Seaweed, especially some seaweed-based supplements and powders, can contain high levels of iodine, an essential nutrient that can cause negative side effects if consumed in excess. Take care to limit seaweed to once or twice a week and read on for which types of seaweed are best for babies.
When can babies eat seaweed?
Seaweed (dried or fresh) maybe introduced to babies in small amounts as soon as they are ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Check out the best types of seaweed for babies (and which types you must avoid) as well as preparation suggestions by age.
Is seaweed healthy for babies?
Yes, in moderation. Organic seaweed is a great addition to your baby’s diet if kept to small quantities. With more protein than soy and lots of vitamin C, seaweed is a powerful source of nutrition. Seaweed is also high in iodine—an essential trace nutrient that is commonly deficient in Americans—but also one that can cause serious thyroid problems (affecting growth) if too much is consumed.
Is seaweed a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Seaweed can be hard for babies to chew in all of its forms. To minimize the risk for babies younger than 12 mos, crush unsalted, dried seaweed and sprinkle on other solid food or finely chop fresh seaweed. When you feel your babe is adept at biting, tearing, and chewing, you can try introducing whole sheets of dried seaweed.
What kind of seaweed is best for babies?
Nori seaweed. While there are about 20 varieties of seaweed commonly eaten, including nori, kombu, wakame, dulse and kelp, the iodine content of these types varies greatly and not all are safe for babies. Nori has lower levels of iodine and is an excellent choice for babies, whereas kombu and wakame (the rubbery kind traditionally used in miso soup) are very high in iodine and should be limited. 1
The recommended dietary allowance for iodine is 130 mcg/day for infants in the 7- to 12-month range and then it actually decreases to 90 mcg/day until your child is eight years old (meaning your toddler needs less iodine than your infant, but the maximum intake increases to 200 mcg per day through age 3.2 For reference, SeaSnax, a popular roasted seaweed that is marketed for kids, has 25 mcg of iodine per serving.
Keep in mind that seaweed acts like a sponge and absorbs heavy metals—such as mercury and lead—from the waters in which it is grows. When purchasing seaweed, buy brands that are certified organic by the USDA and avoid Hijiki seaweed, which can have high levels of arsenic.
Is seaweed a common allergen?
No, and babies who are allergic to fish or shellfish should be able to eat seaweed as long as there has been no cross contamination with fish flesh.3 Do note, however, that many processed edible seaweeds contain sesame, a common food allergen.
How do you prepare seaweed 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 months old+: Crush dried sheets of unsalted Nori seaweed into flakes and serve as a seasoning on top of baby’s meal. You can also introduce chopped fresh seaweed and mix into other foods that are easy for baby to scoop up with their hands.
9 months old+: Continue to use crushed seaweed as a topping, and offer fresh seaweed, either in thin strands or chopped.
18 months+: Continue with freshly chopped seaweed and when you feel your toddler is ready, introduce dried seaweed snack sheets. Encourage your toddler to take bites, rather than to shove the whole sheet into their mouth.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Serve dried seaweed sheets as a dessert to a meal or with another snack as they are unlikely to satiate hunger on their own.
Recipe: Roasted Seaweed
- Fresh Seaweed Sheets (Nori or Other Edible Variety)
- Sesame Oil or Avocado Oil
- Check the expiration date of the seaweed package before starting. Seaweed goes rancid quickly so you want to work with it while it’s still fresh.
- Brush one side of the seaweed sheets with sesame oil or avocado oil. Heat up a large skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, toast each oiled seaweed sheet for a few minutes on each side. Remove the seaweed to a baking tray lined with a paper towel, and let cool completely.
- Cut into age-appropriate pieces and serve. Store unused fresh seaweed sheets in a container in the freezer.
Seaweed pairs beautifully with rice, sesame (oil, seeds, and tahini), avocado, fish, and hummus.
- Assessment of Japanese iodine intake based on seaweed consumption in Japan, Thyroid Research Journal (2011). Retrieved November 1, 2019.
- National Institutes of Health, Iodine. Retrieved January 20, 2021
- Marks, D., Can I Eat Seaweed If I Have a Seafood Allergy? Retrieved October 11, 2019 from Livestrong.com.