Baby Food With Quinoa This blog is dedicated to all moms, who want to feed their babies healthy food and make sure that their children grow up strong and healthy during the most important periods of development. We offer you recipes with quinoa that are great for kids, so they improve their health as well.
When can babies eat quinoa?
Quinoa may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Background and origins of quinoa
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is native to South America, where the plant has grown wild in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru for thousands of years. In Quechua, the ancestral language of the Incan people, quinoa is known as chisiya mama (or “mother of all grains”) and holds sacred status as a staple food that is believed to hold special powers, including enhancing the quantity of breast milk in women. Today, the plant is cultivated primarily for its edible seeds. Yes, quinoa is actually a seed—not a grain! Quinoa seeds have a comparable nutritional make-up and texture to grains. They are even ground down into flour, just like wheat, and used as a substitute for grains in many recipes, from pancakes to tortillas to quick breads and more.
Quinoa has an earthy, nutty flavor with a powerful nutritional profile, which makes it a great first “grain” for babies. Check out the health benefits, Just be forewarned: those tiny grains are annoying to clean up!
Is quinoa healthy for babies?
Yes! The tiny seeds are packed with nutrients that your baby needs to thrive. Quinoa contains a fair amount of iron and protein, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for heart health, calcium for strong bones, B vitamins for energy, magnesium for cell function, zinc for immune health, and the list goes on!
Quinoa is an excellent replacement for rice and other whole grains. It provides double the protein per serving as wheat or brown rice, and as an added bonus, it boasts a full amino acid profile. Amino acids are the building blocks of every protein in the body, and it’s unusual to find all of them in one plant source.
While there are claims that saponin (the protective plant compound in a quinoa seed’s outer coating) is harmful to our gut lining, don’t worry too much. Saponin typically only causes problems for people with sensitivities or individuals with gut disorders who consume high volumes of quinoa. In fact, the phytochemical is actually beneficial with its antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory effects.
Is quinoa a common choking hazard for babies?
No. Quinoa seeds are not choking hazards, though they can clump together in the cooking process. Be sure to fluff and separate quinoa with a fork before serving to your baby.
For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.
Is quinoa a common allergen?
No. Quinoa allergy is rare. If your baby has Celiac Disease, talk with your doctor or allergist before introducing quinoa. There are different varieties of quinoa, one of which has been found to contain a protein component that can cause reactions.3
If you suspect your baby may be allergic to grains, talk with a pediatric allergist before introducing quinoa at home. Otherwise, as with any new food, introduce quinoa in small quantities to start and if there are no adverse reactions, gradually increase the quantity served over future servings.
How do you prepare quinoa for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 12 months old: Try cooking quinoa as a porridge or fold it into another “scoop-able” dish for your baby, which will lead to fewer quinoa seeds to clean up. Another easy way to serve this superfood: quinoa balls. Mix the cooked seeds with a food that can act as a binding agent—hello, cheese!—and form baby-sized balls for easy grabbing and holding. Look for recipes that are and easy to make and just hold the salt.
12 to 18 months old: Continue with quinoa balls and quinoa porridge. This is also a great age to introduce quinoa salad with a spoon. Help your baby along by adding another splash of olive oil to the cooked quinoa (which causes the seeds to stick to the utensil) and pre-load your baby’s spoon if need be.
18 to 24 months old: Time to play! Quinoa is versatile, so try using it in your favorite recipe and experiment with new ones. Quinoa salad, quinoa burgers, quinoa soup, quinoa casserole, quinoa bread, quinoa muffins, quinoa cakes, the list goes on!
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Some varieties of quinoa have a slight bitterness from the saponin in the seed coating. If bitter is not your thing, minimize the flavor by rinsing quinoa in cold water before cooking.
Recipe: Coconut Quinoa Porridge*
Age: 6 months+
- Coconut milk
- Vanilla extract (optional)
- Finely ground nuts (optional)
Note: This recipe contains coconut, which is classified as a tree nut (allergen) by the FDA. Coconut allergy is rare.
