When can babies and kids eat pizza?
Pizza is best introduced after 12 months of age because it tends to be high in sodium and is a potential choking hazard. If you would like to occasionally share pizza with babies under 12 months of age, aim to limit baby’s portion to just the crust.
Where does pizza come from?
The word “pizza” may conjure an image of doughy bread topped with tomato sauce, but this flatbread was originally dressed simply with cheese, herbs, and olive oil around the Mediterranean Sea, where humans have been making pizza since ancient times. Colonization and trade introduced tomatoes from the Americas to Europe, where enterprising Neapolitans invented the margherita pizza topped with fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, and basil to represent the colors of the Italian flag. Immigrants brought pizza-making traditions with them to the United States, and eventually demand exploded after World War II with the rise of international migration and tourism. From its humble origins, pizza has become a global food with ingredients and styles as variable as the diverse kitchens in which it is made.
Is pizza safe for babies?
Yes, if modified for baby’s age and eating ability and introduced after potential allergies, such as to wheat and dairy, have been ruled out. Keep in mind that some pizza doughs, sauces, and toppings contain honey, which should be avoided during the first year of life due to the risk of infant botulism. Also, the crust, cheese, and many toppings can be choking hazards, so read on to learn how to offer pizza in an age-appropriate way.
Is pizza healthy for babies and kids?
It can be, when it is low in sodium and topped with fruits or vegetables, though many pizzas are not prepared that way. Most restaurant and store-bought pizzas are high in sodium, which is not healthy when consumed in excess.1 2 However, pizza can also include lots of nutrients that young children need. For example, a simple margherita pizza (topped with olive oil, tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, and basil) can offer good amounts of calcium, iron, zinc, B vitamins, vitamins A and E.
Once you are confident in your child’s chewing skills, explore topping the pizza with fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Try to avoid or minimize cured meat toppings (such as pepperoni or sausage) which are best served in moderation after 12 months of age due to the choking risk and high amounts of sodium and preservatives.
Which type of pizza is best for babies and kids?
Ultimately, the best pizza is the one that fits your culture and family’s food preferences. Sharing a meal as a family can be more important than the food’s nutritional value alone. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some healthy options to consider: whole-grain crusts tend to have more fiber and protein than crusts made with refined flour; and cheeses like burrata, fresh mozzarella, fresh ricotta, fresh goat cheese contain far less sodium than parmesan, pecorino romano, and other popular cheeses for pizza. When it comes to toppings, choose nutrient-dense options like bell pepper, ground beef, mushrooms, and spinach and aim to avoid salty foods like ham, pepperoni, and sausage.
Does pizza contain common allergens?
Yes. At a minimum, pizza may contain dairy (cheese) and wheat, both of which are common food allergens. Depending on the recipe, pizza may also include egg, fish such as anchovies, shellfish, tree nuts (pesto), sesame, and soy. Prior to sharing pizza with baby, it is important to introduce common food allergens on their own and rule them out as an allergy before serving them together in a prepared food like pizza. This way, you’ll be able to identify which allergen is responsible if baby has a reaction. Then, when you are ready to offer pizza, you will be confident that they have already safely eaten any allergens in the food.
How to serve pizza to babies and kids
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: Avoid or only offer the crust. Look for pizza that has a resistive crust that won’t snap or break off easily in baby’s mouth and go big in size. (This works with pizzas that have bready doughs, not thin, cracker-like crusts.) While baby won’t get much food in the belly this way, teething on pizza crust can stimulate the reflexes that let baby practice chewing and help the child develop a mental map of the mouth. Alternatively, you can peel off age-appropriate toppings to share with baby, like soft, well-cooked slices of vegetables. Note that some pizza contains honey in the crust, sauce, or toppings. Honey should be avoided during the first year of life due to the risk of infant botulism.
9 to 11 months old: At this age, serve small, bite-sized pieces of the pizza slice. Scissors work well to cut small pieces of pizza. Remove globs of cheese and firm toppings (such as pieces of pineapple, large crumbles of sausage, etc.), as they continue to pose a choking risk at this age. To reduce the risk of choking further, you can remove all toppings and cheese from the bite-sized pieces. You can also continue to offer just the crust, but know that at this age, many babies have the skills to bite off pieces that can get stuck to the roof of their mouth, causing some gagging and discomfort.
