When can babies eat iceberg lettuce?
Iceberg lettuce may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Note: Chewing and swallowing lettuce can be tricky for the youngest eaters, so check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.
Background and origins of iceberg lettuce
There are hundreds of varieties of lettuce in the world, but American essayist Charles Dudley Warner might as well have been referring to icebergs when he wrote that “lettuce is like conversation; it must be fresh and crisp, so sparkling that you scarcely notice the bitter in it.” Iceberg lettuce is refreshingly cool, with a snappy texture, a watery sweetness, and just a hint of bitter bite. The lettuce is part of the crisphead family—varieties whose leaves grow to overlap one another to form a dense, round head that looks very different from loose-leaf greens like arugula, kale, and spinach. The variety was developed in the United States in the 19th century, and despite going in and out of style, iceberg lives on as a mainstay on dinner tables and restaurant menus alike. It can be found year-round in almost every grocery store in the United States.
Iceberg lettuce is durable, and a whole head of lettuce will last even longer in the fridge than leaves that have been plucked from the core. To get the most value, purchase a whole head of lettuce, store loosely wrapped in a paper towel in the crisper drawer of your fridge, and don’t wash the leaves until mealtime. It will last a couple of weeks.
Is iceberg lettuce healthy for babies?
Yes. Iceberg lettuce contains a small amount of vitamin A to support the eyes, immune system, and skin, as well as vitamin K for healthy blood and bones. It is not as packed with vitamins and minerals as dark, leafy greens like kale or spinach, but what it lacks in nutrients, it makes up for in crisp texture. Iceberg lettuce can introduce the idea that foods have sound (crunch!) and encourage your baby to practice chewing and swallowing skills.
Note: Farmers frequently spray lettuce to keep pests away, and iceberg lettuce often shows higher levels of pesticide residues than other vegetables.1 Remove the outer leaves on whole heads of iceberg lettuce (they are the most likely to contain pesticides) and buy organic lettuce when possible to reduce exposure.
Is iceberg lettuce a common choking hazard for babies?
No. Iceberg lettuce is not a common choking hazard. However, lettuce can lead to gagging if the leaves cling to the roof of the mouth or your baby’s tongue. Be sure to create a safe eating environment and always stay near your baby during mealtime. Check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions!
Is iceberg lettuce a common allergen?
No. Allergies to lettuce are rare, though when they do occur, they can be severe.2 Individuals with lettuce allergy may also have cross-reactive allergy to proteins in other foods (peach, cherry, carrot) and pollens (sycamore, ragweed, mugwort). However, it is not typical for people with lettuce allergy to react to all these other plants.3 As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity on its own for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
How do you prepare iceberg lettuce for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 8 months old: If you feel comfortable with it, offer large lettuce pieces on the rib (the firmer part that is lighter in color) for baby to explore and munch on. Note that this activity will not be for consumption but rather for baby to explore the new food and its texture. Alternatively, you may offer shredded lettuce (cooked or raw) to explore. Mixing into other foods will help baby pick it up independently. Expect a lot of spitting as baby learns to work with the consistency.
9 to 12 months old: Offer fresh or cooked lettuce that has been chopped or finely shredded. Greens often cling to the back of the roof of the mouth of babies and adults alike. Tossing the raw greens with a homemade dressing can help wash down any bits that may get stuck. Serving lettuce with a drink on the side helps, too!
12 to 18 months old: This is a great window of time to introduce finely chopped raw salads before the selectiveness of the toddler years kicks in high gear. Balance your child’s meal with other foods that are high in protein, healthy fats, and iron (beans!) alongside iceberg lettuce. Serve with a fork alongside the salad to encourage utensil practice.
18 to 24 months old: Continue to offer chopped iceberg lettuce dishes alongside other foods to balance nutrition. If your toddler gets picky and refuses the greens, don’t give up (but don’t pressure, either). Try eating alongside your child to model how it’s done.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Recipe: Family-Style Cobb Salad
- 1 small head iceberg lettuce
- 2 ripe avocadoes
- 2 ripe beefsteak tomatoes
- 2 small cucumbers
- 2 cups leftover chicken
- 4 hard-boiled eggs
- 4 ounces fresh goat cheese
- 1/2 cup pitted olives
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 lemon
- Remove and compost the outer leaves of the head of lettuce. Separate the leaves from the core, wash them in cool water, then dry thoroughly. Thinly slice the leaves into ribbons. Transfer the lettuce to a large serving bowl or platter.
- Slice the avocadoes in half and compost the pit. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, then compost the peel. Cut the flesh into the age-appropriate sizes described above.
- Wash the tomatoes, remove and compost the stem, and slice into large wedges.
- Wash the cucumber, then slice in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out and compost any seeds. Slice the cucumber into half-moon pieces.
- Shred the leftover chicken.
- Peel and compost the eggshells. Slice the eggs into age-appropriate sizes.
- Crumble the goat cheese.
- Slice the olives into rings. Make sure all pits are removed.
- Arrange the salad ingredients on top of the lettuce. Get creative and use the produce to make a rainbow or a colorful pattern, or just pile all the ingredients on top. Invite toddlers and preschoolers to help with this part of the meal prep!
- Pour the olive oil and squeeze the lemon over the salad, taking care to remove any seeds that fall in the bowl.
- Use two large spoons (or your hands!) to mix everything together at the table—another fun activity for young children who are learning how to follow directions!
- Serve a couple of heaping spoonfuls in a bowl that suctions to the table for babies or on a plate for toddlers and older children. Serve yourself and other family members, then store the remaining salad in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Let your child scoop the salad with hands or offer a fork to encourage utensil practice. Eat alongside your child to show how it’s done!
This recipe contains common allergens: eggs and dairy. Only serve to your child after each of these individual allergens have been introduced safely.
Refreshingly cool with a crunchy texture, mild sweetness, and a hint of bitter flavor, iceberg lettuce is a versatile and sturdy green that can add bright crispiness to your dishes. Try it in salads, shred it on top of soups and tacos, or use the leaves as a cups or wraps to hold other foods. Iceberg lettuce also tastes great when lightly sauteed and seasoned with flavorful seasonings like hot sauce, sesame oil, or sherry vinegar. Try pairing iceberg lettuce with iron-rich proteins like lamb, sardine, or steak; nutrient-packed grain salads made with amaranth, Khorasan wheat, quinoa; or bold-flavored fruits and vegetables like bell pepper, mango, pineapple, sweet potato, or tomato.
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
- Horská, T., Kocourek, F., Stará, J., Holý, K., Mráz, P., Krátký, F., Kocourek, V., & Hajšlová, J. (2020). Evaluation of Pesticide Residue Dynamics in Lettuce, Onion, Leek, Carrot and Parsley. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 9(5), 680. DOI:10.3390/foods9050680.
- Muñoz-García, E., Luengo-Sánchez, O., Moreno-Pérez, N., Cuesta-Herranz, J., Pastor-Vargas, C., & Cardona, V. (2017). Lettuce Allergy Is a Lipid Transfer Syndrome-Related Food Allergy With a High Risk of Severe Reactions. Journal of investigational allergology & clinical immunology, 27(2), 98–103. DOI:10.18176/jiaci.0110. Retrieved October 7, 2020
- Helbling A, Schwartz HJ, Lopez M, Lehrer SB. Lettuce and carrot allergy: are they related? Allergy Proc. 1994 Jan-Feb;15(1):33-8. doi: 10.2500/108854194778816652. PMID: 8005454