Romaine

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Poop Friendly:Whether a food has qualities that help baby poop. Yes
Common Allergen: No
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a head of romaine ready to be prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies have romaine?

Romaine may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. That said, chewing and swallowing lettuce can be tricky for the youngest eaters, so check out our serving suggestions by age.

Where does romaine come from?

Also known as cos lettuce, romaine was first cultivated in the fertile lands connecting Africa, Asia, and Europe many centuries ago. In fact, the name “romaine lettuce” comes from lattuga romana in Italian and laitue romaine in French, both names that hint at the lettuce’s popularity in the Roman empire. Modern romaine is sturdier than other lettuce, with crunchy ribs and slightly bitter leaves. It is grown and eaten worldwide in braises, salads, stews, and stir-fries.

Calum, 8 months, teethes on a rib of romaine with most of the leafy part removed.
Julian, 12 months, explores a leaf of romaine.
Sebastián, 13 months, eats a large leaf of romaine.

Is romaine healthy for babies?

Yes. Romaine lettuce offers ample amounts of water and an array of important nutrients for a developing child, including vitamin A, as well as potassium, vitamin K, and fiber. In tandem, these nutrients work to support vision, heart health, healthy blood, and a healthy digestive system.

Romaine may be contaminated with foodborne illness-causing germs, such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria.1 Wash romaine thoroughly under cold running water (no need for vinegar) before serving or cooking it, and dispose of any romaine that has been recalled by your country’s public health organization.2 3 Pre-washed bagged romaine lettuce does not require additional washing at home.

★Tip: To store romaine lettuce, wrap the greens in a towel and store them in a loosely covered container in the refrigerator. Storing this way minimizes exposure to air and moisture, which speeds up spoiling, and can extend the shelf life by a week or two.

Can romaine help babies poop?

Yes. Romaine is high in fiber and water, both of which support healthy digestion and regular pooping. Note that pooping patterns can vary significantly from child to child. Be sure to talk to your pediatric healthcare provider if you have concerns about baby’s pooping and digestive function.

Is romaine a common choking hazard for babies?

No, romaine is not a common choking hazard, though small shreds of romaine carry a risk of aspiration (when food or fluid accidentally enters the airway but does not block it). Romaine and other leafy greens often cause gagging and coughing if the leaves cling to baby’s tongue or the roof of their mouth. Offer a drink in an open cup to help baby wash any pieces of food down. As always, make sure to 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.

Is romaine a common allergen?

No, allergies to romaine and other lettuce varieties are rare, though when they do occur, they can be severe.4 Individuals with lettuce allergy may be sensitive to lipid transfer proteins in other foods such as peach, cherry, carrot, grape, corn, hazelnut, peanut, and walnut. However, it is not typical for people with lettuce allergy to react to all these other foods.5 6 Individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen-food allergy syndrome), and in particular, those with sensitivities to plane tree pollen, may also be sensitive to lettuce.7 8 9 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching, tingling, or burning in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction. Cooking lettuce may help minimize or eliminate the reaction.10 11

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 introduce romaine to babies with baby-led weaning?

6 months and up: At this age, baby is not likely to bite, chew, and swallow romaine, but rather munch and teethe on it, which helps develop oral-motor skills. Offer romaine ribs (the thicker, firmer leaf stems that grow from the head’s core) cut into strips, with the flimsy leaf part removed. You can also mix finely-shredded cooked romaine into scoopable foods to encourage self-feeding. Introducing green foods to baby early and regularly can help to prevent picky eating later.

9 months and up: Offer romaine (from the rib or leafy part) that has been finely chopped to encourage development of the pincer grasp (where the index finger and the thumb meet). Greens often cling to the back of the roof of the mouth of babies and adults alike. Tossing the greens with a homemade dressing can help move along any bits that may get stuck. You can also offer a small amount of water in an open cup to help wash them down. Alternatively, you can continue to offer large romaine leaves for biting and tearing practice.