- Rinse ½ cup of quinoa in a mesh colander until the water runs clear.
- Bring 1 cup of coconut milk to a gentle simmer. Add the quinoa. Cook until done, about 15 minutes.
- While the quinoa is cooking, peel and mash a banana in a mixing bowl.
- If your baby is 12 months old and up, add a tiny drop of vanilla extract to the banana and 1 teaspoon of finely ground nuts, such as cashews, pecans, or walnuts, if you’d like. Stir to combine.
- Fold in the cooked quinoa to the banana mixture. Cool to room temperature.
- Serve in a bowl that suctions to the table. To encourage self-feeding, pre-load a spoon and hand it to your baby in the air or rest the utensil on the edge of the bowl for an easy pick-up.
*This recipe contains allergens. Only serve after introducing coconut and wheat (since some quinoa strains contain a similar protein), and of course, the nut that you choose to add.
Quinoa is earthy, hearty, and nutty—flavors that pair well with both acidic and sweet foods. Try mixing quinoa with fruits like apple, banana, cranberry, mango, and pear and vegetables like cucumbers, kale, mustard greens, and peppers. Stir in nuts like pecans or walnuts or tangy cheese like feta or chevre for a dose of healthy fats. Add grassy herbs and alliums like chives and scallions to add brightness. You’ve got yourself a salad that is great on its own or paired with pretty much any fish or meat.
10 First Foods for Baby-Led Weaning
See some of our favorite foods to use as the first foods with baby-led weaning! You can make these BLW first foods for the whole family. Just modify them to be safe for your baby who is just getting started with baby-led weaning.
We saw so many benefits of baby-led weaning when we did it with our daughter. It was really fun to see her learn and explore foods. She’s a fairly adventurous eater to this day and I credit a lot of that to BLW!
So what is baby-led weaning anyway?
Baby-led weaning is a way to introduce solid foods to your baby through self-feeding. With baby-led weaning (BLW), there’s no purees, no spoon feeding your baby, and no baby food jars! Your baby learns to eat by exploring and gnawing on foods that they can hold in their fist.
You can learn more about baby led weaning vs purees and see which one is right for your family!
This post is written by Heather Liddell, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. and Founder of The Doctor and The Dietitian. Heather and her husband Brian help families keep their kids healthy and learn to feed them with freedom and grace. Follow them on Instagram for more feeding tips!
How Do I Start Baby-Led Weaning?
Once your baby is at least 6 months old and can sit up unassisted, they are generally ready to start eating solids with baby led weaning (BLW). See the signs of readiness for baby led weaning and check with your pediatrician to make sure your babe is ready.
When feeding BLW style, aim for foods that are soft enough to be squished between two fingers (your index finger and thumb), but not too slippery to frustrate your baby as he tries to hold it.
When giving pieces of food, measure them to be the size of a finger. This is a good size for a baby to grab onto and suck, mash, and chew.
Be sure to always sit with your baby while he is eating. This helps your baby see eating modeled from you and allows you to watch your baby in case he takes in too big of a bite or chokes.
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It is also important to have your baby sitting in a safe and secure infant highchair, with adjusted straps and a footrest, These are the best high chairs we’ve found for baby-led weaning.
What Finger Foods Can I Give My 6-Month Old?
There are actually a lot of first foods that you can offer your baby with BLW! Even a baby who doesn’t have any teeth will be able to gnaw away at soft-ish foods and enjoy them with you at the dinner table.
My daughter didn’t get any teeth until she was 11-months old and people used to marvel at how she could chomp away on so many foods with just her gums!
What About Gagging/Choking?
Often, babies who are fed with the BLW method will gag. There is a difference between gagging and choking. We want our babies to be able to gag as they are learning to move food around and swallow or get it out appropriately.
