Can Babies Eat BBQ or Grilled Food? [Including Sauces]

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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There are many concerns about carcinogens in BBQ or grilled food, so you may also wonder if these are appropriate to give to your baby. Should they eat it or not?

Overall, babies can safely have barbecued and grilled foods, including those with barbecue sauce, as long as it does not contain any honey. However, make sure the texture of the food is appropriate for your baby’s age, such as pureed, bite-sized, and more. 

In this article, we will cover more information about barbecued and grilled foods for babies, including how to serve it to them, different meats, popular BBQ dishes, and more.

Can Babies Have BBQ or Grilled Food? Is it Safe? 

Barbecue is a style of cooking or grilling food and is safe for babies as long as it is prepared in the appropriate consistency for their age.

Whether you barbecue or grill food at home, get takeout BBQ, or purchase commercially-made BBQ foods from the grocery store, your baby can safely have barbecued and grilled foods when they are at least six months old.

However, at six months old, your baby can only have thin and watery purees that can progress to thicker purees at seven to nine months old (source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). 

At ten months old, you can give your baby small pieces of soft foods, such as meats, cooked veggies, and fruits. These finger foods are great for baby-led weaning because your baby can grasp the foods in their hands to feed themself. 

When it comes to burnt barbecue or grilled foods, it is best to avoid them due to the formation of chemical compounds, which have mixed concerns about safety, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs (source: University of Birmingham).

grilled meat

PAHs have mixed results when it comes to safety, especially since animal studies demonstrate a safety risk, including cancer risk. It is recommended instead to cook food until it is yellow and golden, not black or brown.

Make sure that the food is still fully cooked by checking the temperature of meats with a metal stem-type thermometer. For example, the chicken should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit and seafood to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (source: United States Food and Drug Administration [FDA]).

Common BBQ dishes include pork, chicken, fish, beef, and more. Cooking your meat, poultry, seafood, hot dogs, and more to a safe temperature ensures that there is little risk of foodborne illness for your baby. 

Additionally, popular barbecued and grilled dishes are veggies, such as onions, mushrooms, and asparagus, and fruits, such as bell peppers, zucchini squash, and tomatoes.

These are easy to burn and do not need to be cooked to a specific temperature for safety. Therefore, make sure you do not overcook these veggies but that they are still soft and tender for your baby to chew. 

Another primary concern of barbecue is the marinades used for these barbecued foods. These marinades are often high in sugar and salt but also may contain honey, which is extremely unsafe for babies under 12 months old.

Bbq Sauce with Tomatoes, Smoked Salt and fresh Herbs

It is widely recommended that babies under one year of age are never given honey because of the increased risk of infant botulism from the spores and bacteria that the honey contains (source: Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital). 

Therefore, whether you are using a pre-made store-bought marinade or following a recipe, make sure to avoid any that include honey. When ordering BBQ or grilled food for takeout, always ask if honey is used in the marinade before feeding any to your baby.

Can Babies Eat BBQ Sauce? 

Similarly to the marinade for barbecue, BBQ sauce is also commonly sweetened with honey. Always check the nutrition facts label and ingredients list to look for honey because even a very small amount is dangerous for babies under one year old.

Other sauces that should be avoided are honey mustard and teriyaki sauce. When you are unsure if the sauce may contain honey, it is always best to check the label or recipe or ask the restaurant if the sauce has honey as an ingredient.

How to Serve Grilled Food to Babies

As mentioned above, when your baby is six months old, you can begin with thin and watery pureed foods, even grilled and barbecued foods. Next, add some breast milk or infant formula to make it thinner. As they get older, thicker consistency purees can be introduced.

Finally, at ten months old, make sure you cut the grilled meats and veggies into bite-sized pieces. The foods should be very soft, tender, and easy to chew. Be careful because overcooked meats can become very tough and chewy.

In conclusion, I hope this article helped explain how to serve barbecue and grilled foods to your baby safely.