Our wonderful blogger Zainab Jagot Ahmed answers our questions on spices and weaning, how to introduce spices into a child’s diet and the perfect recipes to begin. A huge congratulations to Zainab, who has today been awarded silver in the Prima Baby Awards 2015 for the best family cookbook category.

Are spices safe for young children, and how early is one able to introduce spice into a little one’s diet?

Spices are completely safe for babies. I spent over a year researching spices to see if there was any scientific research to suggest that spices weren’t safe for baby – there wasn’t any.

It’s best to wait until baby is at least 7 months of age before introducing spices. By this age baby’s palate will be accustomed to basic tastes – fruit and vegetables and his/ her digestive system will be further developed.

Spices must however be introduced safely so follow the ‘four-day-rule’ to ensure your little one is not allergic to spices. You can do this by lightly cooking a spice and adding it to mashed or pureed food. Then wait four days before introducing another. Whilst allergic reactions to spices are uncommon, they can occur. So keep an eye out for tummy upsets, skin rashes, swelling of the lips and face, runny and blocked noses, sneezing, itchy watery eyes, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Are there any spices that should be avoided? 

Most spices are aromatic so are safe to introduce into a baby’s diet in fresh, dried or ground varieties. Examples include – cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, turmeric, cloves, cumin and coriander. Spices with ‘heat’ (chillies, cayenne pepper etc.) should be avoided initially along with salt and sugar.

Can spices be used to help any particular ailments or to fight infection? 

Spices have been used for medicinal purposes for generation so yes – they can absolutely be used for ailments. Teething, for example, is uncomfortable for baby and even more painful for parents! If a parent has tried everything – teething granules, gels and toys, try adding nutmeg or cinnamon to meals for their analgesic properties. Equally if baby has cold or flu and the doctor can’t prescribe anything, try adding some cumin, turmeric, cardamom or garlic to meals for their immune-boosting and anti-viral properties.

What recipes are best to try first? 

Babies have a sweet tooth – mother’s milk is naturally sweet. So encourage new aromatic tastes with sweet spices. Try sweet potato sticks with cinnamon and nutmeg baked in the oven for a delicious finger food. Then move onto savoury spices – cumin, turmeric, coriander and so on swiftly to continue offering new tastes and flavours.

Do you have any other weaning with spices tips to share?

Yes – it’s important to keep spices fresh for baby. So once the spice packet is opened store in a clean, dry, air tight container away from sunlight to ensure spices remain fresh for baby. Spices used must also be produced by reputable spice brands sealed with a clear expiry date on the packet. If you’re unsure – head to your local supermarket.

Zainab Jagot Ahmed is author of award-winning weaning and family cookbook – Easy Indian SuperMeals for Babies, Toddlers and the Family (awarded silver in the Prima Baby Awards 2015 – best family cookbook category). Available to buy now from Amazon (RRP £14.99).

You can also hear Zainab as one of the expert speakers live on the MadeForMums stage at The Baby Show (NEC) Birmingham on Friday 15th and Sunday 17th May about ‘Weaning with Aromatic Spices’.