When can babies eat Havarti cheese?
It’s best to wait until after baby’s first birthday to serve Havarti cheese regularly. A nibble here and there is fine but, like most cheeses, Havarti is not great for babies because it has a fair amount of sodium. The best cheeses for babies younger than 12 months old are those that are naturally low in sodium, including Emmentaler, soft goat cheese, labneh, fresh mozzarella cheese, mascarpone cheese, ricotta cheese, quark, and Swiss cheese.
Background and origins of Havarti cheese
Once you’re ready to introduce Havarti, there are different styles of the rindless semi-soft cow’s milk cheese to seek out. Thanks to its higher ratio of butterfat to protein, cream Havarti (or flødehavarti, as it is called in Denmark, where the cheese originated) is softer and smoother than aged styles, which tend to become nuttier and saltier as time goes on. Just like cheddar, the longer Havarti cheese ripens, the sharper the flavor notes. Cream Havarti, on the other hand, has a mild sweetness with a hint of tang—a pleasant balance that serves as an excellent blank canvas for seasonings, which is why you often see cream Havarti flavored with caraway seeds, dill, garlic, and peppers like chipotle, jalapeno, and Peppadews.
Whichever style that you choose, you can count on one shared characteristic: Havarti cheese melts beautifully. Grilled cheese sandwiches, anyone? Check out our nutritional info and age-appropriate suggestions to serve Havarti cheese to babies and toddlers.
★Tip: Havarti is a great cheese for melting on burgers, stirring into hot dips, and adding creaminess to macaroni and cheese, but it goes just as well with sweet fruits. Try serving Havarti with apples or pears as an occasional dessert or snack!
Is Havarti cheese healthy for babies?
Yes, at the right age and served in moderation. Havarti cheese contains lots of calcium to build strong bones and vitamin A to power the immune system and aid eyesight and skin health. It also offers both vitamin B2 to fuel metabolism and B12 to support healthy blood and a robust nervous system. There’s even some selenium and zinc—important nutrients to help children thrive. To top it off, Havarti is full of protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. The downside: Havarti cheese contains quite a bit of sodium, which is not healthy for babies (or adults) when consumed in excess.1 2 Learn all about sodium and babies >>
Like all cheese, the quality of the Havarti depends on the quality of the cow’s milk and how the animal was raised. Milk from pasture-raised cows has been shown to be higher in healthy fats and other nutrients than from cows raised on grain.3 Additionally, non-organic dairy products may contain pesticide residues (including DDT, an endocrine-disrupting chemical) that have been shown to adversely affect a child’s physical, mental, and behavioral health.4 5
When shopping for cheese for babies, look for the following:
- Low sodium (less than 100mg per serving for babies younger than 12 months old)
- Made from whole milk, organic if possible
Organic milk may not be an option for everyone, and if this is the case for you, do the best you can with the resources available to you and your family.
Is Havarti cheese a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Cheese is a common choking hazard for babies and children.6 To reduce the risk, slice thinly and avoid serving cheese in cubes and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment, stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals.
Is Havarti cheese a common allergen?
Yes. Havarti cheese is made from cow’s milk, which is a common food allergen in young children, accounting for about one-fifth of all childhood food allergies.7 If baby is allergic to dairy, be reassured that it is an allergy that often disappears with time. Research 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 as early as their first birthday, with the guidance of their doctors.8
Aged cheeses generally contain histamines, which may cause rashes in children who are sensitive to them.11 However, Havarti is typically ripened for a shorter time than other aged cheeses, so it may be better tolerated than other aged cheese.
If you have a strong family history of milk allergy or suspect baby may be allergic to dairy products, consult an allergist before introducing cheese of any kind. As with all allergens, start by serving a small quantity on its own for the first few servings, and if there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future servings.
How do you prepare Havarti cheese 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: Hold off on serving Havarti cheese and opt for cheeses that are naturally low in sodium like goat cheese, mascarpone, mozzarella, ricotta, or Swiss cheese. If you happen to have a Havarti omelet already prepared for yourself and you’d like to share, by all means, share with baby. (Thin slices or grated is best.) We always want to encourage sharing family meals with babies. Just try to serve cheese that is lower in sodium if you want to serve cheese regularly at this stage.
