Can Babies Have Refried Beans? Safety and Benefits

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Beans are cheap, fast, accessible, and can be found in most if not all household pantries all around the world. But are they safe to serve to your baby? At what age and how? What are the benefits and drawbacks?

Refried beans are safe to serve to your baby as early as six months of age, although due to their high fat and sodium content, it is best to serve them sparingly.

There are different types of beans and multiple ways of preparing them. What is the best and healthiest way to serve beans, in this case, refried beans specifically,  to your baby or toddler? Let’s delve in deeper.

Can Babies Eat Refried Beans? When is Safe?

Refried beans are typically made by rehydrating dried beans overnight, then boiling them until soft. Sometimes some recipes use canned beans to skip the rehydration process. These beans then are placed in a blender or food processor to be blended until it reaches a paste-like consistency.

Refried beans in a white bowl

This then is fried with some oil and a little bit of onion and garlic. Different types of beans can be used such as red kidney beans and black beans, but the most commonly used is pinto beans (Source: Wikipedia).

Babies can eat refried beans as early as six months of age, some wait a little later as this specific preparation of beans can be high in fat and sodium, however, homemade recipes are a good alternative.

As far as food goes, beans are great. They are full of vitamins and nutrients that are essential for your baby’s growth and development such as fiber, folate, and iron. It has also been studied that eating beans on a regular basis can lower the risks of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and even obesity (Source: NDSU).

However, refried beans have undergone frying which is a process that can decrease some of its benefits. The addition of oil/fat into the equation can increase calories and saturated fat content which can decrease its nutritional benefits.

Although protein is not much affected by the cooking process, the amount of fat in the food is (Source: FryingofFood). Introducing too much fat to your baby can lead to increased cholesterol and thus putting them at higher risks of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity (Source: RomanianBiotechnologicalLetters).

The table below discusses tips and tricks to serve refried beans to your baby depending on their age.

6-12 monthsYou can start introducing boiled then mashed beans at this stage, not yet refried beans as to introduce to your baby the sensation and consistency of beans.
This also makes sure you are not introducing too much sodium and fat at an early stage of life.
12 – 18 monthsYou can start introducing homemade refried beans as they contain less sodium and fat.
You can also control the ingredients in the recipe thus making customization based on their allergies and preferences easier.
24 monthsYou can safely introduce canned refried beans as by this stage you are more aware of your child’s allergies and preferences.
Do make sure to select less sodium varieties.

Canned vs Homemade Refried Beans for Babies 

As always, canned and processed products contain preservatives such as sodium. Sodium is an important nutrient for your baby’s brain development, although it can be problematic if consumed in excess. Canned refried beans contain 962 mg of sodium per 260g or 1 cup serving (Source: USDA).

For comparison, your 7-12 month old only needs 370 mg of sodium per day, and babies 1-3 years of age only require 800 mg of sodium per day. Increased sodium in your baby’s diet early on in life can increase their risk of increased blood pressure, kidney diseases, and preference for salty food (Source: AnnalsofNutritionandMetabolism).

On the other hand, if you are to make refried beans at home, sodium content could potentially be lessened. At the same time, when doing refried beans at home, you are starting with fresh ingredients and you can control the amount of salt and fat you add to the recipe.

A serving of 1 cup of canned refried beans contains 5.23g of fat, if you are to make your own, you can adjust the amount of oil you use for frying as 1 tsp of oil is only 4.5g of fat, and you can use this in a bigger serving of beans, thus decreasing the amount of fat in the meal significantly.

Homemade Organic Refried Pinto Beans, Ready to Eat

Are Refried Beans Good for Babies? The Benefits 

As discussed above, beans have a great nutritional profile. It is high in fiber which helps with digestive problems, high in protein which helps with your baby’s growth and development of their muscles and bones, and folate which is important for their red blood cells’ health and amino acid, and formation of their DNA and RNA.

However, refried beans have some more added ingredients such as increased fat and sodium content, which excess intake of both can lead to detrimental health issues. This makes refried beans not the best beans recipe to serve to your baby, but is still a good option due to their likable taste, consistency, and overall customizability.

In conclusion, there are foods that can be nutritious and filling on their own, however, the process on how they are made and served can still make an impact. The nutritional quality of the food does not stop at the quality of the base ingredients but goes until the food reaches your baby’s mouth.