Parents can feed babies a particular fruit or vegetable one day, only to get told the next day that research has shown they shouldn't. When it comes to feeding babies for the first time, the guidelines are plentiful and as straightforward of a task as it may seem, there are still some major fruits, vegetables and even grains that should never be fed as starter foods.
When it comes to starting solids, it's always best to err on the side of caution with babies. Stick to the tried and true without deviating into the more "interesting" foods.
For some fruits, vegetables, and grains, their little tummies simply aren't mature enough yet and are incapable of breaking them down. Sure, what comes in must come out but when it does, it won't be easy on your poor tot. Some foods are more complex to break down and may either lead to painful constipation, gas or any other unpleasant symptom.
Bottom line is it's simply not worth the trouble to "try" and give it to them anyways. Make sure to stay away from these 7 fruits, 7 vegetables, and 7 grains as starter foods when starting solids.
Sorry to disappoint but as easy as berries are to just rinse and cut up a little, all forms of berries should actually be avoided when first starting baby out on solid foods.
“Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries contain a protein that is hard for infants and early toddlers to digest,” explains Babble.
Strawberries, in particular, are also once again at the top of EWG’s Dirty Dozen list, containing an “astounding 22 pesticide residues.” Buying organic does help but even then, it’s best to avoid berries as a starter food altogether when it comes to feeding baby solids for the first time.
Oh, how fun would it be to watch baby's reaction while trying his first lemon? Not so fast.
Before you reach for a wedge of lemon and launch your phone’s camera, consider the acidity level of citrus fruits. While no one would ever cut up lemons or limes to give a baby as a starter food, there are still oranges, clementines, and grapefruits that may be tempting to let baby suck on.
However, feeding baby citrus fruits too early “can cause an upset stomach and rashes in the diaper area or even on baby’s back or face,” as per Babble. It’s always best to wait a little before feeding any citrus.
Although cherry tomatoes seem like an easy food to give to baby from the start, it’s best to wait until 10-12 months of age before letting baby try the fruit that isn’t a vegetable.
“The reason for this is not due to possible allergies per se, rather, the acidity of tomatoes may prove harsh for an immature tummy,” explains Wholesome Baby Food.
The issue really does only extend to raw tomatoes and isn’t too much of a concern when it comes to cooked tomatoes, such as in a tomato sauce. Even then, tomato sauce should never be a starter food either. With cherry tomatoes especially, there is also the risk of choking if the pieces aren’t cut up small enough.
Canned fruit should never be considered a replacement for real fruits. With that in mind, they should also never be given to a baby as a starter food, no matter how easy it is to just pop open a container and feed it to the baby.
Canned fruit simply aren’t as nutritious and it’s always important to read the label. Sugar, or more specifically the sugary syrup in which canned fruit is preserved should be avoided at all costs when feeding baby.
Although canned fruits may seem ideal because they have the “squashy” texture that is easy for babies to eat, they don’t actually allow baby to experience the real texture of fruits.
Apples are hands-down one of the best starter foods to give to baby… just not raw! The best way to cook apples for babies is by peeling, coring and throwing the chunks into a pan with just enough water to cover them. Then, either boil or steam them until they are tender. It doesn’t get any easier than that and you can add some cinnamon for extra flavor.
Even later on when the baby turns into a toddler and can seemingly chew his food properly, apples should always be cut to avoid the possibility of choking. In fact, apples should continue to be peeled until the baby is old enough to handle chewing the peel properly.
As nutritious as grapes are, they are also one of the top choking hazards, according to Parents.com. The risk simply isn’t worth the reward with this one, so never feed your baby whole grapes as a starter food.
But even cut up grapes can still pose a risk, making this fruit best left at the store until the baby is old enough to handle it.
“One of the troubles with feeding grapes to babies is the skins of the grapes and another is their round size; these make for choking hazards. You may introduce grapes as early as 6 months of age though it is best to peel and mash them up. The negative to peeling grapes is that many of their antioxidant and healthful properties are found in the skin,” explains Momtastic.
"I have a pen, I have pineapple. Uh! Pineapple-Pen!"
