Is there anything more adorable than a baby wearing bunny ears? But also, let’s be real: most of us won’t be able to sit down for Easter dinner for more than 15 minutes. That said, here are some tips on how to include baby in the celebrations, from egg dyeing to food tasting. Happy Easter!
Tips for baby’s first Easter dinner
- Don’t worry about sodium. One higher-in-sodium-than-normal meal/day isn’t going to make much of a difference and you can always offset any increased sodium intake by offering fresh foods made at home for the rest of the week.
- Bring baby to the table. Take the tray off the high chair and bring it right up to the table so baby can be part of the family experience.
- Manage your expectations. Big celebratory meals can be overwhelming for babies, which can impact how much they eat. Serve or bring some foods you know baby enjoys, and try to focus on the experience and the memories, not consumption.
- Use a straw cup at the table to minimize spills and mess. If you haven’t taught baby to use a straw, you can do it in less than one day. See our page on cup drinking for some quick tips and videos.
- If you are a guest, bring a splat mat (or two!), an extra set of clothes, all of the wipes, baby’s cup and plate, and baggies for soiled bibs and clothes.
- If you are a guest, prepare your host for the mess and request that the high chair be placed away from foot traffic so any discarded (or thrown) food is not in a main pathway. Alternatively, place baby on your lap and keep a napkin under their bottom to protect your own clothes.
- If food is being served off-schedule and you have a baby who doesn’t adapt well to schedule changes, feed baby on-schedule with the foods you brought and then bring them to the table when everyone else eats with a toy or utensil to teethe on. Also, for what it’s worth, many babies love sucking on a lamb shank bone and the bone is fantastic for mapping the mouth and advancing oral motor skills.
- Make sure to take all photos early, when everyone is happy and clean! A tired or hangry baby does not make for a cute photo.
Common Easter foods and how to modify them for babies
Asparagus is a staple of spring and one of the first vegetables to be harvested in the season, which is probably why roasted asparagus is such a popular dish for Easter lunch and dinner. Offer whole cooked asparagus spears that have been cooked until soft (you can test for doneness by piercing with a fork). If you’d like to maximize consumption, slice cooked asparagus lengthwise and then chop and mix it into scoopable foods like mashed potatoes. And remember, eating asparagus might give a child’s urine a strong odor!
Crowns are an important symbol in Christian culture, which is why it’s common to see racks of lamb and/or pork made into a crown on Easter tables around the world. Pork and lamb are actually great foods for babies, just make sure the meat is cooked without honey and cooked all the way through. Feel free to season with herbs like thyme and rosemary generously, to expose baby to those wonderful spring flavors. When ready to serve, remove most of the meat from the bone (make sure the bone is clean, sturdy, and free of “splinters”) and hand it off to baby. The resistive nature of these bones is also a great way for baby to practice those chewing skills (and as a bonus, it will keep baby busy for a while, giving you a bit of a breather to enjoy your meal).
Braised lamb leg or shank
Braised lamb can be a wonderful food for baby. Full of important nutrients for baby’s optimal development—like fat and iron—this tender meat is full of bold flavors for baby to explore and enjoy. For babies 6-9 months, consider chopping and mixing the meat with mashed potatoes so they can eat from pre-loaded spoons or with their hands. If baby has their pincer grasp and is able to pick up small pieces of food, serve shredded pieces of lamb for baby to self-feed. Alternatively, clean most of the meat off of a bone and hand the bone over to baby to teethe on (just make sure there are no sharp edges and the bone won’t break).
Salmon and other fish
Traditionally, Lent meant giving up meat, so eating fish and seafood in the weeks leading up to Easter is a very popular tradition around the world. Focus on low-mercury fish (fish that receive 4 stars or higher in our free First Foods® database will be safe and low in mercury) and avoid salted fish, like the traditional Portuguese and Spanish delicacy Bacalhau, until closer to 24 months, as these are exceedingly high in sodium. If serving fresh salmon, make sure to remove all the bones, the skin and that it’s cooked all the way through. See our Salmon page for how to serve salmon for your baby’s specific age. For a comprehensive ranking of fish for babies, see our guide, Best & Worst Fish for Babies.
Eggs are a classic Easter dish around the world. However, boiled eggs can be a choking hazard for babies if not served correctly and mayonnaise made from raw eggs can increase baby’s risk of foodborne illness. To make these foods safe for baby, consider using vegan mayonnaise or Greek yogurt instead, and chop and mash the egg whites and filling for baby to eat from a pre-loaded spoon or with his or her hands. And don’t be afraid of offering strong spices like paprika! Babies are wonderful little explorers when it comes to bold flavors!
Easter foods to avoid for babies
While many Easter foods can be modified to be safe for babies, here are some you should avoid.
Chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, chocolate carrots. While you might think that having chocolate everything is a recent development, eating chocolate eggs at Easter originated in Europe during the early 19th century as a fun, kid-friendly twist on the ancient religious tradition of saving and coloring hard-boiled eggs for Easter. Unfortunately, though, chocolate is a big no-no for babies and young toddlers and better reserved until closer to their second birthday (most chocolate products contain both caffeine and sugar). What if baby sneaks a taste from their sibling’s Easter basket? (True story). Eh, it’s not the end of the world.
You can’t get any more traditional than a glazed American ham on Easter! While extremely delicious, most recipes contain honey—a definite no-no for babies under 12 months—and high quantities of sodium, so it’s best to hold off until after a child’s second birthday. A glazed ham’s firm consistency also makes it a choking hazard, so if you want to be able to share with baby, consider cooking a fresh raw ham, instead!
Lemon is another spring flavor found in traditional Easter feasts. Tart and rich, these dainty little bars usually have a lot of sugar. While a small piece on a festive day isn’t the end of the world, consider baking sugar-free ones instead, using unsweetened coconut flakes and vanilla extract to add flavor without sweetening.
A version of this traditional sweet bread is found in many cultures around the world. Like challah bread, it has a tender, rich flavor derived from the butter, milk and sugar used to make it extra tender. Some of them are even cooked with dyed eggs tucked into the braided loaf. Just be sure the bread does not contain honey and if baking your own, consider baking it without the sugar, skipping the glaze, and making it a little extra toasty to reduce the risk of choking.
This traditional Mexican bread pudding is served during Lent and Easter and is growing in popularity in the U.S. While no two families make it the same way, it usually consists of layers of bread, raisins, bananas, and sweetened cinnamon milk. While the consistency might look safe for baby, capirotada usually contains choking hazards—like raisins and almonds—so it’s best to hold off until closer to age two. Capirotada also contains piloncillo, an unrefined form of pure cane sugar.
Candied carrots are a sweet reminder of the famous bunny that visits most households with kids during Easter. While the consistency of these cooked carrots would be safe for baby, candied carrots are usually cooked with a mix of brown sugar and honey—both of which should be avoided until after 12 months, at least. Consider separating a carrot or two for baby before candying and serve with butter and/or spices instead so baby feels included!
Hot cross buns
These spiced, sweet buns are usually eaten on Good Friday to signify the end of Lent. As with Easter bread, these buns are rich in butter, spices, and sugar. Additionally, the soft, fluffy texture of these buns can lead to lumps of it sticking to the roof of baby’s mouth which can cause gagging. To make it safe for baby, consider baking without the sugar and toasting it a little to reduce the risk of choking and gagging. Read more about gagging vs. choking.
Easter pie can be a thing of beauty to behold but, unfortunately, it is just not safe for babies. Loaded with savory cured meats like prosciutto, salami, and sausage, not only is it a significant choking risk, it’s also exceedingly high in sodium (and nitrates). As pretty as it is, it’s definitely better to skip this one.
Super-moist, spiced, full of carroty goodness, and topped with a luscious cream cheese-based frosting, this cake is a staple on most Easter tables. There’s only one reason not to serve your baby carrot cake this Easter and that is sugar. However, a little bite here and there isn’t the end of the world, and carrots are loaded with vitamin A, which is absolutely essential for growth, vision, immune function, bone health and more.
How to make natural, non-toxic egg dyes for baby’s first Easter
Want to include baby in egg-dyeing activities? Try these natural egg dyes for beautiful, non-toxic Easter eggs to decorate with and, of course, eat! Licking ok!
Step 1: Boil the eggs and let cool.
Step 2: To make different colors, mix and simmer the following ingredients with 1 cup of water until the color is released. Then, let mixture sit for 15-30 minutes (color will intensify over time) until it reaches room temperature:
- For yellow: Mix 2 tablespoons of ground turmeric
- For red: Mix 2 tablespoons paprika
- For blue: Mix 1 cup frozen blueberries or 1 cup chopped purple cabbage
- For green: Mix the skin of 4 green apples and 8 tablespoons of chopped fennel
- For purple: Mix 1 cup red onion skins
- For orange: Mix 1 cup yellow onion skins
- For pink: Mix 1 cup shredded beets
Step 3: Once color mixture is cool, strain and save the liquid, then add 1-2 tablespoons of white vinegar and mix well. Transfer liquid into large bell jars and submerge eggs in the colored liquids. Baby can use a whisk to trap the eggs and help you dunk them.
Step 4: Soak eggs in the refrigerator overnight to increase the intensity of the colors. Unless the eggs are cracked, they shouldn’t absorb the flavors of the natural dyes.
To Store: Keep eggs in the refrigerator for up to a week.
To Serve: Dry eggs with a clean cloth and rub them with a small amount of oil afterwards to make them shine! Remember, always make hard-boiled eggs safe before serving them to baby! Visit our egg page in the First Foods Database for more information on how to do this.
And voilà! Non-toxic Easter eggs!