When can babies eat lentils?
You may introduce lentils as soon as your baby is ready for solids, which is generally around 6 months old. Lentils are actually the seeds of a bush-like plant, which is thought to be one of the oldest cultivated legumes in the world. They’re a fantastic source of protein and iron, which babies need increasing amounts of starting around 6 months old, when their iron reserves become depleted. They are truly a perfect food for babies.
Are lentils healthy for my baby?
Absolutely. Lentils are one of the healthiest plant foods a baby can eat. They’re one of the best plant sources of iron, and they’re rich in B-vitamins, folate, and magnesium. Plus they’re packed with protein and fiber. Lastly, lentils also contain every other mineral in ideal amounts, including copper, which is necessary for iron absorption.
Around 6 months of age, a baby’s iron reserves begin to drop, so it’s important to focus on iron-rich food when starting solids. Breastfed babies are particularly in need of iron-rich foods, as breast milk contains very little iron. This is why, for example, iron-fortified rice cereal for babies was recommended by pediatricians as a first food. However, rice cereal need not be baby’s first food—there are plenty of foods naturally high in iron and other vitamins that can easily be worked into a baby’s diet.
There are many colors of lentils, each one offering a slightly different nutrient profile characterized by the unique colors. Red and yellow lentils are thin and tend to cook quickly, while green, brown and black lentils are thicker and need more time in the pot. Beluga (black) lentils are the most nutrient-dense, offering the highest density of protein, fiber, iron, calcium and potassium, and the black color means they are rich in antioxidants, which supports your baby’s immune system.
Are lentils a common choking hazard for my baby?
The risk depends on how they are prepared. Lentils are very small and not a choking hazard on their own, but they can coagulate and form larger shapes when cooked with other ingredients, such as cheese.
Are lentils a common allergen?
No. Allergies to lentils are uncommon, though theoretically, anyone can be allergic to any food.
How do you prepare lentils 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 9 months old: Lentils are so healthy yet so hard to pick up for young babies. At this age you may find it easiest to mash red and yellow lentils and offer on a pre-loaded spoon or in a bowl that suctions to the table to assist hand-scooping.
9 to 12 months old: Lentil patties can be a great way to go at this age as the disc shape lends itself well to self-feeding. And don’t shy away from spices!
12 to 24 months old: This is a great age to focus on black and green lentils both for the texture and color. Explore cold and warm lentil salads, thick stews, and dishes where lentils can be served atop other “scoop-able” foods such as mashed potatoes.
For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.
★ Tip: Lentils are one of those foods that have a long shelf life, but old lentils will take longer to cook and likely shed some skin in the process, so look for as fresh of lentils as you can find.
Recipe: Mejadra with Mashed Potatoes
- 1 cup green lentils
- 1 onion or shallot, chopped finely
- Ground turmeric
- 1-2 potatoes (Russet, Idaho or Yukon)
- Wash and peel the potatoes. Make mashed potatoes using your preferred method (pressure cooker vs. stovetop, etc.) and keep them warm until you’re ready to serve.
- To cook the lentils, rinse them, then add to a small pot and cover with an extra inch or two of water. Bring the pot to a boil and cook for 15 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. Drain in a fine-mesh strainer, then set them aside in a mixing bowl.
- While the lentils are cooking, sauté the onion or shallot in a bit of olive oil until it becomes translucent. Add a pinch of each spice, and stir to coat the onion in the spices. Cook the mix on medium heat for a minute, until the spices are fragrant, and then add the onion mixture to the lentils. Mix well.
- Serve the lentils on top of the mashed potato, so that your baby can see that there are two colors and two foods. If your baby is self-feeding, they can either hand-scoop the lentils and potatoes into their mouth or you can pre-load spoons for them to pick up from you in the air or from the table.
Lentils pair well with a number of spices, including curry, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cumin, and coriander. The possibilities are truly limitless!