Autumn means plenty of get-togethers with family and friends and loads of festive foods that celebrate the season—hello, pumpkin spice! To make sure your little one gets in on the fun, follow our baby-friendly tips for introducing 12 classic fall- and holiday-flavored baby foods.
Fall is a handy excuse to introduce your baby to lots of delicious new flavors. And bonus: the more foods your child tries as a baby, the more likely she is to eat a variety as an older kid. So pumpkin and cinnamon all around! You'll not only have a healthy baby, but a happy one.
With a subtle flavor and natural sweetness, babies love pumpkin. If you're baking up pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread or other pumpkin-y treats this season, set aside some puree for baby to try. Serve it on its own or jazzed up with a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves). You can even feed your baby straight-from-the-can canned pumpkin, which is pre-cooked and pre-pureed – it's an amazingly quick and easy way to introduce this fall classic to your baby. In fact, you might even say it's as easy as pie. Wink.
Warm and woody nutmeg turns up in both sweet and savory dishes over the holiday season. The good news for baby is that it's a perfect spice to give his purees a little sumpin' extra this time of year. So, after you garnish your eggnog, try adding some nutmeg to baby's yogurt for a festive and creamy treat. It's also yummy sprinkled on roasted butternut squash or stirred into pear or apple puree.
It's hard to envision a holiday table without a bowl of garnet-hued, glistening cranberry sauce. But fresh or canned, the irresistible sweet-tart sauce is loaded with sugar, which isn't good for babies. So, to give your little one a taste of this seasonal treat, try pureeing a handful of fresh or frozen cranberries with naturally sweet foods, like apples, pears, corn or carrots. Just don't forget to taste before feeding baby since cranberries on their own are super tart! If you end up with a too-sharp-tasting puree, simply add more apple, corn or whatever you've combined with the cranberries to balance out the flavor.
Sweet and cozy cinnamon is a signature flavor in the fall. Adding a bit of cinnamon to baby food is a fantastic way to begin offering interesting flavor to your little one's developing palate. You can dress up roasted or pureed carrots with a dash of cinnamon to mimic the glazed carrots on your family table. Or sprinkle some on baby's hot cereal at breakfast time for a warming, sticky-bun-inspired treat.
Just because your baby is too little to fight her way through the buffet line, doesn't mean she has to miss out on the traditional holiday turkey—or at least the bird's most popular partner: sage. For little ones who are ready to eat meat, but aren't ready for finger food, run a few small pieces of thigh meat through a food mill or food processor, then thin the resulting puree with applesauce or water. Or skip the turkey altogether and add a little sage (fresh or dried) to roasted pears, mashed white beans or soft polenta for a festive baby meal. Note that sage, while delicious, is an intense flavor. A little goes a long way.
Fragrant with ginger, clove and nutmeg, gingerbread is about as evocative of fall and winter as snow. While you're warming up with a gingerbread latte or snacking on gingerbread cookies, try adding a touch of ground ginger along with a sprinkle of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg to perk up baby's oatmeal, or, for the true DIY-er, add those spices to your next batch of homemade teething biscuits.
While your baby might love to get her hands—or, more precisely, her teething gums—on a candy cane right about now, there's a better, safer way to introduce peppermint to your little one. Fresh mint is a bright and flavorful addition to many purees, particularly peas, zucchini, rice and plain yogurt. Mint helps soothe tummy aches and, according to some research, may even help fight off harmful bacteria.
With apples (and apple pies!) left, right and center this time of year, now is a perfect time to introduce your baby to this yummy fruit. To make a simple puree, peel, core and quarter an apple, then place it in a small saucepan with enough water to cover. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the apple is very easily pierced with a knife. Puree in a food processor or blender until smooth. Stir in a pinch of cinnamon or other sweet spice for a hit of autumn flavor.
Serve a fruitcake heavy with dried fruit, nuts and brightly hued candied fruit at a holiday meal and you'll quickly realize that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who love fruitcake and those who hate it. You'll have to wait a few years to find out whether your baby is pro or con, but in the meantime you can begin to experiment with feeding dried fruit. Simply puree dried apricots, figs and/or raisins with warm water until smooth. Serve alone or stirred into yogurt or oatmeal. Dried fruits are a great source of iron and fiber and babies like them because of their concentrated flavor and sweetness. That neon-colored candied fruit, on the other hand, will just have to wait for those molars to come in.
Corn tends to show up in many forms in the fall – cornbread, corn pudding, creamed corn, and corn casserole just to name a few. Bright yellow and sweet, corn is appealing to little ones and easy to prepare in a baby safe way. To make a basic corn puree, simply blitz whole corn kernels and as much water as necessary to achieve a smooth consistency in a blender or food processor. Both fresh corn puree and soft cooked polenta are a perfect blank canvas to experiment with various holiday flavors. Blend them with fresh herbs, fruits or warming spices, then watch baby chow down. Happy holidays indeed!