And also uh! -- don't feed pineapple to your baby as a starter food. Just like oranges, “the citric acid in pineapple may irritate your baby’s stomach (especially if they have reflux) or lead to diaper rash,” explains Healthline.
They also go on to recommend feeding baby only a tiny amount of pineapple and wait for a reaction. Either way, it’s easier to just wait on this one and stick to other fruits.
Instead of these 7 fruits, feed baby safe alternatives such as bananas, avocados, plums, mangoes, kiwis and cooked apples, pears, peaches or apricots.
As unoffending as spinach may look, it actually packs a double whammy. Not only is spinach high in nitrates, it also ranks #2 on EWG's Dirty Dozen list, coming in right after strawberries.
As a result, it also means that spinach is the dirtiest vegetable of them all, with EWG reporting, "97% of conventional spinach sampled contained pesticide residues. Conventional spinach had relatively high concentrations of permethrin, a neurotoxic insecticide."
Pesticides aside, the fact that spinach is high in nitrates is an even more important concern. “Nitrates can turn into nitrites, which then turn into nitrosamines (a known carcinogen) in the stomach," explains Mama Natural, going on to add,
"It’s also helpful to serve these foods with vitamin C-rich foods to avoid this nitrate->nitrite->nitrosamine conversion.”
On top of spinach being a loaded veggie on both the dirty and the nitrates fronts, there are a number of other root and leafy vegetables that should also be avoided as starter foods because of the nitrates part, namely kale, beets, fennel, collard greens, lettuce, squash, green beans, and even carrots.
“Waiting until 6–8 months for root vegetables, and a year for leafy greens, is best for baby’s health,” says Mama Natural.
As Very Well Family points out, babies under 3 months are particularly at risk for getting sick from the nitrates in these vegetables. Fortunately, “after 6 months of age, baby's stomach acids have further developed and therefore, are less at risk for problems.”
Not only does corn not have a whole lot of nutrients but it's also a possible allergen. This isn't to say that you should avoid feeding your baby corn forever but you can put it off until at least 8-12 months.
Corn also presents a major choking risk. According to Momtastic adding that “introducing corn after 12 months old, as a finger food, may be more appropriate because an older baby/toddler should be able to properly “chew”/mash the nibblets.”
“Yet another reason to hold off on corn is that it is particularly difficult to digest and as we all know, it tends to pass through the system in the same form that it went into the system,” also adds Momtastic.
We already covered that even carrots can contain nitrates but carrots should be avoided for another reason. In particular, raw carrots pose a choking risk no matter how small they are cut up. Babies simply lack the teeth required to eat raw vegetables, no matter how BLW you try to go.
But even if the carrots are cooked, the nitrates issue is a big one and one that multiple sources agree moms should be vigilant about.
“Due to the issue of Nitrates, recommendations for the introduction of carrots varies [usually] between 7 and 8 months old," says Momtastic.
Sure, you can totally buy a jar of peas for your little tot to sample but most babies hate those. That’s when you might have the genius idea to simply give him peas directly but again, that’s a choking accident just waiting to happen.
Some sources will recommend that you mash each pea between your fingers and serve it to your little one BLW-style. That can work but it’s not the best as a starter food because you will likely encounter lots of gagging.
If you insist on serving peas as a starter food, then you can strain cooked peas or puree them in a blender.
Just never serve them whole.
While cucumbers may sound like a no-brainer to some, it might not be as obvious to others.
Let's also not forget that cucumbers are a diuretic. Do you really want to deal with extra diaper changes?
“Offer cucumbers to your baby when she has turned between 8-10 months old,” suggests Momtastic, also adding, “Many parents report that cucumbers have made their babies and children gassy so do keep a watch out for increased gassiness.”
But gassiness aside, there is also the bigger risk of choking, which simply isn’t worth it. As much as you might be tempted to mash up cucumbers into a puree, the possible gassiness isn’t something you’d want your baby to deal with either, so skip on these for a little while.
Baby Led Weaning will have you believe you can quite literally give baby whole string beans without worry. No, just no and I write this from experience, having made this mistake as a first-time mom who didn’t know any better.
“My baby eats whole string beans” – lots of moms may claim on Facebook mommy groups.
