Bacon

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 12 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: No
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raw bacon strips before preparing for toddlers

When can babies eat bacon?

It’s best to wait on introducing bacon until after a baby’s first birthday and even then, serve bacon sparingly. While a small amount here and there is okay once in a while, the preserved meat is packed with sodium, nitrates, nitrites, and potential carcinogens.

Background of bacon

The technique of curing meat traces back to the days long before refrigeration, when humans created different ways to keep meat from spoiling – dehydrating, smoking, slowly cooking in fat, curing in brine – all of which impart delicious flavor. The method of curing pork came from China, where people learned to domesticate wild boar and preserve fatty cuts of belly meat with salt. As pigs and meat preservation methods traveled the globe through colonization and trade, the recipe evolved into the different forms of bacon that we know today.

Depending on where you live bacon will look a bit different. In Italy there is pancetta – a salt-cured and dried pork that can be thinly sliced and eaten raw, wrapped around foods, or rendered to flavor dishes. In Canada and Northern Europe, bacon consists of thick slices of the leaner pork loin that have been cured and rolled in ground corn or peas to create a thin rind. And in the United States, the most popular bacon are strips of fat-streaked pork belly that have been flavored with seasonings and cured with nitrates and nitrites, which preserve the meat’s color and prevent bacteria growth. No matter what kind you have available, serve on occasion rather than every day.

Hawii, 12 months, eats bacon for the first time.
Callie, 13 months, tastes bacon for the first time.
Leila, 17 months, eats bacon.

Is bacon healthy for babies?

No. First and foremost, bacon and other preserved pork products contain loads of sodium, which you want to limit in a child’s diet. Early and excessive exposure to sodium can prime the palate for salty foods and increase the risk of obesity and high blood pressure, which may contribute to heart disease and stroke later in life.1 2 3 4

Bacon and other processed meats also appear to have an association with cancer.5 6 7 Bacon is often smoked, and meat that is exposed to smoke (either on a grill or smoker) may contain additional carcinogens.8

Bacon also contains added nitrates and nitrites, which are naturally occurring compounds produced by the human body and plants that may be associated with an increased risk of cancer when consumed in excess.9 Increasingly in the United States and other markets, “no nitrate” or “no nitrate added” bacon is marketed on food labels, though the language can be misleading. For example, nitrates and nitrites do not need to be listed on the label if the amount is less than the amount that the United States Department of Agriculture requires for cured products.10 Producers may add naturally occurring nitrates from plants, often in the form of celery juice or celery extract, and while the whole vegetable is a healthy addition to a balanced diet, plant nitrites do not make bacon a healthy choice.11

Bottom line: it is best to limit bacon and other processed meats in a child’s diet.12 13 The adage “all things in moderation” is a great way to serve bacon and all meats, for that matter. Serving a small amount of bacon occasionally as part of a balanced diet with plenty of whole foods and plants can minimize exposure to toxins and impact on the planet.

★Tip: Do not burn bacon, which can increase the formation of potential carcinogens.14 Check out our recipe for how to bake bacon!

Is bacon a choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Crispy bacon or chewy bacon do have higher potential to lead to choking in a young baby. Crispy bacon can be difficult for a baby to breakdown with chewing, and would likely be swallowed whole, and chewy bacon would also be more challenging to chew. To minimize the risk, wait until after your child’s first birthday to serve bacon and if you decide to serve it, cook until crisp and remove any thick gristle or fatty parts. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment, stay within arm’s reach of baby at mealtime, and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.

For more information on choking, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Is bacon a common allergen?

No. Bacon is not a common food allergen, although reactions to bacon have been reported.15 16 Some bacon can be considered a “high-histamine” food, which can be problematic for children with reliably diagnosed histamine intolerance.

It’s important to point out that certain tick bites (mainly the Lone Star tick in the continental United States, but other ticks in different parts of the world), are associated with the development of an allergy to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose (“alpha gal”), a sugar which is present in all non-primate mammalian meat. This results in a delayed allergic reaction 3-8 hours after red meat, such as bacon, is consumed.17 However, some individuals with alpha gal allergy also react to small amounts of the sugar present in dairy products, gelatin, or organ tissues from mammals. Alpha gal allergy is more prevalent in the southeastern United States but is starting to become more common in other areas as the geographic distribution of the Lone Star tick expands.

Although rare, some individuals with cat allergies may also develop a cross-reactive allergy to pork, a condition known as pork-cat syndrome.18 Pork-cat syndrome would result in an increased risk of allergy to all pork-derived foods, such as bacon.

Lastly, when buying bacon, be sure to read the label: in some cases, bacon may have added ingredients that are common allergens, such as soy.

As you would do when introducing any new food, start by serving a small amount at first. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the amount served over future meals.

How do you prepare bacon for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 12 months old: Avoid due to high sodium and added preservatives.

12 to 24 months old: Limit consumption due to sodium and preservatives and cook until crisp but not burned. At one year of age a toddler can eat bacon as a strip or in small pieces.

How often should you offer solids? See our sample feeding schedules for babies of every age.

Recipe: Easy Baked Bacon

twelve pieces of baked short bacon strips on a white cutting board

Yield: ½ cup (170 grams)
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Age: 12 months+

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces (170 grams) bacon

This recipe may contain a common allergen (soy) in the bacon. Read the ingredient list on the food label and only serve to a child after soy has been safely introduced.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit / 204 degrees Celsius.
  2. Place a wire rack on a sheet tray. Evenly space the bacon on the rack in a single layer.
  3. Bake until the bacon has crisped but not burned, between 10 and 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat.
  4. Remove the tray from the oven. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel.
  5. Use the bacon fat to cook vegetables to serve on the side, or store the fat in an air-tight container in the fridge or freezer for future use.
  6. When the bacon has cooled, serve in short strips and let the child self-feed with hands.

To Store: Cooked bacon keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for 2 days or in the freezer for 2 months.

Flavor Pairings

Bacon is packed with salt and umami – a delicious flavor to season grassy vegetables like asparagus, garden pea, snap pea, and snow pea; starchy roots like carrot, cassava (yuca), fennel, potato, rutabaga, and turnip; and greens like bok choy, collard greens, kale, and spinach. Bacon also works as a flavor enhancer for rich meats like beef, lamb, and pork and lean shellfish like clams, crabs, crayfish, lobster, and scallops.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician and Pediatric Gastroenterologist

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  2. Ma, Y., He, F.J., MacGregor, G. A. (2015). High salt intake: independent risk factor for obesity? Hypertension (Dallas, Tex. : 1979), 66(4), 843–849. DOI:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.115.05948. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
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  8. IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. (2018). Red Meat and Processed Meat. Lyon (FR): International Agency for Research on Cancer; PMID: 29949327. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  9. National Cancer Institute. (2020). Nitrate. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  10. United States Department of Agriculture. (2020). Cured Meat and Poultry Product Operations. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  11. United States Food & Drug Association. CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
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  13. Ahluwalia, A., Gladwin, M., Coleman, G. D., Hord, N., Howard, G., et al. (2016). Dietary Nitrate and the Epidemiology of Cardiovascular Disease: Report from a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Workshop. Journal of the American Heart Association, 5(7), e003402. DOI:10.1161/JAHA.116.003402. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
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