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When your child is about 6 months old, he/she starts teething and is able to chew some of the solid foods you give them. This is the best time to introduce all the nutritious fruits and vegetables and build a healthy diet for them.
Pumpkin is one such vegetable that has great nutritional benefits and is rich in beta carotene. Read on to know more about the benefits of pumpkin in your baby’s diet and how you can use it in several recipes.
Can Pumpkin Be Given To Babies?
Yes, you can safely give pumpkin to babies. In fact, pumpkin contains several nutrients that help your child to build a strong immune system. It also has anti-microbial properties that kill harmful germs in your child’s intestine. This makes it an essential ingredient in their diet to keep them healthy.
Best Time To Introduce Pumpkins To Babies
The best time to include pumpkin in your child’s diet would be when your child starts developing milk teeth. This process starts anywhere between 3 to 12 months, but most commonly around 6 months. If you give your child solid foods before 6 months, they end up spitting them out as quickly as you feed them. So, roughly around the time they are 6 months old, you can try feeding them pumpkin amongst other solid or semi-solid foods.
Pumpkin Health Benefits For Babies
Pumpkin comes with various uses and benefits, some of which include:
1. Essential Nutrients
Pumpkin has many of the essential vitamins and nutrients your child needs to grow. It contains high amounts of calcium and magnesium that help your child’s bones become stronger. The phosphorus in pumpkin can also improve brain functions, keep hormone levels balanced, and improve digestion
2. Eye Health
Pumpkin is also a storehouse of Vitamin A, which is an essential nutrient for eye health. It facilitates good vision both in daylight and at night. It is also rich in carotenoids which reduce the risk of several eye diseases and conditions. These carotenoids help reduce macular degeneration (accumulation of fatty substances on the retina that cause a blurred vision) in both kids and adults alike, which helps to improve eyesight. This carotenoid is responsible for the bright orange colour of the pumpkin
3. Improves Digestion
Pumpkins are high in fibre which aids in digestion. They regulate the bowel movements in your child and keep constipation away
4. Antioxidant Rich
Pumpkins contain high levels of beta-carotene which is an antioxidant and reduces the oxidative stress on many organs. Oxidative stress refers to an imbalance in the production of free radicals in your body. Over time, it can trigger chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Your child’s body can also convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A to add to the benefits
5. Brings a Glow On The Skin
The carotenoids help remove the free radicals in your child’s body which reduce ageing. It clears up the surface of your child’s skin, making it glow. It can also keep skin diseases at bay.
6. Increases Energy Levels
Potassium is a great source of energy, and just one cup of pumpkin is a great source of potassium. It improves the balance of electrolytes in the blood and improves muscle functionality
7. Boosts The Immune System
Pumpkins contain large amounts of Vitamin C and biochemicals that protect your child from cold and flu. They also have anti-microbial properties that improve your child’s immunity
8. Provides Good Sleep
A substance called Tryptophan present in pumpkins helps produce serotonin in our bodies. Serotonin is an amino acid that induces calmness in the body and allows for better sleep at night
9. Anthelmintic Properties
Babies, who have still-developing immune systems, are not just prone to microbes but also worms and other parasites. The anthelmintic properties of pumpkin (the power to destroy worms) keep these worms and parasites at bay to keep your child healthy
What is the nutritional value of Pumpkin?:
The table below lists the nutritional content of pumpkin.
|Nutritional Content||Value per 100g|
|Vitamin A||8510 IU|
Ways To Cook Pumpkin For Your Child
There are several ways you can cook or bake a pumpkin before serving it to your child. Listed below are some ways you can boil and bake pumpkins.
1. Baking Method
After cleaning the pumpkin, brush the pumpkin halves with olive oil and place them skin side-down on the baking tray. Bake for about 45 minutes on 375 ℉ or until it becomes tender. Remove them from the oven and scoop the pulp out into a bowl. Adding some butter is also a good idea.
2. Boiling Method
Bring some water to boil. Put the cut pieces of pumpkin into the pan and cook them until they are tender. Drain the water and let the pumpkin cool for a few minutes. You can either use this immediately in your dish or put them in the freezer. Do not just refrigerate them as they can develop a brownish orange colour that is not healthy to consume.
You can even feed the pumpkin raw in the form of a puree – either plain or along with some cereals or yoghurt.
Simple & Easy To Make Pumpkin Recipes For Babies
1. Pumpkin Puree For Baby
Cook the pumpkin in water until it is tender. Remove the pumpkin pieces from the water and blend them to form a puree. You could even add water or breast milk to get the desired consistency of the puree.
