Tomato

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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2 heirloom tomatoes before being prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat tomato?

Tomatoes may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Tomatoes and other acidic foods can cause a harmless rash on skin that comes into contact with the juices and sometimes they can even contribute to diaper rash.1

Warning

Tomatoes, especially grape and cherry tomatoes, are a common choking hazard, so keep reading to learn how to serve safely.

Background and origins of tomato

From curries to pastas to salsas, tomatoes show up in dishes made in all corners of the world, but it wasn’t always that way. The tomato plant is native to Central and South America, where it is believed to have been first cultivated by Aztecs, who gave the Nahuatl name of tomātl to the plump juicy fruit. Yes, the tomato is technically a fruit, but for international trade, it has been defined by U.S. law as a vegetable—a label that stuck in consumer culture.

While its roots are in the Americas, tomatoes are one of the most ubiquitous ingredients in cooking today in part due to the Spanish conquistadors, who took the seeds to Europe. There, the tomato was nicknamed the “love apple” (a nickname that stems from the tomato’s supposed aphrodisiac powers) and eventually spread to gardens around the globe through European colonization.

Money Saver Icon Tomatoes are easy to grow from a packet of seeds and thrive in almost any spot with lots of sun!

Juliet Rose, 6 months, explores large tomato wedges.
Kalani, 8 months, eats large tomato wedges.
Amelia, 8 months, eats quartered cherry tomatoes.

Are tomatoes healthy for babies?

Yes. Tomatoes have tons of vitamin C, which makes them an ideal pairing with foods that are rich in plant-based iron, such as beans, lentils, and peas. (Vitamin C aids the absorption of iron from plant foods.) Tomatoes are also packed with carotenoids, a group of phytonutrients that color plants and provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to our bodies.2 3 4  Phytonutrients differ by variety of tomato and each offers unique benefits from promoting eyesight, immunity, and heart health to protecting skin against the sun.5 6 7 8 9

When shopping for tomatoes, it’s a good idea to buy organic if you can, as tomato plants are typically sprayed with pesticides. High levels of pesticide residues may disrupt the endocrine system, contribute to obesity, and adversely impact neurodevelopment.10  For these reasons, always wash tomatoes well before serving.

★Tip: Hold that refrigerator door! Store tomatoes on the countertop upside down (with stem side on the bottom) to increase their shelf life.

Are tomatoes a common choking hazard for babies?

Yes, particularly cherry and grape tomatoes. To minimize the risk, choose ripe tomatoes, stick with wedges of beefsteak or other large tomatoes, and smash cherry and grape tomatoes between your thumb and finger or quarter them lengthwise. As always, make sure you are creating a safe environment at meal and snack time, and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions. For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Is tomato a common allergen?

No. Tomato allergy is uncommon, but not unheard of.11 Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family of plants, and some individuals may be sensitive to the nightshade family, although information is limited. Additionally, individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (and in particular those allergic to grass or ragweed) may be sensitive to tomatoes, resulting in itching or discomfort in the mouth.12 Cooking the tomato can reduce the chance of experiencing oral allergy symptoms. As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity on its own for the first couple of servings and watch closely as your baby eats. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the serving size over time.

Note: Tomatoes and other acidic foods can cause a harmless rash on skin that comes into contact with the juices and sometimes contribute to diaper rash.13 The skin rash, which typically shows up around the mouth and chin is typically harmless and usually dissipates within minutes once the skin is gently cleansed.

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

a Solid Starts infographic with the header "How to Cut Tomato for Babies": a large wedge for 6-9 mos, quartered cherry tomatoes for 9-18 mos, and varies for whole cherry or grape tomatoes

6 to 9 months old: Quarter a large tomato and offer the wedges for your baby to suck and munch on. If the tomato skin becomes a nuisance, simply take it away and offer a fresh wedge to your baby. At this stage you can also offer a whole, large tomato for your baby to eat, as if they were eating a whole peach. Remember that tomatoes can cause a rash where acidic juice comes into contact with a baby’s skin and can also contribute to diaper rash, so be mindful not to offer too much. If your baby seems sensitive to the juices, try serving cooked tomato or another food in a simple tomato sauce.

9 to 18 months old: Try serving quartered cherry tomatoes as finger food or to practice with a pre-loaded fork. Keep an eye out for any lingering tomato skins, and if they come off while eating, coach your little one to spit them out by sticking your tongue out. Tomato sauce is also a great vehicle for other foods (like meats) particularly if your toddler develops picky eating habits.

18 to 24 months old: Salad time! This is a great age to introduce the joy of raw, crunchy vegetables. Try serving quartered cherry tomatoes (or wedges of bigger tomatoes) alongside a sauce or spread for dipping.

24 months old and up: You can continue to serve quartered cherry tomatoes. When you feel your child has developed mature eating skills (taking small bites with their teeth, moving food to the side of the mouth when chewing, chewing thoroughly before swallowing, not stuffing food in their mouths, and finally, identifying and spitting out foods when they are not well chewed) AND they are able to eat quartered cherry tomatoes with ease, they may be ready to learn how to eat whole cherry tomatoes. Remember that practice with whole cherry tomatoes should always be in a supported seat with direct supervision and coaching from you.

