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Health & Nutrition

Baking for Babies

Baking from the scratch for your kids is hugely rewarding. First of all, the smell of something rising in the oven can make any house feel like the happiest place in the world, no matter how hard a day the house’s occupants are having. Next, there’s the precision that baking recipes call for – it’s meditative knowing nothing can go wrong if you follow the instructions step by step, what a contrast to life with an unpredictable toddler! (Although, if you’re up for some joyous chaos – getting your toddler to help mix or shape can be so much fun!) And finally, there’s the output itself – healthy, homecooked goodness that you can feel good about feeding your child.

Baking hugely simplifies breakfasts. No time to wait for your idli/dosa batter to heat up before you can use it? No problem, just grab a frozen or refrigerated muffin or slice of bread, and put it in a box; you’re ready to go. It’s the perfect solution to busy mornings.

Neither it is just  sugary treats that you consume. When you bake by yourself, you get to choose what goes in. Sneak in all the vegetables you want, or fruits. Add the iron goodness of eggs or flax seeds or any of the multigrain flours. Very few things taste bad when they’re presented in the form of a luscious loaf or cookie.At the same time, it is important to note that a lot of the traditional ingredients used in baking aren’t healthy for anyone, let alone toddlers, to consume on a regular basis. The good news? Nearly all of them can be substituted!

All Purpose Flour/Maida: The long term effects of consuming white flour, with its high glycemic index, include obesity, high cholesterol and many more. While healthier choices like ragi, jowar, bajra or even wheat bran do make baked goods feel denser, many bakers have already experimented with them and come up with recipes in which these ingredients can shine. Some bakers have revolutionized the base of their recipes by using black beans and other unconventional materials too! Try them out, have some fun.

Sugar:  As per WHO recommendations, babies shouldn’t have any sugar until they turn 1, and should consume it in moderation even post that. This applies to not just refined sugar, but also cane sugar, palm sugar and even jaggery , they all trigger the same insulin response in the human body. Fortunately, there are plenty of yummy alternatives, the easiest of which is unsweetened applesauce. If you can get hold of some natural vanilla or cardamom to add to the mix, your final product will smell sugary too!

Margarine/Butter: While babies need plenty of healthy fats, butter isn’t necessarily the best source. There are plenty of no-butter recipes which use oil instead, but how about experimenting some more? Mashed avocado adds a luxurious decadence to recipes. Shredded zucchini is another surprisingly good ingredient, producing moist end products. And what an easy way to get veggies incorporated in your meal! If you don’t mind a denser product, bananas can sub for butter, and add to the sweetness of your baked treat.

While these three ingredients form the majority of what to avoid for babies, it’s always a good idea to steer clear of regular usage of baking soda and baking powder. These tend to be heavily processed, with very little regulation over how much aluminium or other substances end up in the finished product. If you have a naturally made source for these, use them by all means.

Otherwise, you’ll find that leaving them out while baking small quantities makes very little difference to the taste of the final product, especially if you’re using eggs or an egg replacement instead. They may, of course, look and feel different to what we’re used to eating commercially, but it’s worth it in the interest of long term health.

Sceptical about how all of this will actually play out in a real recipe? Here’s a fool proof one I fall back on for special occasions. (Note: Honey’s not recommended for infants under 1. You can leave out the baking soda, and sub some of the honey for the apple sauce. It’ll still taste delicious, while being even more toddler friendly!)

Eight years into her journey from digital marketing newb to ninja, Akshaya has worked with the giants (Google), as well as startups (Anahat), and start-ups on their way to becoming giants (Zomato). She’s now working with the most challenging startup of them all – her baby girl – while freelancing. Every now & then, she gives up on the three hours of sleep available to her, and blogs at New Girl in Toronto.