12 months old and up: If you feel confident in the child’s biting and tearing skills, present a slice of pizza with the tip cut off (so it’s not too floppy). Note that softer, thinner pieces of pizza can glom up in the mouth and cause some gagging. When serving pizza to toddlers, avoid stuffed pizza crusts, as the melted cheese inside the stuffed crust heightens choking risk. You can also continue to serve small, bite-sized pieces of the pizza slice with challenging-to-chew toppings removed. If a child is routinely over-stuffing their mouth, offer fewer bite-size pieces at a time.
24 months old and up: At this age, many toddlers are able to handle a whole slice of pizza with toppings. If any toppings look too challenging for the child simply peel them off and suggest those be eaten separately. Mixed textures can be difficult for early eaters, so try to present challenging pieces of topping apart from the pizza slice in order to practice chewing separately.
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Picky eating tips for interesting kids in pizza
If your child is hesitant to try pizza or is only willing to eat plain cheese pizza, try inviting them to help make the meal. When ordering take-out pizza, tell the child the options for toppings, and let the child decide which ones to order. When making pizza from scratch or adding toppings to a pre-made crust, encourage the child to choose the toppings for their portion or let them top the pizza themselves. At the table, offer additional toppings for the child to sprinkle, like shredded basil, crumbled goat cheese, or nutritional yeast. Or, try engaging the child’s imagination: ask them what kind of pizza they would make if they had any ingredients they wanted. What fun combinations can they think up?
What kind of pizza do kids like best?
It’s hard to turn down a margherita pizza made with fresh mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and basil. That said, every child is different, and kids tend to enjoy pizza when it has familiar toppings that they know and like. Kids also like pizza that looks fun and interesting: imagine a smiley face made out of sliced mushrooms, a rainbow made of sliced vegetables, a forest of broccoli florets with a path made of olive rings, or red-and-white stripes made of fresh mozzarella slices laid over tomato sauce. Inviting toddlers to help make pizza at home or choose toppings when ordering take-out can also boost their interest. Finally, sharing meals as a family is a great way to help develop a child’s love for a food: the pizza your child likes best may be whichever one they eat alongside you.
What to consider when ordering pizza for kids
To keep sodium levels low when ordering or buying pizza, choose pizza with soft, low-sodium cheeses such as burrata, fresh mozzarella, fresh ricotta, fresh goat cheese, or stracciatella and avoid salty, cured meats like ham, pepperoni, and sausage. If you have more time, consider buying a prepared frozen crust and other pizza ingredients separately. Frozen crust and a low-sodium canned or frozen sauce make pizza relatively quick to prepare, and if pizza is a regular part of your menu, you can swap toppings each week.
Recipe: Rainbow Veggie Pizza
Yield: 1 pizza
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Age: 12 months+
Recipe By Solid Starts
- 1 16-oz (454-g) package pizza dough
- 1 tbsp (15 g) all-purpose flour
- 6 cherry tomatoes
- 4 button mushrooms
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 orange bell pepper
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 1 purple onion
- ¾ c (180 ml) pizza sauce
- 8 oz (224 g) shredded mozzarella cheese
- 4 sprigs fresh basil (optional)
This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (cheese) and wheat (dough). Only serve to a child after these allergens have been safely introduced. Always check for potential allergens in ingredients listed on the labels of store-bought processed foods, such as pizza dough. Added ingredients may include honey, which should not be given to babies younger than 12 months.
- Defrost dough in the refrigerator the day before you plan to cook.
- Preheat the oven to 425 F (218 C). Dust a baking tray with all-purpose flour.
- Wash and cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces or a fine dice.
- Shape the dough to the size of the baking tray.
- Spread a thin layer of sauce over the dough, then sprinkle cheese on top.
- Decorate the pizza with the vegetables in a pattern of your choosing.
- Bake the pizza until the dough turns golden and toasted, about 20 minutes.
- Remove the pizza from the oven. Let it cool slightly before tearing basil leaves to sprinkle on top.
- Cut the pizza into age-appropriate sizes.
Serve the Pizza
- Offer the pizza and let your baby or toddler self-feed. If the child needs help picking up the pizza crust, pass it in the air for the child to grab from you.
- Show toddlers how you like to eat the pizza: by the slice or cut up with a fork and knife. Eat your slice alongside the child to model how it’s done.
To Store: Rainbow Veggie Pizza keeps in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 3 days and in the freezer for 2 months.
J. Truppi, MS, CNS. Certified Nutrition Specialist®
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP. Board-Certified Pediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist
K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC. Pediatric Feeding Therapist
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT. Pediatric Feeding Therapist
Dr. S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
Dr. R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & 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 June 24, 2022
- 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 June 24, 2022