
How to Make Ghee for Your Baby
- 1-2 cups unsalted butter
- Place butter in a small or medium size pot.
- Melt over medium-low heat.
- Allow this to come to a simmer for a few minutes, trying your best not to stir the melted butter. You will see it also foam slightly, that’s okay.
- After a few minutes 2-5 minutes, the milk solids will begin to fall to the bottom and you will see a brown color appear and there will be a sweet smell around you.
- Turn the heat down and allow the contents to cool for 2 – 3 minutes, remember, no stirring!
- Afterwards, strain the ghee through a fine mesh sieve into a clean glass jar.
- Store at room temperature or in the fridge.
- It will keep for about 3 months at room temperature and up to 6 months in the fridge.