Gagging can be off putting for parents, so take time to learn about the differences between gagging and choking.
A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that babies following a modified version of BLW did not choke more than babies following traditional feeding methods.
Being present while your infant is eating and being aware of foods that are choking hazards is helpful to decrease the risk of choking (see the list below).
Baby-Led Weaning Meal Plan
If you’re looking to get started with baby-led weaning, grab the family meal plan from Family Style Nutrition. It has meals you can make for your family while following the BLW principles!
What First Foods Can I Give My Baby?
When an infant starts solid foods, the nutrients they need start to shift. Many of these nutrients will be found in formula or breastmilk the baby is still drinking.
There are a few things that do not naturally occur in breastmilk, including iron and vitamin D. If your child is breastfed, supplementing with vitamin D is usually necessary.
Once you start solid foods enough iron could be consumed through foods. But it is important to know which foods contain iron and be sure to offer these foods a few times each day. Talk with your pediatrician or health care team to see what you should be supplementing for your baby.
Here are 10 of our favorite first foods for baby led weaning due to their nutrient profile and ease of eating. These first foods are a great way to jump into BLW in the first week and have fun with the milestone that is starting solids!
1. Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are a classic BLW food and for good reason. Sweet potatoes are a great source of fiber, vitamin A, C, and potassium and are usually liked by infants.
To serve, cut the sweet potato into finger-length strips and roast in the oven or steam on the stovetop. You can season with herbs but omit the salt.
Bananas are easy to hold and smash and so easy to serve. There’s hardly any prep work required! Give the banana to your baby with the peel partly on so they can grasp it while they suck off the fruit part.
You can also remove the peel and slice it lengthwise. You may need to roll it in some plain bread crumbs or unsweetened coconut flakes to help your baby keep grip of it.
These little trees contain vitamin C, which helps all that iron get absorbed into the body more efficiently. Broccoli also comes with a natural handle on the stalk.
Steam and allow your baby to eat off the top of the broccoli florets.
When they get to the stalk, if you can squish the stalk between your fingers, it should be soft enough to let your baby eat. If the stalk is not squish-able, it’s best to not allow your baby to eat as it may be too hard to smash.
Beef is iron-rich and full of other important minerals. Cook medium or medium-well for plenty of juice for baby,
Your baby most likely won’t be taking bites of the meat, but sucking it and taking the juices in, which is still great for iron, zinc, and many other nutrients.
Cut the fruit into long strips with the rind on so your baby can easily grasp it. They’ll naturally pull the meat away from the rind. You can also peel the rind off and roll the cantaloupe into unsweetened coconut flakes for a better grip.
This is a great option as it is a strong but soft food item that can be easy for babies to grasp. Cook it in the oven with a little bit of avocado oil on top and your little one will get a food full of healthy fats, iron, and protein!
7. Smashed Beans
Soft and squish-able, beans are a great option in your baby’s diet. They are full of iron as well. You could preload a spoon, spread on a slice of bread, or allow your baby to rake at the beans.
Smashed beans also help babies to develop the pincer grasp as they grow and develop.
New guidelines recommend introducing top allergen foods to babies earlier than previously recommended. As soon as babies start to eat, eggs can be given.
Scramble them or serve hard-boiled and sliced in long strips. The yolks could also be smashed and spread on toast. Speaking of toast…
Toast is a great versatile food to use as a vehicle for eating other foods!
Toast the bread slightly to give it a little more firmness and use a spread to add texture and flavor. Things like smashed beans, cooked lentils, smashed avocado, smashed eggs, creamy peanut butter, yogurt, or smashed fruit like raspberries are a few options.
Bread is usually fortified with iron and many other important nutrients, but look for options that contain low sodium and little-to-no added sugar.
Also avoid breads with seeds and nut chunks in them.
We can’t have a list of our favorite BLW foods without mentioning avocado! This food is another one that is great because it is so easy to prep and is so versatile.