12 months and up: Serve bite-sized pieces of romaine (either the rib or leaf) as finger food or alongside a utensil, or offer a whole leaf. Eat alongside the child to model how it’s done, and if your toddler refuses the greens, try not to apply pressure, and don’t write off the food entirely. Keep in mind, toddlers cannot learn to taste or enjoy foods that aren’t offered to them, so even if you don’t think your toddler will explore a salad or other dish with leafy greens, serve them some anyway so they can get used to it being a part of their meal.

a romaine rib for babies 6 months+
A rib of romaine with most of the leafy part torn off for babies 6 months+
a hand holding finely chopped pieces of romaine for babies 9 months+
Finely chopped romaine for babies 9 months+
How to prepare romaine for babies 6 months+
How to prepare romaine for babies 9 months+

Learn how to interest kids in trying new foods in our guide, 25 Ways to Help Kids Taste Proteins & Vegetables.

Recipe: Romaine with Creamy Bagna Cauda for Baby and Me

Yield: 1 salad + 1 cup (240 ml) of bagna cauda
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 1 head romaine
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
  • 4 tbsp (56 g) butter
  • 1 c (240 ml) heavy cream (optional)
  • ¼ c (60 g) walnuts (optional)
  • ¼ tsp (½ g) black pepper (optional)

This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (butter, heavy cream) and tree nuts (walnuts). Only serve to a child after these allergens have been safely introduced.

Directions

Prepare the Romaine

  1. Separate enough leaves from the head to make a salad to share with your child. Reserve the rest for another use.
  2. Cut some of the leaves into age-appropriate sizes for your child and chop the rest for your salad.

Prepare the Bagna Cauda

  1. Finely grind the garlic and the walnuts (or any seed or tree nut that has been safely introduced) to make a paste.
  2. Warm the olive oil and butter in a saucepan on low heat. Melt the butter slowly so as not to change the color and flavor.
  3. Once the butter is melted, add the garlic – walnut paste, and cook until the paste is aromatic, about 5 minutes.
  4. Whisk in the heavy cream and stir constantly on low heat until it simmers. Continue simmering until the sauce reduces, about 15 minutes. Don’t stop stirring, or the ingredients may separate. The bagna cauda is ready when it is smooth, saucy, and slightly thickened.
  5. Season the bagna cauda with black pepper. Set aside some bagna cauda for your child, then season the rest with anchovies or salt to taste for yourself and drizzle it on your romaine. Let the bagna cauda cool a bit before offering it to your child, but serve it while it is still warm.

Serve the Salad

  1. Offer romaine with a drizzle or small bowl of bagna cauda and let your child self-feed.
  2. If help is needed, dip a piece of romaine in the bagna cauda, then hold it in the air in front of your child and let them grab it from you.
  3. Eat your salad alongside your child to model how it’s done.

To Store: Bagna Cauda is best enjoyed the day it is made. Leftover romaine keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Flavor Pairings

Romaine pairs well with the flavors of anchovy, garlic, lemon, olive oil, peach and steak.

Reviewed by

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP. Board-Certified Pediatric Dietitian & 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

  1. Centers for Disease Control. Lettuce, Other Leafy Greens, and Food Safety. Retrieved September 20, 2022
  2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Selecting and serving produce safely. Retrieved September 20, 2022
  3. Centers for Disease Control. Lettuce, Other Leafy Greens, and Food Safety. Retrieved September 20, 2022
  4. 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 September 20, 2022
  5. 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. Retrieved September 20, 2022
  6. Asero R, Mistrello G, Roncarolo D, Amato S, Caldironi G, Barocci F, Van Ree R. Immunological cross-reactivity between lipid transfer proteins from botanically unrelated plant-derived foods: a clinical study. Allergy 2002;57(10):900-6. Retrieved September 20, 2022
  7. 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 September 20, 2022.
  8. Canela L. (2015). Oral allergy syndrome. The World Allergy Organization Journal, 8(Suppl 1), A191. DOI: 10.1186/1939-4551-8-S1-A191. Retrieved September 20, 2022
  9. Kashyap, R. R., & Kashyap, R. S. (2015). Oral Allergy Syndrome: An Update for Stomatologists. Journal of allergy, 2015, 543928. DOI: 10.1155/2015/543928. Retrieved September 20, 2022
  10. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Oral allergy syndrome (OAS). Retrieved September 20, 2022
  11. Kashyap, R. R., & Kashyap, R. S. (2015). Oral Allergy Syndrome: An Update for Stomatologists. Journal of allergy, 2015, 543928. DOI: 10.1155/2015/543928. Retrieved September 20, 2022