As your baby grows, his or her diet will naturally expand to include new foods. However, be careful about which foods your baby eats, as some of them are dangerous or extremely unhealthy. Here is a list of six dangerous foods you should hold off on:
1. Raw fish. Sushi and other raw fish are popular items amongst Americans, yet they can be dangerous for babies and young toddlers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifies that no raw fish or shellfish should be given to high-risk groups, including very young children. Bacterial contamination and choking are the two important concerns for young children. The best approach is to wait until age 5 or 6 years, after your child has developed a strong immune system. However, there is no reason why your toddler can’t safely enjoy cooked or vegetarian Asian cuisine, with special attention paid to its ingredients and the risk for choking.
2. Honey. Honey contains spores of bacteria called Clostridium botulinum, which can cause infant botulism in children under a year old. After a year of age, the natural microorganisms that grow in your child’s gut keep these bacteria from growing and making him or her ill. Don’t feed your child homemade foods baked or made with honey like bread or granola. Commercially prepared cereals or bread made with honey have been heated to high temperatures, killing the spores, and are safe to eat. Bottom line: wait to introduce honey until after age one.
3. Choking hazards. Your baby is learning to eat and manage food during the early years. Round, hard foods like hot dog coins, raw vegetables like baby carrots, chunks of food like apple or cheese, sticky foods like peanut butter, and chewy foods like marshmallows or gummy bears present a choking hazard. Make sure to cut foods into a small dice and monitor your child when he or she eats.
4. Raw milk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), young children who drink raw, unpasteurized milk and eat foods made from raw milk like cheese and ice cream are at high risk for severe illnesses like prolonged diarrhea and stomach cramping. In extreme cases, kidney failure, paralysis, and death can occur from bacterial infections related to consuming raw milk. Young children whose immune systems are not fully developed are more susceptible to infection and illness. Make sure to select pasteurized milk when your baby is ready to make the transition to cow’s milk, around a year of age.
5. Sugar. Babies are born with a preference for sweet flavors. Eating sweets emphasizes and strengthens this taste preference. If you can, hold off on giving your little one sweet food in the first two years. Remember, their nutritional needs are high, their tummies are little, and every bite counts for nutrition and growth!
6. Low fat or skim milk. Babies need fat in their diet for brain growth and development, especially in the first two years of life. But, with obesity as a real threat to young children, you may have heard suggestions to begin your child on 1 percent or skim milk when he or she makes the transition to cow’s milk. If your baby is growing normally and is at a healthy body weight for their length and age, you can start on whole cow’s milk after your baby turns one. If he or she is heavier than same-age peers or is at a healthy weight but carries a high risk for heart disease or obesity (from your family history), then skip the whole milk and go for reduced-fat (2 percent) cow’s milk.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, September 2020
- Some foods shouldn’t be given to babies or young toddlers.
- Stay away from sugar, honey, and even raw milk, especially in the first few years of life.
- Be careful of foods that cause choking hazards, like hot dog coins, baby carrots, or chunks of apple or cheese.