Avocado contains healthy fats, fiber, folate, potassium and Vitamin C, among other nutrients.
To serve, smash and spread onto toast, or cut into thick slices leaving the peel half on or off.
You can also roll avocado slices in plain bread crumbs or unsweetened coconut flakes to make it easier to grasp. You can also preload it onto an infant utensil.
There really are so many fruits and vegetables that you can serve to your baby with baby-led weaning!. Explore new foods and enjoy watching your baby try their first foods.
Baby-led Weaning Foods to Avoid
There are a few food items that we want to avoid with our infants to keep them safe and healthy.
Salt and Sugar: Salt and sugar are not recommended to be given to babies before the age of one.
Check the packages of any food item that you are serving to your baby to ensure that there is little sodium (look for around 100mg or less per serving) and no added sugar in the food item.
Honey: Honey is avoided for infants less than one because there is a rare bacteria called Clostridium botulinum present in some honey. This bacteria can cause botulism, a rare but potentially fatal illness that causes toxins to attack the nerves in the body.
Choking Hazards: The last items in the foods to avoid list are all considered choking hazards. These foods may easily get lodged in the airway and cause choking. Avoid giving your baby these choking hazards:
- Hard candy
- Hard chunks of cheese
- Uncooked apple
- Raw vegetables (okay if given steamed or roasted)
- Whole nuts and seeds
- Whole Grapes
- Spoonful of peanut butter
- Gooey, sticky foods
There really are so many first foods that you can serve to your baby with baby-led weaning! Explore new foods and enjoy watching your baby experiment with solids.
Five best foods for babies
By Polly Logan-Banks | Medically reviewed by Sarah Schenker, Dietitian
iStock.com / Noel Hendrickson
From the age of six months, your baby can start to eat lots of different foods. Your baby will benefit if you try to get him used to a variety of tastes and textures sooner rather than later.
By feeding him a variety of foods, you’ll be helping him to get the vitamins and minerals that he needs to grow. And you could be starting him on a healthy-eating habit that lasts a lifetime.
So, what should your baby eat? Here are our five best foods for your baby.
Give your baby a wide variety of vegetables as soon as you start weaning. Starting your baby off with vegetables early may mean he carries on eating and enjoying them when he’s older.
Vegetables add colour, texture and variety to your baby’s meals, helping to make first foods fun! They’re high in vitamins, minerals and fibre, too. Vegetables help healthy growth and development, and may help to protect against some diseases in the long term.
It’s easier to give new vegetables to your baby from the start of weaning. If you wait until he’s older, he’s more likely to reject unknown foods and unfamiliar flavours. If your baby pulls a face when he first tries a new vegetable, it may not mean he dislikes it. He may just be surprised by the new taste.
Some vegetables, such as kale, brussels sprouts and watercress, are full of goodness but have a strong flavour that your little one may need to learn to like. Don’t try to coax him into eating it if he doesn’t accept it at first. Be patient. Leave it off the menu for a few days and try again. You may need to offer new vegetables 10 times or more before deciding that your baby doesn’t like them.
Try tempting your baby with milder-tasting vegetables too, such as parsnip and sweet potato. Babies are naturally drawn to sweet tastes, so you may have more luck with these vegetables. Keep offering more bitter foods as well, though. That way, your baby will gradually learn to like a wide range of different flavours.
You can also try combining bitter and sweet foods, to help your baby get a wider range. Over time, you can reduce the amount of the sweeter food, helping your baby get more used to the bitter taste until he’s happily tucking in.
If your little one prefers finger foods rather than pureed or well-mashed foods, let him get on with it. He may like the feeling of being in control of his food rather than being spoon-fed. Try giving him cooked green beans, steamed broccoli florets, or soft-cooked fingers of carrot, for example.
You can give your baby well-mashed or flaked fish from six months onwards. Fish is particularly good for your baby. It’s a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals. The omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish, such as fresh salmon and mackerel, are good for your baby’s heart health and may also support his brain development.
