The risks of eating hummus for babies & toddlers

How safe is it for babies and toddlers to eat hummus? It may be a healthy snack, but many of the ingredients in hummus have the potential to cause an allergic reaction or have an effect on your baby or toddler's digestive system. Find out more about the possible risks of eating hummus for babies and toddlers.
How safe is it for babies and toddlers to eat hummus?

It may be a healthy snack, but many of the ingredients in hummus have the potential to cause an allergic reaction or have an effect on your baby or toddler's digestive system.

Is it safe for babies & toddlers to eat hummus? What are the risks?

We take a look at the possible risks of eating hummus for babies and toddlers.

1. What is hummus?

Hummus (also known as houmous, hoummous, hamos, hommus or homos) is a healthy and tasty snack which can be used as a dip or spread.

It’s made from a simple blend of cooked, mashed chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and other ingredients, such as tahini, oil, lemon juice, garlic and seasonings, depending on the recipe or brand you choose.

Particularly popular in the Middle East, hummus is an ancient food of disputed origins that has become globally popular, although the exact recipe varies a little from one area to another.

Hummus is easy to prepare and soft enough to not be a choking hazard for your baby or toddler.

It’s also a great source of complete protein, iron, potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin E.

2. When can kids eat hummus?

Hummus can generally be introduced to babies around the 8 - 9 month milestone as long as it is bland to begin with.

Babies’ intestinal systems are not fully developed at this stage, and they may have trouble digesting certain spicy ingredients.

3. Why all the concerns about hummus?

There is often concern around babies and toddlers eating hummus as many of the ingredients have the potential to cause an allergic reaction or may have an effect on your little one’s digestive system if introduced too early.

However the latest guidelines from ASCIA (Australian Society of Clinical Immunology & Allergy) suggest that the introduction of common allergenic foods should not be delayed. Instead, foods should be introduced to infants before they turn 1 years old to help reduce the risk of them developing allergies.

Further evidence is still required to clarify optimal timing for each food, but some of the ingredients causing concern include:
1. Tahini

The ingredient in hummus that most concerns parents is tahini. A paste made from toasted, ground sesame seeds and oil.

As with a peanut allergy, a sesame allergy can be also be severe. Sesame seeds are one of the top ten most allergenic foods.

Depending on your little one’s sensitivity, symptoms of sesame allergy can range from hives to an itchy mouth to a life-threatening anaphylaxis reaction soon after eating sesame seeds.

So if there is a family history of food allergies, of if your child suffers from other allergies, it is best to delay introducing hummus to their diet until after the one-year mark or until you have spoken to your doctor.

It’s important to always check the label of shop-bought hummus before deciding if it is safe for your baby to eat.

Tahini has a distinctive flavour and cannot really be substituted in your hummus recipe.

However if you have any concerns at all, you can leave it out altogether when making your own.
2. Chickpeas

Cooked chickpeas (like many other legumes) have a tendency to cause uncomfortable gas (or wind) and are not quite as gentle on a baby’s developing digestive system as most simple fruits and veggies.

It’s recommended waiting until your little one is at least 8 months before introducing chickpeas, perhaps longer if they are prone to ‘gassiness’.

Allergic reactions to chickpeas don’t seem to be particularly common in the West, but in India, where chickpeas are very widely consumed, the incidence of chickpea allergy is far higher.

It’s also worth noting that your child’s chance of reacting to chickpeas is higher if they are allergic to soy, lentils or latex, or if there is a family history of these allergies.

If you are making your own hummus you can always soak, rinse and drain the chickpeas several times before cooking to help reduce their gas producing potential.
3. Lemon juice

While lemons are packed with vitamins and nutrients that are great for your baby’s growth and development, they are also packed with acids.

The acids found in citrus foods are known as citric acids. These acids can be very hard on your baby’s digestive system, and may result in your child having a rash around their mouth or nappy rash.

If your baby is very sensitive to new foods, it is best to hold off introducing lemons into their diet until after their first birthday.

If you have given your child a lemon and have not noticed any negative side effects, you can continue giving small pieces of lemon to them every so often.

However, the amount of lemon juice needed to make hummus is relatively small in comparison with the quantity of ingredients used. You can always leave it out if you’re making your own or have any concerns.
4. Garlic

Garlic has many health benefits and is perfectly safe for your little one to consume from around seven months of age.

However it’s worth bearing in mind that raw garlic tastes stronger than cooked garlic and that the chance of allergic reaction is a little higher.

Raw garlic, like chickpeas, may also cause gas in your little one’s tummy and as with any food, it should be introduced gradually in small quantities.

Typical signs of an allergic reaction can include swelling, cramping, rash, diarrhea or vomiting.
5. Salt

Hummus traditionally contains some salt. However it’s a good idea to leave the salt out if you’re making hummus for babies and toddlers.

Babies in particular need only a very small amount of salt, if any. No more than 1g (0.4g or sodium) a day until they are 12 months. Their kidneys can’t cope with more salt than this.

If you are making hummus for the whole family, you can separate out your baby’s portion and then add salt to the remainder.

As with all food allergies, for milder symptoms contact your doctor straight away or if your baby or toddler seems to be having trouble breathing, or is showing any symptoms that are more severe call for an ambulance immediately.

4. Introducing hummus to your baby or toddler

When introducing hummus to your baby or toddler, always start with a small amount and serve it with foods you know your child already enjoys (carrot sticks, crackers etc.). This way, if they get an upset stomach, you know the culprit.

In the first instance get them to try the more bland ‘original’ hummus before moving on to spicier versions.

After the initial introduction, it is best not to feed them something ‘new’ for at least 3 days. This allows time to ensure your they don't have an allergic reaction to hummus.
Spicier hummus can be introduced to children around 24 months of age.

Older children are more accustomed to new foods and have a more developed intestinal system.

Food allergies are not really a big concern at this point, but spicy foods have been known to cause irritation to the digestive tract.

5. Make your own hummus

If you are worried about the tahini and cannot find a commercial brand without it, hummus is quite simple to make at home.

Plus, making hummus at home allows you to add ingredients you enjoy and reduce the amount of ingredients that may cause allergies.

Have a go at making your own hummus using our basic hummus recipe.

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