12 to 24 months old: Thinly slice into rectangular strips, cut into bite-size pieces, or offer small, pea sized crumbles for continued refinement of fine motor skills. Of course, you can grate Havarti and melt the cheese over vegetables and other food. Make sure the child is in a safe eating environment (upright highchair, etc.) and never serve cheese on-the-go in a stroller, in a car seat, or when the toddler is running around.
Recipe: Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Apple Butter
2 slices Ezekiel bread or baby-friendly bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 slices Havarti cheese
2 tablespoons apple butter, no added sugar
This recipe contains common allergens: dairy and wheat. Only serve after each of these individual allergens have been safely introduced.
- Set a skillet on medium heat. At this temperature, the cheese will take longer to melt, but the bread will be softer. Sometimes, crispy bread can cut the inside of a toddler’s mouth, so take care.
- Butter one side of each slice of bread while the skillet is heating.
- Flick a drop of water in the skillet. When the water droplet sizzles, the skillet is ready. Lay one slice of bread, butter side down, in the skillet. Place the cheese slices on top.
- Spread the apple butter onto the other slice of bread, spreading it on the side without the dairy butter. Sandwich the slices together in the skillet so the apple butter side touches the cheese side.
- Use a spatula to gently press the bread slices together, then cover and continue to cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip the sandwich to cook for 2 minutes more with the pan covered. The steam will prevent the bread from becoming too crispy.
- Transfer the sandwich to a cutting board and let cool before cutting it. Slice into quarters, and serve 1 or 2 to your child. Eat the others alongside your child to show how it’s done!
J. Truppi, MSN, CNS
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT
S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. (allergy section)
R. Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician and Pediatric Gastroenterologist
- Baker, S.S., Baker, R.D. (2015). Early Exposure to Dietary Sugar and Salt. Pediatrics, 135(3), 550-551. DOI:10.1542/peds.2014-4028. Retrieved August 17, 2020
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. DOI: 10.17226/25353. Retrieved August 17, 2020
- Alothman, M., Hogan, S.A., Hennessy, D., Dillon, P., Kilcawley, K.N., O’Donovan, M., et al. (2019). The “Grass-Fed” Milk Story: Understanding the Impact of Pasture Feeding on the Composition and Quality of Bovine Milk. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 8(8), 350. DOI:10.3390/foods8080350. Retrieved September 22, 2020
- Patisaul, H. B., Adewale, H.B. (2009). Long-term effects of environmental endocrine disruptors on reproductive physiology and behavior. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience, 3, 10. DOI:10.3389/neuro.08.010.2009. Retrieved September 22, 2020
- Owino, V.O., Cornelius, C., Loechl, C.U. (2018). Elucidating Adverse Nutritional Implications of Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals and Mycotoxins through Stable Isotope Techniques. Nutrients, 10(4),401. DOI:10.3390/nu10040401.Retrieved September 22, 2020
- HealthyChildren.org. (2019). Health Issues: Choking Prevention. Retrieved May 31, 2020
- Warren, C.M., Jhaveri, S., Warrier, M.R., Smith, B., Gupta, R.S. (2013). The epidemiology of milk allergy in US children. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunology, 110(5):370-374. DOI:10.1016/j.anai.2013.02.016. Retrieved September 22, 2020
- GI Kids. Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
- Porto, A. (2016). Lactose Intolerance in Infants & Children: Parent FAQs. HealthyChildren.org. Retrieved September 22, 2020
- Dekker, P., Koenders, D., Bruins, M.J. (2019). Lactose-Free Dairy Products: Market Developments, Production, Nutrition and Health Benefits. Nutrients, 11(3), 551. DOI: 10.3390/nu11030551. Retrieved September 22, 2020
- Chung, B.Y., Park, S.Y., Byun, Y.S., Son, J.H., Choi, Y.W., et al. (2017). Effect of Different Cooking Methods on Histamine Levels in Selected Foods. Annals of Dermatology, 29(6), 706–714. DOI:10.5021/ad.2017.29.6.706. Retrieved September 22, 2020