2. Apple And Pumpkin Puree
For this, you need one sugar pumpkin and three apples peeled with the core removed. Cut them into cubes and boil them in water until they are tender. After cooling, mash the mixture to make a puree and add some cinnamon to add flavour.
3. Pumpkin Soup
Making pumpkin soup for the baby is a great way to integrate it into their diets. To prepare:
- Add 2 tbsp. of butter in a pan and let it melt
- Add a quarter cup of chopped onions and sauté
- Add three cups of red pumpkin cut in cubes and sauté for a while
- Add three cups of water to this along with some salt and pepper for taste
- Cook this until the pumpkins become tender, after which, let the mixture cool for about 15 minutes
- Blend this mixture in a blender and add the liquid back to the pan
- Bring the soup to boil once again after adding a quarter cup of cream
- Garnish it with some spring onions and feed your child
4. Pumpkin And Pear Puree
For this recipe, just take one pear that is peeled and cored. Mash the pear and mix with the pumpkin puree. (Recipe mentioned above.)
5. Pumpkin, Bananas, and Peaches
Steam one pear and one peach together until they become tender and mash them or blend them into a mixture. Add canned or preferably freshly prepared pumpkin puree to this and mix.
6. Brown Rice And Pumpkin Porridge
Brown rice is slightly difficult to digest so just use about half a tablespoon of rice. Clean and soak the rice in water for half an hour. Steam a peeled pumpkin that weighs about 120g. Add the soaked rice into the pumpkin and boil on a high flame for a couple of minutes and simmer for five more minutes. Strain this and cool it down before feeding your child.
7. Pumpkin And Spinach Roti
For this, you need a cup of red pumpkin grated finely, one cup of spinach cleaned thoroughly and chopped, one cup of flour, preferably whole wheat, half tsp. of turmeric powder, some oil and butter, and salt to taste.
- Heat some oil in a pan and sauté the spinach for a couple of minutes and remove.
- Let this cool for a while. Mix flour, pumpkin, and turmeric powder and knead into a soft dough.
- Roll some balls to and flatten them to make rotis.
- Cook this well on a pan with butter and serve with the spinach.
1. Is Canned Pumpkin For Baby Safe?
It is safe to feed your child canned pumpkin as long as it is pure pumpkin. Some cans also contain a pumpkin pie mix which contains starch, sugars, and other additives which can be unhealthy for your baby. This is the reason why most doctors recommend that you avoid the usage of canned food for your child. Ensure that you read the label to know that you’re buying the right pumpkin for your child.
2. How To Select Pumpkin For Your Baby?
Pumpkins don’t generally require the use of pesticides, so most of the time they are safe to consume. But if you still want to purchase an organic pumpkin for your child, then that is your personal choice.
Pick smaller and less matured pumpkins for your child. These are also called sugar pumpkins, cooking pumpkins, and even pie pumpkins. They have lesser fibre in them compared to the larger ones and also have a sweet and firm pulp. These can add an extra flavour to soups and baked foods. Also, ensure that you pick a pumpkin that is slightly heavy for its size. This means that it has a greater water content in the pulp.
If you’re buying a pack of peeled and chopped pumpkin, then ensure that the colour is a dark or deep orange. For an uncut pumpkin, buy one with a bright orange colour and without any spots or cuts on the surface. Ensure that it isn’t too ripe as well.
3. How to Cook Pumpkins?
Before preparing any recipe with pumpkins, ensure that you peel it and clean it with a vegetable brush to remove any dirt. Use cold water to rinse the pumpkin. Then, cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds with the help of a spoon.
If you prefer pre-cut pumpkins, then ensure that you rinse them in cold water in a colander before using. After this, the pumpkin can be used for whatever dish you want to make.
Always cook the pumpkin right after you cut it. But avoid prolonged cooking as this can reduce the nutritive value of the pumpkins. Use any of the recipes mentioned above or try other pumpkin baby food recipes to include it in your child’s diet.
Your child might love discovering new flavours and tastes, but it is necessary that you consult with your doctor before introducing any new food. Also, try just one food at a time to better understand if they cause any allergies or side effects. If your child is keeping unwell or is on medication, don’t introduce a new food into their diet.
Pumpkin is a versatile food that goes well with other vegetables, fruits, and even meat. You can try mixing pumpkin with rice, lentils, pears, broccoli, and many other foods to give your child all the nutrients he/she needs to grow.