Nutritional Health, Recipes

Recipe for Lentils: For Babies and Grown-ups

After my last post, Why I am Anti Rice Cereal, I received several requests for recipes, so let me start with this one:

First Time Lentils: a simple recipe for  a baby’s introduction to solids

What you need:

1 cup red lentils (masser daal)

2-4 cups water (depending on how soupy you want it)

½-1 teaspoon salt

Take a cup of lentils and wash in a few cups of water to skim off any impurities. Pour off the washing water and place the lentils in a medium sized pot. Add the water for cooking. Bring to an initial boil and then let simmer for 20-40 minutes, until at your desired consistency.

Puree or mash 1-2 tablespoons worth. Let cool and serve to that precious baby.

What your baby (or you!) gets:

  • Iron
  • Fiber
  • Protein

Getting More Adventurous: adding goodness step by step

You can add ingredients, following the general rule of “one new food every 2-3 days.” In no specific order, here are some options:

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
    • Can be poured directly into pot when you start cooking
    • Provides anti-oxidant and other yet undiscovered value
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Chopped garlic to taste
  • Chopped ginger to taste
    • Onions, garlic and ginger can be sautéed in olive oil prior to adding the lentils and water
    • Ginger and garlic may aid in digestion and perhaps reduce gas
  • 1-2 fresh, chopped tomatoes
    • Tomatoes can be added to the mixture of onions, garlic and ginger
    • Cooked tomatoes add great flavor and nutrients, like lycopene
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and a few fenugreek seeds
    • These can be sautéed in the olive oil prior to or along with the chopped onion
    • Although no consensus exists in Western medicine on the benefits of cumin and fenugreek, other cultures use these seeds regularly for their flavor and accepted nutritional and healing properties.
Traditionally, the base, or tadka, consisting of sautéed seeds, onions, garlic, ginger and/or tomatoes are cooked and spiced separately from the lentils. They are then mixed together at the end. As a busy mother, however, I find that cooking it all together saves time and leaves you with one less pan to clean. It also gets the veggies all nice and mash-able, which is important for infants new to eating.

With time, you can add any vegetables and spices you like. Just yesterday, I chopped some baby bok choy into my daughter’s lentils. Why not? She had no idea how much goodness she was getting—a cruciferous vegetable AND daal? I gave myself a pat on the back.

For older infants, kids and adults, you can obviously start with all the ingredients at once and salt to taste. You may also want to add a spoonful or so of garam masala, a blend of Indian spices, usually based in coriander power and black pepper.  This will add flavor and nutrients from the variety of herbs and seeds present. Make sure to taste this before serving to young ones since, depending on the blend, some garam masalas can be very spicy. Varieties can be purchased at your local Indian store.

You should definitely mix it up over time with various types of lentils. Some have more iron than others. Some take longer to cook than others. I like to start with red lentils or split moong (mung) because they cook quickly and may be digested a bit more easily than some of the other lentils.

The last point I want to make about lentils (and beans) is that though they are rich in protein, in order to make a complete protein, such as that present in dairy, meat, eggs, and soy, lentils must be complemented with a grain, such as rice (brown, of course). It does not have to be during the same meal, but at some point during the day, it is a good idea to get a grain in to ensure that you or those you are feeding have access to all their essential amino acids. For babies under a year, this is not so much an issue because they are getting a complete protein in their breast milk or formula.

Hope this is helpful! Let me know if you have any suggestions or comments, and don’t forget to garnish with fresh, chopped cilantro!

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5 thoughts on “Recipe for Lentils: For Babies and Grown-ups

  1. I will definitely try this! Celeste loves curries. She just turned one on Saturday, and it’s always a challenge to find food she likes to eat. She dropped from 50 to 10th percentile 3 months ago in weight (she started walking at 10 months), but maintained her height and head circumference at 50th %, so I’m always trying to get more calories in her. She loves fruit and veggies! Any other ideas would be great.

  2. LOVE THIS Angel! You are a rockstar! 🙂 We JUST bought some rice cereal, as Mia turned 5 months! I think we’ll leave it on the shelf and try to do some daal/lentils instead! Chris is in agreement that we should start her on real foods that have real nutrients! Any recommendations on how much we should give her? how many times a day to start? etc?

  3. I applaud you for recommending SPICES as additions. More often than not, us parents are taught to start with BLAND food and work our way up. But the rest of the world doesn’t think that way. Babies eat what we eat! Well, we don’t add much spice to our food anyways, but we want to so that our kid can experience different tastes. We LOVE curries and spicy food, and want our son too. Just gotta figure out the best time to do so. He certainly doesn’t like spicy food, we found.

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