The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to introduce babies between 4 and 6 months to a good variety of foods for nutrition and texture.
However, it’s important to note:
There are some foods you may want to avoid feeding your baby before twelve months.
This is because certain foods can be a health risk to young babies, can pose choking hazards, and in some instances even warrant a trip to the hospital.
As research continues, it’s important to consult your child’s pediatrician and ask questions to stay up-to-date with the guidelines about foods to avoid for babies because the list does change periodically. Some foods that were on the “dangerous” list years ago may have been removed while others may have been added.
Although foods come and go, there are some that parents should always be cautious about and some that should be avoided until your baby is old enough to eat them or unless otherwise instructed by a doctor.
Keep this list of foods to avoid feeding your baby before one year old handy for babysitters and other caretakers by printing a copy (see below) for easy reference.
Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Baby Infographic
Food Babies Shouldn’t Eat
Honey remains on the “dangerous” list for babies under one year old. While it is a tasty, natural food, it can cause a condition known as botulism in young infants. Botulism occurs when certain bacteria that has been ingested releases toxins in the body. It’s not harmful to adults, but in babies under 12 months it can cause muscle weakness and other problems.
Salmonella can be a problem for babies from food that is under cooked, especially poultry, fish, meat and eggs. Salmonella can be the cause of fever and diarrhea in young children, which can result in dehydration. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, in order to help prevent the spread of salmonella, it is recommended that you cook eggs and other poultry thoroughly.
Fish high in mercury
While certain kinds of fish can be a good source of protein, the FDA advises pregnant women, nursing women and young children not to eat fish that contains high levels of methylmercury that can be dangerous to a young child’s health. Fish such as king mackerel, swordfish, shark and bigeye tuna have some of the highest concentrations of methylmercury known “to be harmful to the developing brain and nervous system.” For this reason it is best that babies steer clear of these varieties and look for sources of protein elsewhere.
Wait! Before you pour your baby that cup of juice, it’s important to know that contrary to popular belief, fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits to infants under 12 months. If able, babies should instead consume whole fruits to get the benefits of the fiber and other nutrients in them. Drinking fruit juice can cause problems like obesity and tooth decay in young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastmilk or formula be the sole source of nutrients to babies until 6 months and to delay the use of fruit juices until after 12 months.
Sugary foods and candy
Like fruit juice, sugary foods and candy should be avoided when feeding your baby. Sugar is not a nutritional necessity to babies this young and can set them up for problems like obesity later in life. And although those tiny baby teeth may not have broken through the surface yet, what your baby eats and drinks does have an effect on her teeth even now. You may also run the risk of your baby developing a strong preference for sugary foods and refusing to eat more nutritionally balanced meals. This includes foods like cakes, cookies, pies, and candy.
Cow’s milk is inferior to breast milk for babies because it does not provide the necessary nutrients for a baby to grow and thrive. Cow’s milk lacks key nutrients such as iron, vitamin E and fatty acids needed for healthy growth. It also contains high levels of protein, sodium and potassium that a young infant’s digestive system is not properly able to absorb yet. Because of this, the AAP recommends that infants only have breastmilk or infant formula for the first 6 months and should not consume cow’s milk before 12 months of age.
Plenty of parents have given their baby a french fry or two. What’s the harm? Fast food has become increasingly used as the go-to dinner option for busy families across the US. While it is a convenient option for nights where you won’t make it home before dinner, think twice before feeding it to your baby. If possible, try to steer clear of greasy, nutritionally void fast food that could upset baby’s sensitive digestive track.
Plain and simple, seeds can cause a baby to choke, so they should be avoided until your baby is able to thoroughly chew hard foods on his own.
Thick nut butters
Peanuts made our list of “dangerous foods,” but not for the reason you think! While it was once advised not to give babies peanuts or peanut butter before age one because of potential allergic reactions, this is no longer the case. The AAP states that it is okay to slowly introduce highly allergenic foods like peanuts to a baby’s diet as long as you watch for signs of allergies or any other reactions.
So why are nut butters on the list?
The answer is that nut butters can come in very thick varieties and while it may be okay to introduce them to babies, it is important that they are not so thick that your baby will choke on them. Even as adults we often want to wash down a pb&j with a cold glass of milk because the peanut butter can be sticky and feel stuck in our throats. This can be dangerous for a baby who is still learning how to swallow new foods.
The AAP states:
“A good way to introduce peanut in infancy would be mixing and thinning out a small amount of peanut butter in cereal or yogurt. Dissolving peanut butter puffs with breast milk or formula and feeding it by spoon is another good option.”
Just like seeds, nuts are a choking hazard for babies and should be avoided. They can get lodged in the throat, cutting off air supply and leave your baby in danger.
- Whole grapes
- Hard, raw veggies
- Hard, raw fruit
- Large chunks of meat or cheese
- Chewing gum
- Chips or similar snack foods
- Meats high in saturated fat
In order to help reduce the risk of heart disease, EatRight.org from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that foods like bacon, some lunch meats and hot dogs should be limited because they are high in saturated fat.
The Dirty Dozen
Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a report of their findings from a series of tests done to determine the levels of pesticide residue found on vegetable and fruit produce.
EWG releases their findings to the public in the Dirty Dozen list which lists the fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residue in them.
“Twenty-five years after the National Academy of Sciences issued a landmark report raising concerns about children’s exposure to toxic pesticides through their diets, Americans still consume a mixture of pesticides every day. While vegetables and fruits are essential components of a healthy diet, research suggests that pesticides in produce may pose subtle health risks.” – EWG
Here’s the deal:
While it is important for children to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables for good health, it is also important to know what is in these foods. Buying foods from the Dirty Dozen list isn’t a deal breaker, but if possible, it may be better to purchase these foods organic to avoid much of the contamination.
From the highest to lowest ranking of pesticide residue, the Dirty Dozen foods include:
- Sweet bell peppers
The bottom line
- Try to buy organic whenever possible to minimize your baby’s exposure to pesticides
- Make sure everyone who will be responsible for feedings is aware of the dangerous foods your baby should avoid