Spinach

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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Common Allergen: No
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a pile of raw spinach leaves before being prepared for babies starting solid food

When can babies eat spinach?

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 as food in a similar way. These leafy greens include the vigorous vine leaf called pui in India, the mustard green komatsuna in Japan, the water plant kangkong in the Philippines, the curly groundcover sambu or sissoo in Brazil, amaranth varieties like efo tete in Nigeria and morogo in South Africa, and many more.

Kaia, 5.5 months, eats a spinach omelet.
Hawii, 8 months, tries spinach with garlic for the first time.
Max, 14 months, eats a spinach-cheese omelet.

Is spinach healthy for babies?

Yes – although it is not the iron-rich superfood that marketers once claimed.1 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.2

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.3 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.4 5

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.6 First, know that the benefits of eating vegetables often outweigh the risks of any nitrate exposure from vegetables.7 8 Second, babies with health concerns or who are under 3 months of age are more susceptible to the effects of nitrates.9 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.10 11

To reduce nitrate exposure, avoid consumption of untested well water and take care with purees.12 13 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.14 Higher nitrate vegetables include arugula, beets, carrots, lettuce, spinach, and squash, among others.15

★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.16 17 18 19

Is spinach a common choking hazard for babies?

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.

Recommended Video: Choking, Gagging & Infant Rescue

Is spinach a common allergen?

No. Allergies to spinach are rare, but they have been reported.20 Individuals who are allergic to latex may be allergic to spinach or experience Oral Allergy Syndrome (also known as pollen-food allergy).21 22 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

How do you prepare spinach for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 12 months old: 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. Because picky toddler phases can crop up as early as 12 months and green vegetables are often a target of rejection, sprinkling a teaspoon of finely minced raw leafy greens such as spinach onto rice, pasta, or any other dish can help keep this food and the color green in your baby’s diet now and through toddlerhood.

12 to 24 months old: 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.

Recipe: Spinach & Goat Cheese Frittata Strips

strips of spinach and goat cheese omelet

Yield: 1 cup (225 grams)
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups fresh (75 grams) or ¼ cup (75 grams) frozen spinach
  • ½ small onion (60 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) olive oil
  • 1 ounce (28 grams) fresh pasteurized goat cheese (optional)

This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (goat cheese) and egg. Only serve to a child after these allergens have been safely introduced.

Directions

  1. Whisk the eggs to combine. Set aside.
  2. Wash and dry the spinach. Roughly chop the greens and set aside. The stems can be minced and served along with the greens, but if you like, slice off and discard the stems, or reserve for another use.
  3. Peel and mince the onion. Set aside.
  4. Warm the oil in a small skillet set on medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onion and stir to coat. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the spinach to the skillet and cover for 1 minute to help steam the leafy greens. Uncover and stir to combine the greens with the onion and oil. Cook until the spinach has wilted completely.
  6. Pour the whisked eggs into the skillet and stir to combine with the greens and onions. Lower the heat, cover, and cook until the eggs are firm and the edges have started to curl, about 5 minutes.
  7. Uncover and dollop the goat cheese on top of the frittata. Cover and cook until the frittata’s inside is fully set, about 3 minutes more. Remove the frittata from the pan.
  8. Cut the frittata into strips about the width of two adult fingers pressed together. Cool to room temperature.
  9. Offer some frittata strips to the child and let the child self-feed with hands. Exact serving size is variable. Let a child’s appetite determine how much is eaten. If the child is having trouble picking up the frittata strips, pass one in the air for the child to grab from you.

To Store: Leftover frittata keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for 4 days or in the freezer for 2 months.

Flavor Pairings

Spinach has an herby, grassy flavor that pairs well with so many foods. Try it with creamy avocado, congee (rice porridge), egg, mozzarella cheese, polenta (corn grits), mashed potato, or ricotta cheese. Mix in ground earthy nuts like almond, hazelnut, or walnut. Pair it with umami-rich foods like caramelized onion, mushroom, or roasted tomatoes. Use it to brighten up hearty meats like chicken, lamb, or pork, or legumes like black-eyed peas, chickpeas, or lentils. Or balance its slightly bitter flavor by serving spinach alongside sweet-tart fruits and veggies like bell pepper, nectarines, peaches, plums, or strawberries. As always, a pinch of spice like cumin, garlic, or ginger and a sprinkle of juice from lemon, lime, orange, or your favorite citrus goes a long way to brighten up the flavor!

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. Ancuceanu, R., Dinu, M., Hovaneţ, M.V., Anghel, A.I., Popescu, C.V., et al. (2015). A Survey of Plant Iron Content-A Semi-Systematic Review. Nutrients, 7(12), 10320–10351. DOI:10.3390/nu7125535. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  2. Yadav, S. K., Sehgal, S. (2002). Effect of domestic processing and cooking methods on total, hcl extractable iron and in vitro availability of iron in spinach and amaranth leaves. Nutrition and health, 16(2), 113–120. DOI:10.1177/026010600201600205. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  3. Bergquist, S.Å.M., Gertsson, U.E., Knuthsen, P., Olsson, M.E. (2005). Flavonoids in Baby Spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.): Changes during Plant Growth and Storage. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 53(24), 9459–9464. DOI:10.1021/jf051430h. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
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  6. Brkić, D., Bošnir, J., Bevardi, M., Bošković, A. G., Miloš, S., et al. (2017). NITRATE IN LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES AND ESTIMATED INTAKE. African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines, 14(3), 31–41. DOI: 10.21010/ajtcam.v14i3.4. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  7. Filer, L. J., Lowe, C. J., Barness, L. A., Goldbloom, R. B., Heald, F. P., et al. (1970). Infant Methemoglobinemia: The Role of Dietary Nitrate. Official Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics, 46(3), 475-478. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  8. European Food Safety Authority. (2017). EFSA Explains Risk Assessment: Nitrites and Nitrates Added in Food. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  9. Preboth, M. (2005). AAP clinical report on infant methemoglobinemia. American Family Physician, 72 (12), 2558. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
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  11. EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM). (2010). Statement on possible public health risks for infants and young children from the presence of nitrates in leafy vegetables. EFSA Journal, 8(12), 1935. Retrieved September 1, 2021.
  12. Hord, N. G., Tang, Y., Bryan, N. S. (2009). Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiological context for potential health benefits. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(1), 1-10. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.27131. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
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  15. Lidder, S., & Webb, A. J. (2013). Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables and beetroot) via the nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway. British journal of clinical pharmacology, 75(3), 677–696. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04420.x. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  16. Mayo Clinic. E.Coli: Symptoms and Causes. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
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  22. Sanchez, I., Rodriguez, F., Garcia-Abujeta, J.L., Fernandez, L., Quiñones, D., et al. (1997). Oral allergy syndrome induced by spinach. Allergy, 52(12), 1245–1246. DOI:10.1111/j.1398-9995.1997.tb02533.x. Retrieved June 23, 2021.