Cabbage may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Humans learned to cultivate cabbage from wild varieties growing in the fertile lands around the Mediterranean Sea. The ancient art and writing of Africa, Asia, and Europe tell the story of how myriad varieties of cabbage sprouted through cultivation and wild propagation. Some have smooth, waxy leaves that are tightly clustered, like brussels sprouts and red cabbage. Others are crinkly and easier to peel away from the head, like the leaves of napa cabbage and savoy cabbage. There are also cabbages with dark leafy greens on sturdy stems, like bok choy, collard greens, and kale. Smell, taste, and texture depend on type: some are distinctly bitter and green, while others are mild and sweet.
Cooper, 11 months, eats cabbage coleslaw and shredded chicken.
Callie, 13 months, eats chopped cabbage.
Adie, 20 months, eats raw cabbage for the first time.
Yes. Cabbage is a powerhouse vegetable. It’s a good source of fiber to support the gut, and vitamin B6 for energy, plus folate for nervous system development. It also contains a wide range of other beneficial nutrients: vitamin C to power baby’s immune system and help with iron absorption; vitamin K to support healthy blood; carotenoids that convert into vitamin A for healthy skin and vision; and even calcium to build healthy bones.
The nutritional profile varies depending on the variety but, in general, cabbage is an excellent source of phytonutrients (from glucosinolates to antioxidants) that support diverse functions in our bodies and help babies stay healthy. Red and purple cabbages in particular contain potent levels of anthocyanins, a heart-healthy nutrient also found in berries and grapes.
In many Asian and European cultures, fermented cabbage (kimchi, nam phak, pàocài, roedkaal, sauerkraut, or surkal) is a staple food and for good reason: compared to raw cabbage, these fermented cabbage dishes contain more antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, and beneficial bacteria called probiotics, which help diversify our gut microbiomes. Since babies are born with an immature microbiome, it’s important to help cultivate friendly bacteria in their gastrointestinal tracts which help support their metabolism, a robust immune system, and more. That said, some fermented cabbage dishes can be high in sodium, so take care to offer those in small amounts.
★Tip: To minimize exposure to the pesticides on cabbage, remove and discard the outer leaves and thoroughly wash the remaining leaves before preparing for baby. Cabbages are one of the crops commonly sprayed with pesticides, as insects love to eat them, too.
No. Cabbage is not a common choking hazard, though thick chunks of the cabbage core certainly could be. To minimize the risk, cook and serve thin strips, shreds, or finely chopped pieces. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
No. Allergies to cabbage are rare, but not unheard of. Individuals who are allergic or sensitive to other members of the cruciferous family, such as mustard greens and broccoli, may also be sensitive to cabbage.
Individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also known as pollen food allergy syndrome), and in particular, those with sensitivities to mugwort pollen, may also be sensitive to cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage. Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching, tingling, or burning in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction.
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
Yes. Cabbage offers excellent amounts of soluble and insoluble fibers, glucosinolates, and phenolic compounds, which together contribute to overall digestive health and bowel regularity. Cabbage also contains raffinose, a prebiotic that is broken down by bacteria in the large intestine, which can produce gas. While gas is normal and expected, excess gas can be uncomfortable for baby. To minimize digestive discomfort, introduce cabbage gradually and regularly in baby’s diet. Remember that pooping patterns can vary significantly from child to child. If you have concerns about baby’s pooping and digestive function, talk to your pediatric healthcare provider.
Whole or quartered cabbage tastes nutty and sweet when steamed, then grilled to caramelize the leaves. Cabbage leaves work well as wraps for stuffing with ground meat, seasoned rice, and other spiced fillings. Shredded cabbage adds bite and flavor to slaws, salads, soups, and stews. It can be fermented and pickled to make kimchi or sauerkraut and other dishes. Or mix it with flour, egg, and pork to make savory pancakes like okonomiyaki. What about that famous sulfurous smell? Avoid it by decreasing the cooking time—long periods of exposure to heat tend to enhance the plant compounds that cause the stench.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Let baby munch and suck on long strips of cabbage that have been cooked until pliable and soft. A good size is the width of about two adult fingers pressed together and long enough that they could comfortably pick it up. If a piece breaks off in baby’s mouth, stay calm and let the child try to work the food forward in the mouth and spit out the food. Cabbage can easily stick to the tongue and can cause gagging. If you are nervous about serving cabbage strips, finely chop cooked cabbage and mix it into a soft, scoopable food for baby. Check out our pages on kimchi and sauerkraut for how to serve these fermented cabbage dishes to babies.
At this age, babies begin to develop the pincer grasp (where the thumb and pointer finger meet). When you see signs of this development, try offering finely chopped or shredded cooked cabbage, either on its own or as part of a meal that you are sharing with baby. If baby is struggling to manage a piece of cabbage, you can demonstrate how to stick your tongue out and spit it out.
Offer cabbage as desired in meals and when you feel comfortable with the child’s biting and chewing skills, try decreasing the cooking time in order to offer cabbage with a bit more crunch. By 18 months of age, many toddlers can manage raw cabbage cut into shreds or thin strips. This is also a great age to encourage self-feeding with utensils. If the child needs help, simply pre-load an age-appropriate fork with bite-sized pieces of cooked cabbage and lay it next to the food for the child to pick up.
How to prepare cabbage for babies (part 1).
How to prepare cabbage for babies (part 2).
Get baby’s caregivers on the same page as you with our guide, Baby-led Weaning with Daycare & Caregivers.
2 cups (480 milliliters)
Wash and dry the shredded cabbage. Any type of cabbage works for this recipe.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add the cabbage to the boiling water. Cook the cabbage for 1 minute, then pour it into a colander to drain.
Once the cabbage has cooled slightly, press and squeeze out the excess liquid. Transfer the cabbage to a mixing bowl.
Drizzle the olive oil and apple cider vinegar onto the cabbage, then stir to coat. Use a different type of oil or vinegar if you prefer or if that’s what you have on hand.
If you like, season the cabbage with celery seed.
Serve the Coleslaw
Scoop some coleslaw into a bowl for baby. Exact serving size varies. Let the child decide how much to eat.
Serve the coleslaw and let the child try to self-feed.
To Store: Coleslaw for Babies keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Pediatrician & pediatric gastroenterologist
Pediatrician & pediatric allergist/immunologist
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Speech-language pathologist, feeding & swallowing specialist
Pediatric registered dietitian & nutritionist
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