When can babies eat chia seeds?
Chia seeds may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Read on for preparation methods and recipe ideas!
Are chia seeds healthy for babies?
Yes! Chia seeds are incredibly healthy. Despite their small size, they pack a mighty nutritional punch. In fact, chia seeds are the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids—essential nutrients to power your baby’s blood flow, cell growth, eyesight, and nervous system.1 Chia seeds also are a complete source of protein and packed with soluble fiber, which helps diversify the microbiome and aids your baby’s bowel function. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Thanks to their growing popularity in major markets around the world, the chia seed market is expected to top $2 billion in sales by 2022.2 The tiny seeds have achieved superfood status for good reason. In addition to all that fiber and protein, chia seeds offer vitamin K for healthy blood plus iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamin B6, which supports brain development, immune function, and over 100 metabolic reactions in your baby’s body. Chia seeds also contain noteworthy levels of vitamin B3 for energy and fat metabolism, calcium for healthy bones, and zinc for immune function. Nutritionally, there is no difference between black or white chia seeds.
Are chia seeds a choking hazard for babies?
While not a common cause of choking, it’s best to grind or pre-soak chia seeds for 30 minutes prior to serving to babies as the gelatinous seeds expand upon contact with moisture (including saliva). Further, be sure to break apart any clumps of chia seeds that have formed. Also, if your child has difficulty swallowing, or has been diagnosed with dysphagia, a swallowing disorder, talk to your doctor or feeding therapist before serving chia seeds.
Are chia seeds a common allergen?
While chia seed allergy is uncommon, there is some limited research that demonstrates that people with sesame allergy may be allergic to chia seed.3 If your baby has a family history of allergies or if you suspect your baby may be allergic to sesame, talk to a pediatric allergist before introducing chia seeds.
As with all new foods, when you’re ready to introduce chia seeds, start by serving a small quantity of the pre-soaked seeds for the first couple of times and watch closely. If there are no adverse reactions, gradually increase the amount served over future mealtimes.
How do you prepare chia seeds for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline. The preparation suggestions below are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional, nutritionist or dietitian, or expert in pediatric feeding and eating. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 12 months old: Make chia seed pudding (recipe below) or chia seed gel to add to other foods as desired. To make the gel, start by combining ¼ cup of chia seeds and 1 cup of breast milk, formula, or unsweetened milk, such as cow’s milk or a plant-based milk (soy, oat, or hemp have the most protein and fat, which babies need). Let the seeds sit in the liquid until a gel forms, about 30 minutes. From there, mix a spoonful or two of the gel into foods like cereal, yogurt, or even mashed vegetables. To encourage your baby to eat independently, let them finger paint and scoop with their hands and offer pre-loaded utensils in the air. And prepare for mess! Chia seeds are challenging to clean up as they cling to everything.
12 to 18 months old: Continue adding chia seed gel to foods as desired and explore chia pudding recipes. At this age, you can also serve smoothies with chia seed gel for added nutrition, though it would be wise to wait until your baby is self-feeding 3 meals a day and getting the majority of their calories from solid food before offering drinks like smoothies. (At this age it is best to prioritize eating over drinking as the weaning process continues.)
18 to 24 months old: Serve pre-soaked chia seeds however you like! Add chia seed gel to warm cereals, make chia seed pudding overnight, or add pre-soaked chia seeds to smoothies.
For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.
★Tip: Chia seeds have a fantastic shelf life—four to five years—and do not need to be refrigerated.
Recipe: Overnight Chia Pudding
- 1 banana
- 1/2 cup coconut milk from a BPA-free can
- 3 tablespoons chia seeds
- Peel and mash 1 banana in a mixing bowl.
- Open a 13-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk (ideally a brand that uses BPA-free cans) and pour the contents into the bowl.
- Whisk together to combine. Add a few heaping spoonfuls of dry chia seeds and mix well.
- Transfer the chia seed mixture to a sealed container and store in the fridge. The chia seed pudding will be ready to eat the following morning.
- Prior to serving, take a fork and break up any clumps of chia seeds that have formed overnight. To encourage independent eating, allow your baby to scoop at the pudding with their hands or pre-load your baby’s spoon and hand it over in the air (or for older babies rest the spoon on the edge of the bowl for your baby to pick up independently).
Chia seeds don’t have a ton of flavor, so when serving chia seed pudding or gel, think of ingredients that pair with the base liquid used to make the dish. Coconut milk pairs well with tropical fruits like avocados, bananas, papayas, and pineapples. Almond milk pairs well with apples, pears, and tart berries like blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Cow’s milk tends to be naturally sweet, which pairs well with cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, and other warm spices.
- Harvard T.F. Chan School of Public Health. (n.d.). The Nutrition Source: Chia Seeds. (website). Retrieved April 4, 2020.
- Mordor Intelligence. (n.d.). Global Chia Seeds Market – Analysis of Growth, Trends and Forecast (2020-2025) (website) Retrieved April 4, 2020.
- Albunni, BA., Wessels, H., Paschke-Kratzin, A., Fischer, M. (2019). Antibody Cross-Reactivity between Proteins of Chia Seed ( Salvia hispanica L.) and Other Food Allergens. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 67(26), 7475-7484. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.9b00875 (website) Retrieved April 4, 2020.