Yet the reality is an immeasurable amount of gagging that isn’t worth the risk followed with large chunks scarily popping out in the diaper.
Given that the recommendation for green beans is usually 6-8 months, you may want to wait until the higher end of that spectrum. Alternatively, you can also mash it up as a starter food.
Instead of these 7 veggies, opt instead for sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and zucchini.
Hot on the heels of EWG’s release of its highly controversial Breakfast With a Dose of Roundup findings on August 15th 2018, the Environmental Defence Canada group was also quick to test many of the listed foods that are instead sold in Canada.
The results were the same, with Cheerios ranking amidst the top three foods containing the highest amounts of glyphosate, which as CTV explains the best, is “the active ingredient of a chemical herbicide sold under the name Roundup and found in many agricultural and gardening products.”
So starting baby on pesticides? Thanks, but no thanks. As EWG also points out in its Should I Throw Out My Cheerios article, “Just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it’s safe.”
Infant cereal is a confusing one. On the one side, scores of pediatricians and articles on the web will argue that infant cereal should be the first food introduced to a baby, mainly because of its iron fortification.
Fair enough but on the flip side, many more pediatricians and experts alike argue that parents should no longer be turning to this processed food source.
Not only is it filled high in arsenic, but as Mama Natural concisely points out, it’s highly refined, low in nutrition, too high in folic acid and is overall just needlessly bland for baby.
“Nutrient dense foods– animal foods, in particular,” should instead be favored, such as egg yolks, pureed meats, along with mashed fruits and vegetables.
Speaking of refined foods, all refined grains should be completely omitted as baby’s starter foods and ideally forever pretty much as well.
What To Expect explains it the best, “Not all carbs are created equal, nutritionally speaking. Complex carbs provide naturally-occurring nutrients that are stripped during the refining process (which turns whole grains white). Whole grains are also rich in fiber, which helps keep blood sugar steady.”
“So keep refined grains like white bread off the menu and opt for 100 percent whole grain pasta, bread, cereal, rice and crackers at the supermarket.”
It’s a simple switch that can really go a long way.
Up there with infant cereal, puffs are another ‘food’ that you want to completely avoid as a starter food and otherwise. As simple as it is to just hand baby a couple of puffs while on a trip to quiet down the crying or when you need two minutes to yourself, it’s best to skip on these.
Not only are the popular ones made of white grains, which as we already covered, should be skipped entirely, there’s also the issue that puffs are just empty food sources, filled instead with sugar and natural flavoring, none of which a baby actually needs.
“When can my baby eat popcorn?” is a top question that many parents wonder about. Not only is corn a possible allergen, as we already covered, but the choking risk is a very big one. Although the outer part of the popcorn dissolves, the middle is way too firm for babies as they aren’t able to chew it yet.
In fact, as Babble points out, “Parents should never give popcorn to children younger than 12 months. In fact, hospitals see so many cases of young children who have choked on a piece of popcorn that pediatricians recommend holding off on the snack until a child is at least 4 years old.”
What do all three of these have in common? They have absolutely no business being starter foods. While bagels can be difficult to chew, all three of these foods are usually made with refined grains, which as we already covered, are terrible for the baby.
With muffins and cakes especially, these foods are just too complex for baby's immature digestive systems. While well-meaning relatives may try to convince you that "baby wants some" or they "did it back in the day and babies turned out fine", don't listen to them!
There's a lot we don't do like back in the day anymore and with good reason.
Up there with muffins, bagels and cakes, there are also the dreaded chips. While most chips are no-no’s for obvious reasons, especially the choking hazard, Sun Chips may seem a little more confusing because they are actually multi-grain.
Although slapping the multi-grain label has for effect to make people think a food is healthy, it really isn’t.
Not only is the corn in them a potential issue but so is the overload of sugar and salt. A baby’s digestive system simply isn’t prepared for all that yet!
Multiple bicycle kicks later and you might still be swearing at yourself for trying chips or anything else on this list.
Instead of these 7 grains, opt instead for steel cut oats, brown rice, or barley.
References: Babble, EWG, Parents.com, Healthline, Mama Natural, Momtastic, EWG, CTV, What To Expect.