• Feeding


Foods babies should avoid

Welcoming a new member to the family brings immense joy and responsibility. As parents, we strive to provide the best care and nutrition for our precious little ones. When it comes to introducing solid foods into their diet, it's crucial to be aware of the right choices. While there is a wide array of delicious and nutritious foods suitable for babies, it's equally important to be mindful of certain foods that are not recommended for their delicate systems. Below, we will explore some foods that babies under the age of 1 should avoid to ensure their health and well-being. By understanding and following these guidelines, we can foster a strong foundation for their lifelong journey of healthy eating habits. Let's dive in and discover the foods that are best kept off the menu for our little ones.

Foods to Avoid Giving Your Baby Before Age 1 for Optimal Health and Safety


It may contain spores of bacteria called botulism, which can lead to infant botulism. A toxin that can lead to muscle weakness, poor sucking, weak crying, constipation, decreased muscle tone, and even paralysis in young babies. 

Cows Milk

Whole cow's milk, as a primary drink, is not recommended for infants before their first birthday. It lacks vital nutrients and may be difficult for their digestive system to handle. Breast milk or infant formula should be the main sources of nutrition during this time.

Raw or Smoked Fish

Raw or undercooked fish, including sushi or sashimi, may contain harmful bacteria, parasites, or viruses that can cause foodborne illnesses. Babies' immune systems are still developing, and they are more susceptible to infections and food poisoning. 

Smoked fish, such as smoked salmon or trout, often contains high levels of salt as part of the smoking process. Excessive salt intake is not suitable for babies' developing kidneys and can strain their delicate systems.


Babies' kidneys are still developing, and their ability to process and excrete excess sodium is limited. Consuming high amounts of salt can put a strain on their delicate kidneys and potentially lead to health issues. 

Also, Introducing babies to foods without added salt helps develop their taste preferences for natural flavors. This can encourage a healthier and more varied diet as they grow older and reduce the likelihood of developing a preference for overly salty foods. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants younger than 12 months old should have less than 1 gram of salt (400 mg sodium) per day. Breast milk and formula already contain the appropriate amount of sodium needed for a baby's development. Additional salt or salty seasonings should be avoided when preparing their meals.

It's important to note that some foods naturally contain small amounts of sodium. When introducing solid foods, choosing low-sodium or no-added-salt options is recommended. Always read food labels carefully and opt for fresh, unprocessed, and homemade baby food whenever possible.


Nutritional Needs: Babies have specific nutritional needs during their first year of life, and their diet should focus on essential nutrients for growth and development. Sugar provides empty calories, meaning it offers no significant nutritional value, such as vitamins, minerals, or essential macronutrients.

Taste Preferences: Introducing sugary foods early in life can shape a baby's taste preferences and create a preference for overly sweet flavors. This can make it more challenging to introduce and enjoy a variety of nutritious foods later on, leading to a higher risk of developing an unhealthy relationship with sugary foods.

Tooth Decay: Babies' teeth are susceptible to cavities, even before they fully erupt. Introducing sugary foods, such as sweets, sugary beverages, or even sweetened purees, increases the risk of tooth decay. The longer sugars stay in contact with the teeth, the higher the likelihood of dental problems.

Impact on Health: High sugar consumption, especially in liquid forms like sugary juices or sweetened drinks, can contribute to excessive calorie intake, potential weight gain, and an increased risk of developing health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and metabolic disorders.

Choking Hazards

Babies under one year old are still developing their oral motor skills and coordination necessary for safe chewing and swallowing. They may not have fully developed the ability to manage and manipulate certain foods in their mouths, increasing the risk of choking. Babies also have smaller airways compared to older children and adults. This means that even small pieces of food or objects can potentially block their airway, leading to choking and breathing difficulties.

Some common choking hazards for babies when it comes to food include 

  • Whole grapes or cherry tomatoes
  • Raw vegetables, such as carrots or celery sticks
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Popcorn
  • Hard candies or lollipops
  • Chunks of meat or cheese
  • Large pieces of hard fruit, like raw apple slices
  • Marshmallows
  • Hot dogs 
  • Peanut butter (in large amounts or spoonfuls)
  • Spoonfuls of nut butter (such as almond or cashew butter)
  • Raw or unripe fruits
  • Sticky or gooey foods, like chewy candies or caramel
  • Hard and round foods, like whole grapes or cherries
  • Large pieces of bread or bagels that have not been toasted
  • Thick chunks of cheese or cheese sticks
  • Large spoonfuls of thick peanut butter or other nut spreads
  • Large chunks of hard or dry cereal
  • Whole or large pieces of hard cookies or biscuits

Always supervise your baby closely during mealtimes, avoid distractions,  and ensure they are seated upright in a high chair or supported position.

Remember, it's important to cut food into appropriate sizes for your baby's age and development. Always closely supervise your baby during mealtime and be prepared to respond quickly in case of a choking emergency. 

If you need guidance on how to cut food into age-appropriate sizes for your baby, we highly recommend utilizing the Little Ingredient Library on the Little Lunches app. This comprehensive resource is designed to provide you with valuable information on how to safely prepare and cut each ingredient based on your baby's age. It takes into account the developmental milestones and chewing abilities of your little one, ensuring that you offer them foods that are not only nutritious but also safe to consume. By consulting the Little Ingredient Library, you can feel confident in providing your baby with meals that are both delicious and suitable for their stage of development. Ensuring the right food textures and sizes can go a long way in preventing choking hazards and promoting your baby's safe and enjoyable mealtime experience.