When you give your baby any fish, make sure it’s cooked thoroughly. It should begin to flake and be opaque. Always check the fish carefully and remove any bones.
There are some types of fish that your baby shouldn’t eat. Shark, swordfish and marlin have high levels of mercury in them, which may affect your baby’s growing nervous system. These should be avoided until your child is a teenager.
Oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon and sardines, are great for your baby. But they can contain low levels of mercury and other chemicals, which can build up in the body over time. So it’s best to limit them to one or two servings per week.
Tuna can also be high in mercury, so it’s best to limit that, too. Again, aim for one or two servings per week.
Most types of white fish are completely safe, and you can give your baby as much as you like. This includes cod, haddock, plaice, coley, dab and flounder. The only exceptions are sea bream, bass, turbot, halibut and rock salmon. These can all contain similar levels of pollutants to oily fish, and should also be limited.
This may all sound a little confusing, but don’t let it put you off. The NHS recommends that we all get at least two portions of fish a week, including one of oily fish. If you just feed your baby fish twice a week or so, he’ll be getting plenty of nutrients with no need to worry about pollutants.
3. Poultry and red meat
Meat is an excellent source of protein and a good source of nutrients such as iron and zinc. Red meat also contains vitamin D. When your baby is six months, the stores of iron that he built up when you were pregnant are starting to run out. So it’s important to introduce other sources of iron into his meals.
You can give your baby poultry or meat as soon as he’s six months old. Although you may not think of meat as an obvious weaning food, soft or minced poultry or meat is a great food for your baby.
You may prefer to start with soft, cooked poultry, such as chicken. But you can also introduce red meats, such as pork, beef or lamb.
Always take care to cook any meat thoroughly, until the juices run clear, and remove any bones.
“Pulses” is the name for edible seeds that grow in a pod. Examples of pulses include:
- baked beans, runner beans, broad beans, kidney beans, butter beans (Lima beans), haricots, cannellini beans, flageolet beans, pinto beans and borlotti beans
- chickpeas (hummus)
- garden peas
- black-eyed peas
These foods are another good source of protein and iron. They’re particularly important if your baby’s eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, as he may find it difficult to get enough of these nutrients from other sources.
Soya beans (tofu) aren’t a pulse, but they’re also a great source of protein and iron.
Once your baby is enjoying a variety of food, he should have one or two portions of protein-rich foods, such as pulses, dairy, eggs, meat or fish, every day.
Try mixing lentils or other cooked pulses with vegetables or fruits, to help your baby to absorb the iron in them. For example, you could try giving your baby pureed or soft lentils with carrots or sweet potatoes. The vitamin C in the vegetables helps your baby’s body to absorb the iron.
It’s fine to use tinned pulses and beans, but check the label to make sure there’s no added sugar or salt.
If you’re using dried pulses or beans, follow the cooking instructions carefully. They usually need to be soaked before cooking to make them soft enough for your baby. It’s particularly important to follow the instructions if you’re cooking dried kidney beans or soya beans, as they could make your baby ill if not properly cooked.
When you first start introducing solid foods, your baby will be eating very small amounts, probably just a few teaspoons or small chunks of food a day. He’ll still be getting most of his nutrients from breastmilk or formula milk. So keep giving him regular breastfeeds, or about 500ml of formula milk a day, as his main drink until he’s a year old.
You don’t need to give your baby follow-on milk. His usual milk and a variety of solid foods (plus a vitamin supplement for some babies) will give your little one all the nourishment he needs.
By the time your baby is a year old, he’ll be eating three meals a day, perhaps with one or two snacks in between. After that, you can keep breastfeeding, or give your baby full-fat cow’s milk as a main drink if you want to. Semi-skimmed milk isn’t recommended until your baby’s two years old. Before then, he needs the extra calories and vitamins from full-fat milk.