Best Vegetables for Babies and Toddlers
Fruits and vegetables often get lumped together when we talk about dietary needs. Think about how many times you’ve heard that you need to “eat your fruits and vegetables.”
We also know that “fruits and vegetables” are important for our little ones. It often seems, however, like the “fruit” part is so much simpler. Fruits generally contain more natural sugars, so it’s easier for many kids to eat and enjoy a variety of fruits.
But veggies offer distinct, important nutrition for babies and toddlers that we can’t give up on. Most vegetables, for example, are higher in calcium, folate, and iron than fruits. We all need these, of course, but babies especially:
Finally, healthy habits start young. A vital step to raising healthy kids, teens, and adults is to teach babies and toddlers how to eat veggies.
Best Veggies for Babies
The CDC recommends waiting until babies are at least 6 months old before introducing them to solid foods—anything besides breast milk or formula. Some parents wait for 7 or 8 months if their babies don’t seem quite ready.
When your baby can sit up unassisted and control their head well, and when they seem interested in food—leaning forward when it is offered, watching you longingly as you eat, etc.—they are probably ready to try veggies.
The first veggies for babies should be smooth purees—thicker than water, but thin enough to drip off a spoon. If you make purees at home, you might also want to strain them to remove any fibrous strands. Between 6 and 8 months, offer purees at every meal and let your little one decide what to do with it.
If your baby is about six months old and ready for those first veggies, though, you might be wondering where to start. What are the best veggies for babies and toddlers?
1. Sweet potatoes or yams
Sweet potatoes and yams are not exactly the same thing, but for baby veggies they’re close enough. They’re a great option for one of your baby’s first veggies, because they’re naturally sweet, but not as sweet as most fruits. They’re also easy to puree or cube once they’ve been peeled and cooked.
Sweet potatoes are one of the best sources of vitamin A, which is necessary for a strong immune system, eye health, and skin health. Sweet potatoes are also great for gut health and contain loads of antioxidants.
Carrots are another great first vegetable for babies, because they cook and mash well. They have a little sweetness to them, so they’re an easy favorite for most babies and toddlers.
Carrots are also a huge source of vitamin A and a good source of carbohydrates. Carbs create energy and babies and toddlers burn through lots of energy. Even when they’re resting, their bodies are hard at work growing and developing, which still requires the energy they get from carbohydrates.
Peas are great as purees for babies. They’re also a fun option for toddlers—especially mixed with another vegetable—because of their color and shape.
And peas are loaded with nutrition. They’re one of the best sources for plant-based protein, which kids need for growth as well as repair and maintenance of skin and muscles. Peas are also a primary source of vitamin K, which works with calcium to grow and strengthen bones. Babies and toddlers also get antioxidants; vitamins A, Bs, and C; and folic acid.
Leafy greens are hard to give babies and toddlers, because chewing and swallowing them can be tricky. You can, however, blend them into a good puree. Spinach is such a superfood that your baby shouldn’t miss it.
Spinach is full of nutrients like potassium, folic acid, iron, and calcium. It also carries all kinds of vitamins that growing babies and toddlers need, like B6, B9, E, C and K. Vitamin K is especially important for new babies, because their bodies need it for blood clotting. Many hospitals will even give new babies a vitamin K shot or supplement to prevent a serious bleeding condition.
Pumpkin can be pureed for young babies or cooked and cubed for older babies and toddlers. Most adults tend to think of pumpkin as a fall food, but there’s no reason that babies can’t enjoy it year-round!
Pumpkin is a good source of vitamin A, fiber, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Fiber is especially important as babies start to eat solids. Their digestive systems make some big adjustments and a healthy amount of fiber can make sure that everything keeps moving.
Recommended Vegetables for Toddlers
Around 8 or 9 months, when your baby seems ready, offer small chunks of veggies that have been steamed or cooked to make them very soft. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that hard, raw vegetable pieces can be a choking hazard for the first 4 years.
You can continue to offer the veggies that your child has experienced as purees first. The familiar flavor will help them transition to a new texture. As you add additional foods, be sure to only add one new food every couple of days so you can monitor for any adverse reaction.
What are some recommended vegetables for toddlers?
Broccoli (or mini “trees” as your toddler may refer to them as) is a fun option for toddlers because the florets are textured and interesting. Try experimenting with different sizes, as long as they’re steamed to be very soft.
And broccoli is another superfood for babies (and all of us, really). It is packed with micronutrients as well as beta-carotene, fiber, folic acid, iron, and potassium. Broccoli is also a cruciferous veggie, which means it has cancer-preventing powers.
7. Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is a classic toddler veggie. It’s naturally sweet, and it’s starchy enough to hold together—even when steamed to a soft texture.
It’s also one of the best veggies for toddler nutrition. Butternut squash full of antioxidants, vitamins A and C, potassium, fiber, folate, and some omega-3s. Omega-3s are important for brain health, good sleep (who doesn’t want their toddler to sleep well?!), and may even reduce symptoms of ADHD and asthma.
Cauliflower has a chunky texture that’s great for toddlers who are exploring self-feeding and solid foods. Roasted or steamed, it can easily be made soft enough for early eaters.
And cauliflower is a serious superfood. It’s highest in vitamins C and K, although it packs in lots more. It’s also a good source of fiber and antioxidants. Cauliflower is also one of the few sources of a nutrient called choline, which benefits cell health, the nervous system, the heart, and the liver.
Most toddlers are initially attracted to the bright red color of beets, but give them up after one bite. Still, you can sometimes “hide” beets in a medley of other veggies, and it’s worth a try!
Because beets are a good source of fiber, folate, iron, manganese, potassium, and vitamin C. Many Western children are low in potassium, which can cause high blood pressure and lead to heart disease. Potassium regulates fluid levels in the body, so it’s important at every stage.
10. Bell Pepper
Bell peppers are delicious and wonderfully crunchy when raw, but be sure to save the raw veggies for older children. Bell peppers should still be steamed or roasted to soften them for toddlers. Try offering a variety of colors for toddlers to eat/play with too!
Any color bell pepper is a great source of antioxidants and vitamin C (more than an orange!), as well as many of the other nutrients found in veggies—fiber, folate, potassium, etc. Antioxidants protect your little one from free radicals and support good long-term brain health.
Avoid Raw, Hard Veggies for Babies and Toddlers
Baby carrots are not for babies. They’re actually considered a serious choking hazard, because they are exactly the right shape and size to get lodged in a baby or toddler’s airway.
Similarly, corn is often mistakenly given to babies and toddlers, probably because it’s small. Until your child has developed really good eating habits and control, firm corn kernels are still a choking hazard. (But cooked and mashed up a little bit, corn is a tasty option for toddlers!)
In general, remember to avoid raw, hard veggies for babies and toddlers under four years of age.
Veggie for Babies: Getting Started
If your baby is six months old (or more), you can start introducing vegetable purees. Start slow and try to be patient. Some kids take to solids really quickly and others need more exposure to veggies before they accept them.
If you’re working on increasing the amount of veggies that your toddler eats, variety is key. Don’t add a bunch of new veggies all at once, but consumption tends to increase when more options are presented. So rather than offering one vegetable with lunch, for example, try offering smaller quantities of two or three.
And if you just don’t know where to start, Tiny Organics is here to help. Each of our meals uses a variety of the best vegetables for babies and toddlers. They are good for your littles and easy on you.