Unpasteurized Cheese Or Milk

The pasteurization process involves heating milk or cheese to a specific temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Pasteurized dairy products undergo this heat treatment, which significantly reduces the risk of bacterial contamination, making them safer for consumption. Unpasteurized dairy products, including cheese and milk, carry a higher risk of bacterial contamination. These products may contain harmful bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, or E. coli, which can cause severe infections, especially in infants with developing immune systems.

Babies have immature immune systems that are not yet fully equipped to handle the potential pathogens present in unpasteurized dairy products. Their immune systems are less capable of fighting off harmful bacteria, making them more susceptible to infections and related complications.

Unpasteurized dairy products pose a particular concern for the risk of Listeriosis, a serious infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Listeriosis can lead to fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and in severe cases, it can result in meningitis, blood infections, or even miscarriage or stillbirth in pregnant women.

To ensure the safety of your baby, it is best to choose pasteurized dairy products, including cheese and milk. These products undergo a controlled heat treatment that eliminates or minimizes the presence of harmful bacteria while retaining their nutritional value.

Always read labels carefully when purchasing dairy products and look for the "pasteurized" designation.By opting for pasteurized dairy products, you can provide your baby with a reduced risk of bacterial infections, promoting their overall health and well-being.


Juice lacks essential nutrients such as protein and dietary fiber while being high in sugar. Offering juice to babies can lead to an imbalance in their overall nutrient intake, potentially replacing more nutritious foods such as breast milk, formula, or solid foods. 

Nutritional Imbalance: Even 100% fruit juice contains natural sugars that can be concentrated. Consuming too much juice can contribute to excessive sugar intake, which may increase the risk of tooth decay, weight gain, and the development of a preference for sweet flavors.

Reduced Appetite for Nutritious Foods: Offering juice between meals can fill up a baby's stomach and decrease their appetite for more substantial and nutrient-dense foods such as breast milk, formula, fruits, vegetables, and grains. This can lead to inadequate intake of important nutrients required for growth and development.

Diarrhea and Stomach Discomfort: The high sugar content in juice can cause digestive issues in babies, including diarrhea, bloating, and stomach discomfort. Additionally, some babies may experience an allergic reaction to certain fruits used in juices.

Impact on Dental Health: Prolonged exposure to the sugars in juice, particularly when consumed from a bottle or sippy cup, can contribute to tooth decay and cavities, commonly referred to as "baby bottle tooth decay."

Instead of juice, it is recommended to focus on breast milk, formula, and introducing appropriate solid foods at the appropriate age. Water can be offered to babies over six months of age if needed, but it should not replace breast milk or formula as the primary source of hydration.

By limiting or avoiding juice during infancy, you can promote healthier eating habits, reduce the risk of dental issues, and ensure that your baby receives optimal nutrition for their growth and development.

Processed Meats

Sodium and Additives: Processed meats, such as sausages, hot dogs, and deli meats, tend to be high in sodium content and often contain additives like preservatives and flavor enhancers. Excessive sodium intake in babies can strain their kidneys and potentially lead to health issues. Moreover, the additives present in processed meats may not be suitable for their delicate digestive systems.

Nitrites and Nitrates: Processed meats often contain nitrites and nitrates, which are used as preservatives to extend shelf life and enhance color. When consumed in excess, these compounds can be converted to harmful nitrosamines in the body, which have been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers. Babies' developing bodies are particularly vulnerable to the potential negative effects of these compounds.

High Fat and Calorie Content: Processed meats are typically high in unhealthy saturated fats and calories. Introducing these foods to babies, who have specific nutritional needs and require a balanced diet, can contribute to excessive calorie intake and potentially lead to weight gain and related health problems.

Instead of processed meats, focus on providing your baby with a variety of nutritious foods that are appropriate for their age and developmental stage. Opt for lean meats, poultry, fish, and plant-based protein sources, prepared in a way that ensures their safety and suitability for your baby's delicate digestive system. 

Fish High In Mercury

Mercury is a toxic metal that can have detrimental effects on a baby's developing nervous system. Here's why:

Neurological Development: Babies' brains and nervous systems are still developing rapidly, and exposure to high levels of mercury can interfere with this process. It may lead to cognitive and developmental delays, learning disabilities, and impaired motor skills.

Mercury Accumulation: Mercury tends to accumulate in the body over time, especially in organs such as the brain and kidneys. Even small amounts of mercury can accumulate to harmful levels in a baby's small body, increasing the risk of long-term health problems.

Immature Detoxification System: Babies have an immature detoxification system, making it more challenging for their bodies to eliminate mercury efficiently. This increases their vulnerability to its toxic effects.

Examples of fish with higher levels of mercury that should be avoided in a baby's diet include:

  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel
  • Tilefish
  • Bigeye tuna

For a safe and balanced diet, choose fish that are lower in mercury, and ensure they are properly cooked to eliminate any potential bacterial contamination. By being mindful of the mercury content in fish and making informed choices, you can protect your baby's developing nervous system and support their healthy growth and development.

In our journey as parents, we hold the power to shape our babies' lives by providing them with the nourishment they need to thrive. Give your baby the best start in life by avoiding the foods they should steer clear of and embracing the Little Lunches meal planning app for nutritious and age-appropriate meal options. This innovative app offers personalized meal plans tailored to your baby's age and developmental stage, taking the guesswork out of what to feed them. With a variety of nutritious foods and age-appropriate options, the Little Lunches app guides you step-by-step, ensuring that each meal is suitable for your baby's needs.Together, we can create a foundation of health and well-being for our little ones that will last a lifetime.


By: Jessica Facusse, co-founder of Little Lunches, and Dr. Diana Jimenez, pediatrician specialized in child nutrition, lactation, and child development.

Sources: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

1 year ago