How to introduce leafy greens to baby! When can babies eat leafy greens and how should you prepare them? Why are greens so good for kids? When to give baby spinach, kale, and other greens.
No matter what age your child is, if kale isn’t in their top 5 list of favorite foods… you’re in the 99.9%!
Leafy green veggies may be among the healthiest foods on the planet, but that doesn’t mean they’re an automatic favorite food for kids, or adults, alike.
Because they’re so good for us, we encourage you to offer leafy greens to your baby just like every other food. Not only will this add more nutrition to your child’s plate, but it will also help them develop a palate for healthier foods as they get older.
And as we always say, it isn’t nutrition until it’s eaten. It may take multiple times offering leafy greens, in several different ways, before your child even decides to try it.
But that’s okay! Here’s why we think you should keep serving greens at an early age, plus a few of our favorite ways to offer them to our kids.
Why leafy greens are great for kids
Green vegetables are super healthy. In fact, studies show that they’re among the healthiest foods on the planet.
Incorporating greens into your regular diet has been shown to help protect against a number of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancers. Leafy greens may also be especially beneficial for the brain, protecting against neurodegenerative disease and playing a role in mental health as we get older.
This is because leafy greens are excellent sources of antioxidants and disease-fighting phytochemicals. They’re high in fiber, rich in vitamin K and folate, and even contain some calcium and iron (pair with vitamin C foods to boost absorption), among other important micronutrients.
But we also recognize that green veggies aren’t exactly as sweet and enticing as other foods your babe may enjoy.
That’s why we recommend exposing your baby to greens regularly, and in different ways, starting at a young age. Baby-led weaning is a perfect time to do so!
Best leafy greens for babies
Many leafy greens tend to be a little tougher than other vegetables, but this doesn’t mean you should avoid offering them to your babe altogether.
It just means that they need to be prepared in age-appropriate ways and in safe consistencies.
With the right preparation methods, you can introduce your baby to things like:
- Swiss chard
- mustard greens
- collard greens
- bok choy
Below are a few of our favorite ways to serve greens to the littles in our own households.
3 ways to offer leafy greens to kids
Ready to start experimenting with leafy greens for your babe? Here are 3 ways that we like to offer them to ours. Feel free to customize them to your family’s preferences.
Pasta is a great food for baby-led weaning and toddlers. Choose regular, whole wheat or legume-based pasta (for additional protein, iron, and zinc) – whatever you prefer. And yes, refined grains are okay, as plant-based kids usually have higher overall fiber intake.
Note that for 6-9 months, we prefer a shorter noodle that baby can easily grasp like penne, ziti or rigatoni.
For 9-12 months, we recommend cutting noodles into smaller pieces. We LOVE kitchen shears for quickly cutting food. And for 12 months and older, any and all pasta shapes should be tolerated well.
How to make it:
- Blanch 2 cups of chopped kale or other greens of choice. Boil quickly for 60 seconds, then transfer to ice cold water. This locks in that beautiful color!
- Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small saucepan and add in two smashed garlic cloves.
- Add everything to a blender with the zest and juice from 1 lemon. Blend! Toss with cooked pasta and a little pasta water for ideal baby consistency.
Tropical green smoothie (+ popsicles!)
This recipe is ideal for babies who are at least 12 months old. It’s a great way to pack in “PB3” nutrients like seeds and greens in a toddler-friendly format. And it helps to introduce them to more diverse flavors like ginger.
Keep it fun for kids by letting them get in on the smoothie-making process.
How to make it:
- In a blender, combine: 2 cups spinach, 1/2 cup frozen pineapple, 1/2 frozen banana 1 cup unsweetened soy milk, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated ginger.
- Optional: add a few ounces of tofu for extra plant protein and nutrients and blend
- Serve. This makes enough for one adult and one tot.
Plus, here’s a tip to reduce waste. If your child refuses or doesn’t want his full smoothie, you can pour it into a popsicle mold and make this into a tropical green popsicle for another day.
This is a great option for young babies who are working on their pincer grasp (using the thumb and forefinger to pick up foods). We often use kale here, but you can also try others, like spinach, collards, or mustard greens.
How to make it:
- Remove any tough stems, then finely chop the greens. You can also use a food processor to break down the tough leaves.
- Heat 1-2 tsp of olive oil in a skillet and add in a clove of minced garlic.
- Add in chopped greens and sauté until very softened.
- Make sure they’ve cooled down before offering to babe. You can serve these directly on their plate or tray table.
There you have it. How to introduce leafy greens to baby! If you’ve been wondering if babies can eat leafy greens and how should you prepare them, we hope this helps. As for when to give baby spinach, kale, and other greens, you can start as soon as your babe begins to become comfortable with the transition to solids – just be sure to prepare and offer greens in age-appropriate consistencies.
Chime in: Does your child enjoy leafy greens? What are some ways you like to serve them in your home?
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