Planning to introduce solids soon, but not sure which foods your baby can and cannot eat? Wondering if there are any foods that just aren’t safe for babies?
Introducing solid foods can be an exciting time for both you and your baby. But, it can also be stressful! You start to worry about choking, allergies, intolerances, and if your baby is eating enough or not. Then you start to wonder if there are any foods if your baby can’t eat and why they can’t eat them.
In this post, we will cover 9 foods you should avoid during your baby’s first year and what you should feed your baby instead.
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9 Foods that Babies Can’t Eat
Whether you’re planning on feeding purees or doing baby-led weaning, you’ll need to make sure to avoid these 9 foods when feeding your baby:
Honey is the number one food to avoid for babies under 1 year of age. Honey is known to contain bacteria spores that can cause infant botulism, a very rare, but yet frightening condition.
Symptoms of botulism usually arrive within 18 to 36 hours after a baby has ingested the toxins from Clostridium botulinum. Constipation is typically the first sign of infant botulism, but it can also cause muscle weakness, breathing problems, irritability, fatigue, difficulty sucking and feeding, and even paralysis (source).
If you suspect your baby has botulism it’s important to seek urgent medical care. If you think your baby may have ingested honey by accident, be sure to give your primary care provider a call right away.
2. High Amounts of Salt
Too much salt is just plain unhealthy for anyone, but it’s especially unsafe for babies. Your baby’s immature kidneys just can’t process that much sodium, and it can make your baby ill. High amounts of sodium early on in life can also increase your baby’s risk for high blood pressure later on.
It’s best to avoid salt as much as possible when feeding your baby. Don’t add any kind of table salt to your baby’s food. Use very little to no salt when cooking from scratch, and check nutrition labels when buying canned, frozen, and processed foods. Soups, sauces, and even some meats and breads can be way too salty for your baby.
As a general guideline, babies 6-12 months should be consuming less than 1g of salt or 0.4g sodium daily. Ages 1-2 can consume 2g of salt or 0.8g of sodium daily (source).
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3. Undercooked Meat & Eggs
Other foods that babies can’t eat are undercooked (or raw) meat and eggs. They just pose too high of risk for food poisoning, as they often contain bacteria, such as salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria (source).
Thorough cooking destroys any bacteria or viruses that may be contaminating your baby’s food. Egg yolks should be firm and meat should have no trace of pink or red when feeding these foods to your bay.
4. Specific Types of Fish
Just like during your pregnancy, it’s best to avoid certain types of fish, like shark, swordfish, marlin, king mackerel, and tilefish for your baby. These types of fish contain potentially high amounts of mercury, which could harm the development of your baby’s nervous system and cause neurological problems.
Tuna can be safe in limited quantities and can provide your baby with nutritious omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. If you plan on introducing tuna to your baby, then it’s best to stick with canned light tuna, as it contains the lowest mercury content of the different types of tuna (source).
Undercooked and raw fish also increases the potential for food poisoning, so it’s best to avoid those as well.
Bright colorful foods can be deceiving, and they tend to trick your mind into buying them. While these foods may seem appealing, they often pose hidden risks from the artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives they’re filled with.
Research has associated many man-made foods dyes with common childhood problems, such as allergies, hyperactivity, learning impairment, irritability and aggressiveness. The three most widely used colors (Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Red 40) even contain compounds, including benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl, which research has shown to be linked with cancer (source).
It’s best to eliminate these from your baby’s diet as much as possible, along with other artificial additives, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium benzoate, aspartame, and high fructose corn syrup.
6. Too Much Sugar
Family members may be tempted to let your baby try some sweets, but stand your ground as babies really shouldn’t have high amounts of sugar. In fact, any kind of food with added sugar isn’t recommended for babies under 1.
Sugar doesn’t have any essential nutrients and is only providing your baby with “empty calories.” It also contributes to tooth decay, can shape your little one’s taste preferences to prefer sweets over healthy foods, and increases your child’s risk for obesity later on in life.
It’s best to steer clear of sweets. Instead of juices, fruit snacks, ice cream, and sugary cereals, offer small amounts of water, fresh fruits, whole-milk yogurt, and plain toasted oats (source). When baking, replace sugar with unsweetened applesauce or cinnamon.
7. Junk Food
Junk food is just plain unsuitable for babies. Junk food is extremely processed and has far too much sodium, sugar, artificial additives, and unhealthy fats. Not to mention, they contain very few nutrients.
I know pizzas, burgers, fries, and hotdogs are quick, but they’re not healthy for your baby or even you. It’s best to just steer clear of all junk food.
I feel like this one should be a no-brainer, but babies can’t have caffeine. It’s addictive and can lead to insomnia, vomiting, poor growth rates, restlessness, and elevated heart rate. Extremely high doses can even cause seizures and cardiac arrest.
Caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, teas, and soda, can also make your baby irritable and gassy. Teas can interfere with your baby’s iron absorption, and the acidity in coffee and soda is horrible for your baby’s teeth. Just stick with breastmilk, formula, or small amounts of water to quench your baby’s thirst at meal times.
