Feta Cheese

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: Yes (
  • Dairy
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May cause allergic reactions.

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a block of feta cheese before being prepared for babies starting solid food

When can babies eat feta cheese?

It is best to wait until after your baby’s first birthday to serve feta cheese as it is extremely high in sodium. The best cheeses for babies under 12 months of age are fresh mozzarella, fresh ricotta, goat cheese, mascarpone, and Swiss cheese. These cheeses are usually low enough in sodium to be safe for babies starting solids.

Background and origins of feta cheese

Feta is a soft white cheese made of curds from sheep and goat’s milk that are formed into a block and aged in brine. Like champagne from France and prosciutto di Parma from Italy, feta cheese has Protected Designation of Origin, a marketing term that’s regulated by the European Union to protect the terroir of foods that are produced, processed, and prepared in a specific region using traditional methods. That means that, technically speaking, only feta cheese from certain areas of Greece can be labeled as such. Nonetheless, the technique of making brined cheese is an ancient one, and many countries make “feta-style” cheese with goat, sheep, or even cow’s milk.

Depending on where it was made, feta cheese can be creamy or crumbly—but it is almost always tangy and delicious.

Julian, 13 months, eats crumbles of feta cheese.
Leila, 17 months, eats strawberries with feta cheese crumbles.
Adie, 20 months, eats feta cheese for the first time.

Is feta cheese healthy for babies?

In moderation. Feta cheese is very high in sodium, which in excess, can lead to hypernatremia, a condition of having too much sodium in the blood, which affects the balance of water in our bodies.1 Early and excessive exposure to sodium is also thought to play a role in cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and obesity.2

For babies who are 12 months old and up, a small serving of feta cheese (less than 1 ounce) is a perfectly healthy treat at mealtime. Feta is packed with fats and protein, and it is typically easier to digest than cow’s milk cheeses. Feta is also a great source of B-vitamins (especially B6 and B12), calcium, selenium, and zinc—nutrients that help build healthy bones, cells, immunity, and nerves.

When shopping for cheese, generally it is good to look for cheeses that are:

  • Pasteurized
  • Low in sodium (less than 100mg per serving for babies younger than 12 months)
  • Whole fat

After your baby’s first birthday you can explore a wider range of cheeses but just keep tabs on overall sodium consumption.

Is feta cheese a common choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Feta cheese can be chalky in texture and difficult for babies to swallow. In fact, cheese in general is among the most common choking hazards for babies and children.3 To minimize the risk, simply crumble feta cheese into small pieces and serve with a drink to aid swallowing, or whip feta cheese in a blender until it is smooth and spreadable.

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

Is feta cheese a common allergen?

Yes. Dairy products are among the top food allergens. Cow’s milk allergy is one of the most prevalent allergies in young children, and a child who is allergic to cow’s milk may also be allergic to sheep and/or goat’s milk.4Research shows that the majority of children with cow’s milk allergy will outgrow it by age 6 and many babies with milder symptoms of milk protein allergy (which can show up as painless blood in stool) are able to successfully reintroduce cow’s milk with the guidance of their doctors.5 6

Feta cheese should not be the first dairy product introduced to your baby due to its high level of sodium, but when your baby is old enough (12 months old and up), it would be wise to introduce feta cheese with a small serving and watch closely as baby eats. That way if there is an allergic reaction, it is hopefully manageable. Note: Many dairy products, specifically aged cheese, contain histamines, which may worsen allergic reactions in some children.

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

6 to 12 months old: Avoid due to high sodium levels.

12 to 24 months old: Crumble feta cheese and sprinkle the bits on top of your baby’s dish. You can also whip the cheese in a blender until it’s soft and spreadable.

For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.

Feta cheese dries out and sours quickly. To extend its shelf life, store feta in a container and pour olive oil on top. It should last up to 4 weeks in the refrigerator this way.

Recipe: First Greek Salad

a small pile of chopped tomatoes, onion, and olives with small crumbles of feta on a white background

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon feta cheese
  • ¼ cup red onion
  • 1 tablespoon high quality vinegar
  • 1 cup cherry tomato
  • 1 cup cucumber
  • ¼ cup pitted olives
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper

Directions

  1. Slice the red onion as thinly as possible. Cook the onion slices in a small pot with water and vinegar until soft, about 5 minutes. Let cool in the pickling liquid.
  2. While the onion is cooking, wash and quarter the cherry tomatoes. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
  3. Wash, peel, and thinly slice a cucumber into rounds, then quarter the rounds to create triangles. Add to the mixing bowl.
  4. Rinse the olives (this removes more sodium) and slice into rings. Set aside any ends with no hole in them for your own salad as they may pose a choking risk for your baby. Add the rest to the mixing bowl.
  5. Remove the onion from the pickling liquid and finely chop, then add a little bit to the mixing bowl. Add olive oil and mix gently. Crumble the feta cheese and sprinkle on top of the salad. Serve.

Note: Acidic foods like tomatoes and vinegar may cause a rash around your baby’s mouth and/or face. This kind of contact rash is common with acidic foods and typically harmless. If it is just a contact rash, patting your baby’s face with a cool, wet washcloth should help. If you are ever concerned, call your doctor or emergency services.

Flavor Pairings

Feta cheese adds tang to dishes. It tastes great with other acidic foods like lemon and tomato, stands up to fatty meats like beef, lamb, and pork, and balances sweet foods like apples, cantaloupe, grapes, pears, and watermelon. Try folding feta into grain salads and pastas in place of or in addition to citrus for added brightness. Or serve on its own with fresh herbs like mint, rosemary, or thyme and a little olive oil.

  1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2019. Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  2. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2019. Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  3. HealthyChildren.org. (2019). Health Issues: Choking Prevention. Retrieved May 31, 2020
  4. Food Allergy Research & Education. Milk Allergy. Retrieved May 31, 2020
  5. GiKids – Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy. (2020, February 26). GiKids. https://gikids.org/digestive-topics/cows-milk-protein-allergy/
  6. Wood, R. A., Sicherer, S. H., Vickery, B. P., Jones, S. M., Liu, A. H., Fleischer, D. M., Henning, A. K., Mayer, L., Burks, A. W., Grishin, A., Stablein, D., & Sampson, H. A. (2013). The natural history of milk allergy in an observational cohort. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 131(3), 805-812.e4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2012.10.060