Spinach may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Spinach originated in West Asia and today there are many varieties related to two main types: savoy spinach with crinkly, curly leaves and flat-leaf spinach with smooth leaves that can be round, oval, or heart-shaped. There are also different species of edible leafy greens that are commonly called “spinach” in English and prepared in a similar way, including pui in India, komatsuna in Japan, kangkong in the Philippines, sambu or sissoo in Brazil, amaranth varieties like efo tete in Nigeria and morogo in South Africa, and many more.
Yes – although it is not the iron-rich superfood that marketers once claimed. While it is true that fresh spinach contains some iron, the amount of iron is not as high as it was once thought to be and the presence of oxalates in the leafy green can decrease the body’s ability to absorb these minerals. Cooking spinach and eating the leafy green alongside foods with vitamin C helps the body absorb more of the iron.
Spinach’s lesser-known superpower is its incredible concentrations of vitamin K and beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. Together, these nutrients promote healthy bones, blood, and cell function. The leafy green also contains a good amount of B vitamins to fuel a baby’s growth and plant-based antioxidants called carotenoids that support a baby’s developing vision. Once you’ve introduced spinach, keep it up! The more that a child is exposed to vegetables and green in their food, the more likely it is that they will eat them later on.
You may have heard that spinach contains nitrates—naturally-occurring plant compounds that may negatively affect oxygen levels in blood when consumed in great excess. First, know that the benefits of eating vegetables often outweigh the risks of any nitrate exposure from vegetables. Second, babies with health concerns or who are under 3 months of age are more susceptible to the effects of nitrates. Organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the European Food Safety Authority generally do not view nitrates in vegetables as a concern for most healthy children.
To reduce nitrate exposure, avoid consumption of untested well water and take care with purees. When possible, avoid homemade purees made with higher nitrate vegetables that are stored for more than 24 hours and commercial purees not consumed within 24 hours of opening. Higher nitrate vegetables include arugula, beets, carrots, lettuce, spinach, and squash, among others.
★Tip: Spinach can be purchased fresh, frozen, or preserved in cans. When cooking fresh spinach for babies and toddlers, wash the greens first. Spinach and other leafy greens are often treated with pesticides and can be a higher risk food for E. coli infection. Washing helps minimize exposure to both issues.
No. Allergies to spinach are rare, but they have been reported. Individuals who are allergic to latex may be allergic to spinach or experience Oral Allergy Syndrome (also known as pollen-food allergy). 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 spinach is naturally high in histamine, some individuals who are sensitive to histamine may experience symptoms that are indistinguishable from an allergic reaction after the ingestion of large quantities of spinach.
As you would do when introducing any new food, start by offering a small amount during the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the amount served over future meals.
Recommended Guide: Introducing Allergens
No. Spinach is not a choking hazard, though, in theory, an individual could choke on any food. Flecks of raw or cooked spinach can stick to baby’s tongue, causing some harmless gagging and whole, raw spinach leaves can be especially challenging for babies to chew and swallow safely. To minimize the risk, finely dice raw and cooked spinach.
As always, make sure to create a safe eating environment and stay within arm’s reach of baby at mealtime. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Juliet Rose, 7 months, eats a spinach omelet cut into strips.
Hawii, 8 months, tries spinach with garlic for the first time.
Max, 14 months, eats a spinach-cheese omelet.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Wash, cook, and mince spinach, then fold the greens into soft foods that are easy for baby to scoop, like grain porridges, mashed vegetables, or yogurt. You can also mix the cooked and minced spinach into cooked egg dishes like frittata. Or serve cooked and minced spinach on its own with a small drizzle of oil and citrus juice, whose vitamin C helps baby’s body absorb the plant-based iron in the spinach. Spinach stems are edible and do not pose any unusual risk, though many babies will spit them out until they learn to grind with molars.
After 12 months of age, toddlers often start to reject vegetables and greens, so keep up the exposure at mealtime. The more that a child is exposed to vegetables and green in their food, the more likely it is that they will eat them later on. Continue to offer cooked and chopped spinach on its own, fold cooked and chopped spinach into egg dishes and scoopable foods and create zero-pressure opportunities for older toddlers to experience spinach without having to taste it. For example, invite the child to help you wash raw greens or defrost frozen greens by pushing the buttons on a microwave or opening the package into a steamer basket. As your child’s chewing skills become more coordinated and you gain confidence in their ability to chew and swallow as well as chew and spit out food if not safe to swallow (usually closer to 24 months), you may start to offer your child raw spinach as in a salad. Expect that they will likely chew and spit out at first before beginning to chew and swallow. Modeling and coaching how to take bites and fully chew a food like raw spinach can go a long way towards helping your toddler learn to eat this food.
For a quick reference to the key nutrients babies need, check out our Nutrient Cheat Sheet for Babies.
Pediatrician & pediatric gastroenterologist
Pediatrician & pediatric allergist/immunologist
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Pediatric registered dietitian & nutritionist
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