Starting solids is a huge milestone for babies and moms. After months of formula and/or milk, it’s exciting to introduce your baby to the wide world of food. Spinach is a great solid to start with; it’s literally a “superfood,” with tons of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
But when should you introduce spinach to your baby? How much should you start with? And finally, how should you buy, store and prepare spinach? We’ll answer these questions and more.
Should you feed your baby spinach?
Chock full of vitamins and minerals, spinach is a healthy, nutritious choice for a baby’s first food. However, it’s important to know when to start your baby on solids and how best to prepare this delicious first food for maximum impact.
Can Babies Eat Spinach?
Spinach is a great food choice for babies. It’s easily pureed and provides so many health benefits. Dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and arugula help keep baby’s skin and hair healthy while contributing to good bone density. They also provide Omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and a host of vitamins and minerals.
However, it’s important to understand your baby’s stages of development and when they’ll be able to eat and properly digest solids.
When Can Babies Eat Spinach?
Spinach can be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start eating solids, which is typically between 4 and 6 months of age. During this time, most babies stop pushing food out of their mouths (called the extrusion reflex) and learn how to move food from the front of their mouths to the back for swallowing.
Other physical signs that indicate your baby’s readiness for solids include his ability to hold up his head and sit upright without support.
Your baby might tell you when he’s ready to eat solids by showing an interest in what you’re eating. They may reach for your food or mimic your chewing movements.
If your baby seems physically ready to eat solid foods, it’s important to check with your doctor. They will either agree that you can start introducing your baby to solid foods or advise that you wait until your baby gets a little older.
In the case of spinach, you can actually give it to your little one after eight to nine months of age. Start with a small volume and increase gradually.
A Note About Nitrates
There’s a lot of debate about feeding babies vegetables that are high in nitrates — particularly if your baby is younger than 12 months old. This includes veggies like spinach, cabbage, beets, turnips, broccoli, and carrots. Nitrates, if consumed too regularly, can affect the oxygen levels in your baby’s blood .
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics hasn’t found any evidence to suggest avoiding spinach, as the process of steaming, boiling, or blanching significantly reduces the nitrate content (1).
Benefits of Eating Spinach for Babies
- Spinach contains several essential vitamins that are great for your baby’s health and development. Vitamin A promotes the health and growth of cells and tissues in the body, such as hair, nails, and skin. Vitamin A also plays an important role in vision and bone growth while protecting the body from infections (2). Spinach also contains folate (vitamin B9), vitamin C, and vitamin K.
- Spinach is a good source of iron, calcium, zinc, and fiber. Iron is vital for proper brain, neurological and red blood cell development. Zinc, on the other hand, contributes to a healthy immune system, as well as tissue growth and healing.
- Spinach is one of the top plant-based sources of magnesium and vitamin K, both of which lead to healthy bones and blood.
- The dark green colour of spinach leaves indicates a high level of chlorophyll, a natural phytonutrient and antioxidant (3).
- Spinach also contains health-promoting carotenoids, including beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin (4)(5). Besides being anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous, these phytonutrients are very important for your baby’s eyesight.
- Spinach is loaded with protective compounds called polyphenols. Working together with spinach’s vitamin compounds, polyphenols have been linked with anti-cancerous properties (6).
How Do I Introduce Spinach to My Baby?
It’s important to check that your baby can chew and swallow solids. All foods can be a choking hazard under the wrong circumstances. So be sure to watch carefully as your baby eats, and make sure that their food has cooled down before feeding them.
For your baby’s first spinach (as with any other solid food), start with just a teaspoon or two in a small spoon. If your baby spits it out or starts gagging, don’t worry. It’s not uncommon for a baby to reject something the first time he eats it because of the new texture and taste.
Tips for Feeding Babies Spinach
Here are a few things to keep in mind when feeding your baby spinach:
- Your baby must be able to chew the food well.
- Pick the freshest leaves you can find.
- Wash the spinach very well before cooking.
- Consider mixing some breast milk or formula into the spinach puree the first few times to help your baby get used to the new texture.
- If your baby pushes the spinach out of his mouth, try again at the next feeding or the next day.
An Easy Spinach Recipe for Babies
It’s easy to make your own spinach puree at home in a few simple steps!
- Thoroughly clean the spinach in water.
- Put the spinach in a steamer basket and steam it until the leaves become soft and wilted.
- Drain the spinach and put it in a blender or food processor.
- Puree the spinach until it’s a soft, mushy pulp. You may need to add small amounts of water (or breastmilk) in the blender until it reaches the right consistency. Don’t add any seasonings to the puree.
- No blender or processor? Then you can mash cooked spinach with a potato masher and use scissors to cut up any stringy parts.
What Kind of Spinach Is Good for Babies?
When you’re selecting spinach for your baby, try to find organic or locally-grown versions. These tend to have fewer pesticides and chemicals.
The spinach you choose should have tender, crisp (read: fresh) leaves. Avoid any bunch with brown or yellow leaves.
Does Spinach Cause Constipation in Babies?
Can I Use Frozen Spinach for Baby Food?
To reduce the risk of nitrate exposure, many parents purchase frozen spinach, though as we’ve mentioned, washing, steaming, or boiling spinach can eliminate this issue.
However, frozen spinach tends to have inherently fewer nitrates — and more nutrients. This is because it is flash-frozen at the peak of its nutritional value when picked (nitrates in spinach tend to increase after fresh spinach is picked).
How Do You Store Spinach Puree?
Harmful bacteria can grow in food left out at room temperature, which can then lead to a foodborne illness. We recommend throwing away any puree left out for longer than two hours and any refrigerated puree after three days.
If you’ve made a large batch of spinach puree, you can freeze unused portions in an ice cube tray. Then, place the frozen cubes in a freezer bag.
Can Babies Be Allergic to Spinach?
While rare, some babies can have an allergic reaction to spinach. Symptoms can include itchy rashes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, swelling around the eyes and nose, and shortness of breath.
It is extremely important to watch out for these signs and contact your doctor if you notice any symptoms develop.
Eat Your Greens
While it can be challenging to introduce new foods to your baby, it can also be an exciting and rewarding experience.
Think of trying spinach as an adventure that you and your baby can enjoy together. Start small and experiment with a variety of recipes. Don’t be afraid to use frozen spinach, too.
Every baby develops at their own speed, but we’re sure it won’t be long before your little