As a dietitian, I take a pretty liberal approach to what you should and shouldn’t eat. In fact, there’s really not much that you would ever find me saying not to eat! We can come up with all sorts of sayings, like all foods fit, there’s no good or bad food, all of that. Whatever saying you want to put to it, that’s what I believe when it comes to food.
Except for when you’re feeding babies. When you’re feeding babies, there are a few foods to avoid for babies that you need to be aware of before you start.
This is the number one thing to avoid! You shouldn’t give your baby honey in any shape or form. Not in homemade goods, not in packaged goods, not ever. Why is that, you ask?
It has nothing to do with allergies, but is because honey can potentially contain botulism spores. A baby under one has a very susceptible intestine, and these spores can take up root and produce the botulism toxin. The spores can cause severe and highly dangerous illnesses.
When we normally talk about botulism in adults, we’re talking about the toxin. It is usually found in something like incorrectly canned foods or dented cans. Technically, you can boil these so they are safe to eat.
Unfortunately, you can’t cook away the botulism spores found in honey in your normal baking environment. They need an extremely high level of heat to be killed, and it’s not something that is achievable with normal cooking or baking.
So bottom line, avoid anything with honey, homemade or store bought, until your baby is one year old. At that time, their intestine has usually become mature enough that they will no longer be susceptible to the botulism spores.
Salt is another thing that you really want to be watching with your baby, although it is no where near the same level as honey is.
Your baby’s kidneys are unable to handle a large amount of salt, and you should be limiting salt as much as possible for the first year. Check out this post on salt for more specific recommendations.
Now this limiting doesn’t mean that your baby can’t have salt, or that the rare salty thing will harm your baby. But you do want to be aware of the importance of limiting salt for medical reasons.
Some good ways to reduce the salt in your baby’s food include taking their portion out before you salt the rest of the family’s, buying low or no salt options, and rinsing things like canned beans off before serving them.
Throughout the day, try to keep a general running tally of the salt that your baby has had. No need to be specific, but use it as a way to remind yourself to serve something to your baby with no salt at the end of the day if that morning they already had something that had more salt than normal in it.
Unlike the other two recommendations, which were more on the medical side of things, this recommendation is more for the long term. Babies, especially under a year, are usually pretty open to trying new foods. They don’t tend to need the sweetness that we, as adults, might be used to and think they need.
That doesn’t mean that they don’t know the difference between, say, sweet and sour. They just don’t automatically know that people generally don’t like sour foods and want to avoid them. It’s natural for babies to enjoy sweet things, but we don’t need to put added sweeteners in things and increase natural sweetness.
Now this doesn’t mean that you should avoid sweeteners at all costs like you need to with honey. It just means to be cognizant about what you are giving your baby, and don’t purposefully give them sweetened foods.
An example might be sweetened or flavored yogurt. Babies are generally fine with plain yogurt, and don’t need the sweetened variety. You can expose them to plain, and most babies will become used to it and enjoy it.
The goal is to teach your baby to like unsweetened things. This way, as they get older they aren’t going to want the same amount of sweeteners as they would if you started them on really sweet foods.
There are a few foods to be aware of when feeding your baby. Honey can be dangerous for babies under 1, and you should avoid it in all foods including home cooked and store-bought. Your baby’s kidneys have a hard time processing too much salt, and they need a fairly low sodium diet. Sweetened items are unnecessary for babies under 1, as if you continue to expose them to unsweetened things they will usually learn to like them and need less sweetener as they get older.