Which foods are considered unsafe for a baby?
Some foods are known to be “baby-friendly”. Most fruits & vegetables, healthy fats and carbohydrates, proteins, beans and lots of seasoning options should all be part of your baby’s diet. But some other foods are recommended to either delay or avoid completely for safety or health reasons.
As your baby grows, they will be eager to try more things and you will want to introduce more variety. But not all foods are safe.
Let’s look in details!
Food to delay until a recommended age
- Honey: To be delayed until 1. Honey has been linked to cases of infant botulism, a rare but very serious form of food poisoning that can be prevented for an adult but is life threatening for babies under 1 year old.
- Tough skins & Stringy Food: To be delayed until baby is comfortable navigating these foods. By stringy we mean green beans, parsnip or celery which can cause baby to gag. Anything with hard skin such as apples, pears, cucumber…etc… can be modified (cooked and/or skin removed) to be served safely until baby can manage them!
- Cow’s Milk: It’s important to stick to formula or breastmilk until baby is 12 month old. The reason? Baby can’t digest it well. Any other dairy can be introduced earlier and it is even encouraged to expose baby to this allergenic food early and often.
- Whole nuts & seeds: While this can seem conservative, it might be recommended to old until your child is 4 or 5 years old before introducing whole nuts. But this might vary from kid to kid. Small seeds such as sesame, chia, hemp can be introduced earlier and don’t represent the same choking risk. Nuts should still be served to expose baby to allergenic foods but can be introduced as a nut butter or powdered to be safe. Remove seeds and pits from fresh fruit such as watermelon, peaches, plums, and cherries before serving.
Food to delay for as long as possible
- Juices & sugar sweetened beverages: Pasteurized juices are very high in sugar and spikes blood sugar rapidly. It is better to prioritize a few sip of fresh pressed juices which are higher in vitamines but fresh vegetable juices are preferred even if it is recommended to just limit or delay until 12 month old. As for sugar sweetened beverages, they should be delayed for as long as possible as they are full of calories and prevent babies from getting the nutrients they need from other foods by filling on these beverages.
- Refined Seeds/vegetable oils: canola, vegetable, corn oils… are extracted with chemicals and quality is often damaged. It is better to prioritize olive oil, avocado oil, or butter when cooking.
- Too much salt: It is important to separate salt vs sodium. Sodium can be found in breastmilk and formula and is an essential nutrient in a baby’s development. Salt is a sodium and too much salt can be harmful.
- Sugar & refined foods: Added sugar does not have a lot of nutritional benefits and a high consumption of it will prevent children from eating foods that will actually support their needs. Be mindful of hidden sugars, try to propose alternatives and to hold off until baby is 2! For more tips you can check our article on sugar for babies.
Food to avoid or limit
- Commercially raised animal meat: Offer grass-fed and wild when possible! If not possible, try to prioritize organic.
- Sprayed fruits & vegetables: If it is possible for you to prioritize organic for fruits and vegetables as well, refer to the list of clean 15 and dirty dozen when possible to give in season, local and pesticide-free veggies and fruits to your babe!
The latest on food allergies and babies
Many parents steer away from introducing wider varieties due to the fear of allergens. While there are many foods that babies can be allergic to, the most common culprits are dairy, eggs, fish, and peanuts. In the past, parent’s avoided and approached allergens with caution. However, newer research suggests introducing allergens before their first birthday, because the delayed introduction of food allergens may increase the risk of food allergies or eczema.
You may be told by your baby’s doctor to introduce foods one at a time, waiting three to five days after each new food to watch for any allergic reaction. This information is outdated. If however your baby is likely to have food allergies – for example, if allergies run in your family or your baby has eczema – check with their doctor to determine the best strategy for introducing allergenic foods.
Read more about food allergies in our guide!