Can Babies Eat Leafy Greens? When Is It Safe?

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Leafy greens, such as lettuce, kale, and collard greens, are widely known as healthy vegetables. However, are they safe for your baby? 

Overall, leafy greens are safe for babies as long as they are thoroughly washed and prepared in the appropriate texture for your baby’s age. Additionally, some varieties of them may be tougher to chew than others, so make sure to remove the stems or cook them.

This article will discuss common types of leafy greens, cooked versus raw, and their health benefits. 

When Can Babies Eat Leafy Greens? [Cooked vs. Raw]

Leafy greens often include vegetables such as kale, spinach, arugula, Swiss chard, and more. In general, they are safe for your baby once they are at least six months old as long as any tough stems are removed.

For instance, spinach does not have any tough stems to worry about. But, on the other hand, kale has quite tough and woody stems (even when it is cooked) that are best cut off of the leaf before giving it to your baby. 

Additionally, it is essential to thoroughly wash your leafy greens under clean running water before serving them to your baby, even when you are planning on cooking them (source: United States Food and Drug Administration [FDA]).

sauteed kale with nuts

Washing them can remove physical dirt from the leaves while also removing bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. 

For babies who are six months old, blend and puree your washed leafy greens before providing them to your baby (source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). Since they typically contain some water, this should result in a thin and watery puree. However, feel free to add a bit of breast milk or infant formula to thin the texture.

Once your baby is seven to nine months old, you can provide thicker consistency purees and up to four tablespoons per feeding.

Finally, a ten-month-old baby can have soft and chewable chunks of food, so that you can provide them with very small pieces of leafy greens. They can pick up the pieces themselves and feed themselves during the baby-led weaning process.

Again, make sure the stems are removed and the pieces of leafy green you provide to your baby are small, soft, and easy to chew. 

Let’s summarize this information in the table below (source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia).

Age in MonthsCan Your Baby Have Leafy Greens?
6Yes, puree to a thin and watery texture.
7Yes, puree to a thicker texture.
8Yes, puree to a thicker texture.
9Yes, puree to a thicker texture. 
10Yes, chopped-up leafy greens with stems removed.
11Yes, chopped-up leafy greens with stems removed.
12Yes, chopped-up leafy greens with stems removed.

What are the Best Leafy Greens for Babies? 

For babies, mild flavor and easy-to-chew leafy greens are best at first. For instance, romaine lettuce, spinach, or cooked cabbage may be a milder and more suitable flavor than bitter kale, Swiss chard, or peppery arugula.

a bowl of homemade spinach puree

Of course, you can still safely offer leafy greens with a strong flavor to your baby; however, introduce them gradually and one at a time.

Additionally, tougher greens, such as kale, need more preparation (like removing the stems) than others. 

How to Cook Leafy Vegetables for Babies

Once you have thoroughly washed and cut out the stalks of leafy greens, you can cook them in multiple ways. For example, you could cook in the microwave, stir-fry in a pan, steam over a pot of boiling water, or blanch them. However, over-cooking can lead to mushy leaves. 

washing fresh lettuce in sink

What Are the Benefits of Leafy Greens for Babies? 

All leafy greens are very nutritious and rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and more. For instance, kale has significant amounts of vitamins A, C, and K (source: United States Department of Agriculture [USDA]). 

For your baby, vitamin A is crucial for eye health, immune system support, and growth and development (source: National Institutes of Health [NIH]). Vitamin C also plays a role in immune health and more. 

In conclusion, leafy greens are a safe and nutritious option for feeding your baby as long as they are adequately prepared. I hope this article helped guide you in incorporating leafy greens into your baby’s diet.