Now, if you’re breastfeeding, caffeine is perfectly fine for you to drink in moderation. Only about 0.06-1.5% of the maternal dose actually passes through your breastmilk. Some babies are more sensitive to mom’s caffeine intake though, so just pay close attention to how your baby responds (source).
9. Excess Water
You may have noticed that I’ve mentioned giving small amounts of water throughout this post. That is because too much water can actually be dangerous for your baby.
Just like with salt, your baby’s kidneys are just too small and immature to be able to handle large quantities of water. Drinking too much water is especially dangerous for babies under 9 months of age and can potentially cause water intoxication, a condition where your baby’s normal sodium levels are diluted and can lead to seizures, coma, brain damage and even death (source).
While your baby doesn’t necessarily need any water before the age of 1 (as long as baby is nursing or drinking formula well), it can be nice to use for learning how to use a cup or to help flush your baby’s food down during mealtime.
If your baby is between 6-12 months of age, she can have 1-2 ounces of water per day. Once she hits that 1 year mark, you can start to let her drink water freely (source).
A Word About Cow’s Milk
You may have heard to avoid cow’s milk and other milk substitutes before the age of 1 as well. This is because it should not be replaced with your baby’s breastmilk or formula. Your baby’s breastmilk/formula should be their main source of nutrition before 1.
This doesn’t mean you can’t use milk for cooking with or give your baby anything with milk in it. Your baby can still have cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other dairy products.
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What to Feed Instead
Now that you know which foods your baby can’t eat, you’re probably wondering what foods you should feed your baby.
When feeding your baby, it’s best to expose her to a variety of healthy foods. This will help provide her with essential vitamins and minerals and help her to develop a taste preference for nutritious foods instead of junk.
Your baby’s diet should include:
- Lots of fruits and veggies: Try to offer as many differently colored fruits and vegetables as possible, as they all provide different vitamins and minerals for your baby. Some of our favorites include bananas, blueberries, sweet potato, broccoli, and pears.
- Calcium: Babies need extra calcium for healthy growth and development. Be sure to include calcium-rich foods, like cottage cheese, tofu, or sardines to your babies meals.
- Protein: Protein is also vital for your baby’s growth, as well as for providing energy. Eggs, meat, fish, and cheese are all loaded with protein. Tofu and quinoa are great high-protein sources if your family is vegetarian.
- Healthy fats: Full-fat foods ensure that your baby is getting all the nutrients and energy her growing body requires. Some fats, like Omega-3s, are also critical for your baby’s brain development. While we may tend to reach out for low-fat foods, it’s important to purchase full-fat products for our babies, such as whole-milk yogurt, avocados, and salmon.
- Iron: Iron is also crucial for the development of your baby’s brain. And, while babies are typically born with large storages of iron, it’s usually only enough to satisfy their needs until around 6 months of age. If your baby is formula-fed, that will help fulfill their iron needs, but if your baby is breastfed, you should try to provide your baby with other iron-rich sources, such as well-cooked meats, broccoli, eggs, and spinach.
- Zinc: Zinc is important for maintaining a healthy immune system and also ensures optimal cell growth and repair. Zinc is most commonly found in iron, so by meeting your baby’s iron needs, you will be meeting her zinc requirements as well.
- Fiber: Common first foods, such as bananas and applesauce, as well as iron-rich foods do have the potential to cause constipation for your baby. Help prevent your baby from getting backed up by adding a little bit of fiber to her diet. Foods, like blueberries, peaches, peas, and prunes can be helpful.
- Probiotics: Probiotics can be one of the greatest things for your baby’s health. Probiotics promote optimal gut health for your baby, which in turn, can help ward off digestive issues, boost the immune system, and prevent eczema, cradle cap, and yeast rashes. You don’t need to give your baby any supplements to provide her tummy with healthy bacteria. Lots of foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods contain plenty of probiotics.
Remember, Food Before 1 is (Mainly) Just for Fun
Starting solids can be an exciting time for the whole family, but everyone needs to be clear on which foods your baby can and cannot eat.
There are some foods that are just plain unsafe for babies. Honey can cause botulism for babies under 1, swordfish contains too much mercury, additives can contribute to behavior problems, and too much sugar and salt can make your baby ill. Heck, even too much water can cause problems for infants.
While these 9 foods need to be avoided, there are plenty of nutritious foods out there to fill your baby’s diet. Don’t worry too much if your baby isn’t eating a whole lot of solids. Food before 1 is (mainly) just for fun after all. The most important thing is to make sure your baby is getting enough iron and zinc.
If you have any questions about your baby’s nutrition, don’t hesitate to give your baby’s doctor a call. That’s what they’re there for. 😉
Did You Find This Post Helpful?
Did this post answer your questions to which foods your baby can and cannot eat? Comment below and let us know if you learned anything new and be sure to share this post with all your new mom friends.