Navy beans may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
The navy bean is a member of the common bean family that originated in the Americas and encompasses hundreds of varieties, including other white beans like cannellini bean, Great Northern bean, and more. As its name in English suggests, the navy bean has served as an inexpensive, shelf-stable protein for American sailors since the early 19th century. But the navy bean tells a deeper story about the United States, too. In the 15th century, Native Americans shared their methods of cooking beans with meat and maple syrup with European colonizers, who adopted the technique and colloquially referred to the port city of Boston as “Beantown,” a nickname still used today.
Mila, 6 months, eats mashed navy beans on a pre-loaded spoon.
Wei Wei, 9 months, eats flattened navy beans.
Sebastián, 13 months, eats navy beans.
Yes. Navy beans are rich in protein and carbohydrates, and exceptionally high in fiber. They also offer an array of important micronutrients that often are low in the diets of young children, such as iron, zinc, folate, choline, and vitamin B6. Lastly, they are rich in plant-based omega 3 fatty acids. Collectively, these nutrients support healthy blood, strong immune systems, and brain health.
Yes. Navy beans are a choking hazard, due to their small size and rounded shape especially when raw or undercooked. To reduce the risk, cook until soft, and mash beans into a paste or flatten each bean before serving. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
No. Navy beans are not a common food allergen, but allergies to white beans such as navy beans have been reported. While allergies to beans in general are being increasingly recognized, white beans generally tend to be well-tolerated from an allergy perspective.
Bean allergies have also been reported in some patients with allergies to other legumes, including peanut and soybean (which are common food allergens). However, being allergic to one type of legume does not necessarily mean that an individual will be allergic to others, although the risk of more than one legume allergy can increase. Fortunately, most individuals with peanut or soy allergy are able to tolerate other legumes just fine.
Individuals with allergies to birch tree pollen and/or Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen-food allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to legumes, such as navy beans. Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching, tingling, or burning in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction.
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
Yes. Look for navy beans marked “no salt added” or “low sodium,” as many canned beans have sodium in excess of baby’s needs.
Canned baked beans, which are sometimes made with navy beans, tend to be high in salt and sugar, so aim to hold off until a child’s second birthday before serving regularly.
★Tip: Draining and rinsing canned beans can significantly reduce their sodium content.
Yes. Often called anti-nutrients, these naturally-occurring plant compounds (including lectins, oxalates, and phytates) break down during the soaking and cooking process and are generally harmless in healthy people when consumed as part of a balanced diet. Lectins and oxalates can even offer health benefits, such as antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.
No, although soaking dried navy beans can help significantly reduce cooking time and lectin content, as well as improving the overall digestibility of the bean. Soaking beans prior to cooking can also help increase nutrient bioavailability, such as improved availability of iron and zinc.
Here are a couple of soaking methods:
Overnight soak: Use a ratio of 1 pound of dried beans and 10 cups water, and soak the beans in water for 4 or more hours or overnight. Drain and rinse the beans prior to cooking.
Hot soak method: Use a ratio of 1 pound of dried beans and 10 cups water, and bring the mixture to a boil for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat, then soak for a few hours. Drain and rinse the beans prior to cooking.
★Tip: Acidic ingredients – such as tomatoes, lemon, and vinegar – can slow down the cooking process and lead to a tough, undercooked bean. To avoid this, cook the beans first, then add acidic ingredients.
Yes. Fiber and resistive starches in the beans help move poop along and diversify the gut’s microbiome, but can also result in gas. While this is normal, excess gas can be uncomfortable for baby. To minimize digestive discomfort, introduce high-fiber foods like navy beans gradually and regularly in baby’s diet as tolerated. Remember that pooping patterns can vary significantly from baby to baby. If you have concerns about your baby’s pooping and digestive function, talk to your pediatric healthcare provider.
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.
Blend cooked navy beans into a textured mash or smooth paste. If you prefer, serve the mash or paste on a pre-loaded spoon or thinly spread on thin rice cakes or teething rusks. For added nutrition, stir in breast milk, formula, olive oil, or yogurt when making the mash or paste. You can also stir the mashed navy beans into soft, scoopable foods like corn grits, dal, mashed vegetables, porridge, or stewed greens. Just start with small portions at first to allow baby’s digestive system to get used to the high-fiber food.
Offer whole, cooked navy beans that have been gently flattened with a utensil or between your thumb and index finger. Alternatively, continue serving mashed or pureed navy beans for baby to scoop, dip, or practice eating with a spoon.
By this age, many toddlers are able to handle whole cooked navy beans so try offering meals that you can enjoy as a family, like baked beans, beans and greens, bean salads, or succotash. You can, of course, continue to flatten each bean or mash into a paste. To encourage self-feeding with utensils, scoop up some beans and lay the utensil next to the food for the child to try to pick up.
See our Starting Solids course for videos on all parts of baby’s solid food journey.
2 c (480 ml)
Rinse the beans to remove excess sodium.
Zest and juice the lemon.
Pick the dill leaves from their stems.
Blend the beans, lemon zest, lemon juice, oil dill, and spices. A high-powered food processor or blender speeds up this step. If you don’t have one, mash and mix the ingredients by hand. A little texture is okay as long as there are no whole beans.
Set aside some dip to offer with a teething rusk or resistive food to baby. Season the rest with salt to taste for yourself.
Serve the Dip
Offer dip to baby, then let the child self-feed.
If help is needed, swipe a teething rusk or resistive food in the dip, then hold it in the air in front of baby and let the child grab it from you.
Eat dip alongside baby to model how it’s done.
Pediatrician & pediatric gastroenterologist
Pediatrician & pediatric allergist/immunologist
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Speech-language pathologist, feeding & swallowing specialist
Pediatric registered dietitian & nutritionist
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