If you’re a parent who has a palate for spice, it’s no surprise you would want your kids on board as early as possible and, according to some experts, babies can start eating spices as early as six months.
“Unless your baby has a reaction to any spice, there is no reason why you can’t introduce a hint of spice from six months,” says Shahzadi Devje, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator based in Toronto.
“By introducing diverse and rich tastes early on, you help your baby establish healthy eating habits that will continue well beyond childhood.”
Devje adds some parents feel baby food has to be bland or mushy, and spices are an easy way to add more flavour.
Spices — an introduction
Andrea Carpenter, registered dietitian and owner of NutriKidz, says spices like ginger, cinnamon and cloves can be introduced after infants experiment with solid food at six months.
“Herbs and spices are great flavour enhancers without adding unnecessary sugar and salt,” she tells Global News. “As with any new food, spices should be offered one at a time, waiting three to five days, before adding a new spice to see if there is a reaction.”
Devje says any mild spice like coriander, mild curry powder, nutmeg, turmeric, black pepper, cumin, fennel, dill, oregano, and thyme are all OK to introduce to your child’s diet after six months.
“Make sure you use tiny amounts in the early stages to prevent stomach upset. You want to opt for powder versus whole spices to prevent risk of choking.”
She suggests adding mild curry powder and coriander to lentils or curries or adding cinnamon and nutmeg to fruits, veggies and oatmeal.
Benefits of spices
Studies have shown spices could help you live longer, and certain ones, like cinnamon, have also been linked to reducing blood sugar levels and improving total cholesterol, CNN reports.
But for infants, experts say it’s a good way to expand their taste buds and introduce them to different food, rather than just focusing on the nutritional benefits.
She adds opening them up to spices can also open them up to different cuisines or your own staples. If you love chili con carne, dhal, lasagna or pad Thai, she adds, you would want to make sure your kid one day loves it too.
“Expanding babies’ taste buds is a great way to help them transition to family foods, as your baby will be familiar with those tastes and more likely to accept them.”
It can also encourage a more adventurous eater, Carpenter adds, and in the long run, this could mean not dealing with a super picky eater. “Many children appreciate the flavours that spices provide, compared to more bland foods.”
Spices to avoid
But this doesn’t mean every spice is suitable for an infant more than six months. Carpenter says you should avoid hot spices or any spice if a child has a negative reaction to the food, however, she adds if there is no reaction, there is no reason to avoid spicy food.
She also doesn’t suggest avoiding hot spices with capsaicin, which trigger our nerves to feel heat.
“In young children, this sensation may be mistaken for pain. For this reason, it may be beneficial to use aromatic spices first, and allow the child to experience those flavours first, before adding small amounts of hot spices.”
Devje says some spices are known to irritate the gastric lining, which is why you should avoid them before the six month period. And once you start, use mild spices in small dosages.
“Remember to go easy and keep an eye out for any sensitivities. Slow and easy, with close monitoring is the way to take your baby on a culinary adventure with spices.”