If you have not yet offered cherry tomatoes halved lengthwise, you may want to begin with this size before progressing to whole ones. Then, start with large, ripe cherry tomatoes—the larger the better. We recommend the long, oval-shaped ones (sometimes called grape tomatoes) instead of the smaller round size, as the larger ones are more likely to get your baby to bite into them as opposed to placing the whole thing in their mouth. We recommend you demonstrate first: taking a slow bite to cut the tomato in half with your front teeth. Hand the other half to your toddler and let him or her take it and eat it. Then offer the second whole cherry tomato to your child and let him or her follow your lead with eating it. Likely, they will bite it in half as you did, though if your child shoves the whole thing in their mouth, refrain from gasping or yelling. Remain calm and say, “That’s a very big bite. You need to chew it.” Then wait patiently as they chew and swallow or spit out the too-big bite. From there, either end the activity and go back to smaller pieces for a while if your child seems to struggle or try a few times more with additional coaching to see if they can build on their skills.

hand holding one tomato wedge
Tomato wedge for 6 to 9 months and up
hand holding several pieces of quartered cherry tomatoes
Quartered cherry tomatoes for babies 9 months and up.

Add some variety to mealtimes with our guide, 100 Dinners for Babies & Toddlers.

Recipe: Big Batch Bolognese Sauce

tomato sauce with meat in a bowl, next to a wooden spoon and bay leaves

Yield: 6 quarts (6 liters)
Cook Time: 6 hours
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

Substitutes: 

  • Swap beef and pork for bison, venison, or any ground red meat with lots of flavor

This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (cheese), egg (pasta), and wheat (pasta). 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 pasta. Added ingredients may include additional common allergens.

Directions

Prepare the Sauce: 

  1. If you are starting with frozen meat, defrost it in the refrigerator before you plan to cook.
  2. Heat ½ cup (120 milliliters) of oil in a large skillet on medium heat. 
  3. While oil is warming, peel and finely chop the onions and garlic. 
  4. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and garlic and stir to coat. Cook until onion has softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add meat to the skillet. Break up the meat into crumbles, then stir to coat crumbles in the oil and onion. Cook until meat is browned, about 15 minutes. 
  6. Stir in tomato paste. Cook until tomato paste starts to brown, about 5 minutes.
  7. In your largest pot, bring the canned tomatoes to a lively simmer, then add onion-meat-garlic mixture, bay leaves, and remaining ½ cup (120 milliliters) of oil. 
  8. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a lively simmer. Cook, partially covered, until sauce is a deep red, between 4 to 5 hours. For extra-thick sauce, cook uncovered until desired consistency is reached.
  9. Divide the cooked sauce into airtight containers, taking care to leave an inch or two of space at the top for the sauce to expand in the freezer. Let the sauce cool for at least 15 minutes before closing containers. Use masking tape and a marker to label containers with the date. 
  10. Cool sauce to room temperature in containers, then transfer them to the freezer. 

Serve the Sauce:

  1. To defrost a jar of sauce, transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator two days before you plan to serve it. 
  2. Warm sauce in a pot on medium heat. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. 
  3. Cook pasta of your choice according to package instructions. If baby is under 12 months, don’t salt the cooking water. 
  4. Use a slotted spoon, sieve, or colander to transfer the pasta directly from boiling water to a mixing bowl. Don’t discard the pasta cooking water yet.
  5. Stir your desired amount of sauce into the pasta, adding some of the pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce as you like.
  6. Scoop some pasta into baby’s bowl. Serving size varies. Let the child decide how much to eat. 
  7. Season the pasta and sauce for adults and older children with salt to taste. Keep warm while baby’s pasta cools to room temperature. When you are ready to serve, sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.
  8. Offer baby the bowl of cooled pasta and sauce and let the child self-feed. If you like, preload a utensil and rest it next to the food for the child to try to pick up. Alternatively, pass the preloaded utensil in the air for the child to grab from you. 

To Store: Bolognese Sauce keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4 days or in the freezer for 6 months.

Meal Ideas:

  1. Serve bolognese sauce over polenta instead of pasta.  
  2. Mix penne, vegetables, and bolognese sauce for a simple pasta bake. 
  3. Mash rice and bolognese sauce into stuffing for bell pepper, tomato, or zucchini.
  4. Thicken bolognese sauce with breadcrumbs and roll into meatballs.

Flavor Pairings

Tomatoes are packed with umami! Their acidity can balance rich, flavor-forward foods like anchovy, bacon, capers, cheese, eggs, and olives, but the tanginess also complements similarly tart fruits like citrus, melon, and strawberries. Versatile and easy to prepare, tomatoes pair well with cucumbers, peppers, or your favorite crunch veggie in a salad. They’re also easily mixed into farro, quinoa, or your favorite hearty grain. Try seasoning tomatoes with equally bright flavors from fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, or dill are lovely) or bold spices like coriander, cumin, sumac, or turmeric.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP

K. Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC

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. Paulsen, E., Christensen, L. P., & Andersen, K. E. (2012). Tomato contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis, 67(6), 321–327. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0536.2012.02138.x. Retrieved August 14, 2020
  2. Riso P, Visioli F, Erba D, Testolin G, Porrini M. Lycopene and vitamin C concentrations increase in plasma and lymphocytes after tomato intake. Effects on cellular antioxidant protection. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2004;58(10):1350-1358. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601974
  3. Young, A. J., & Lowe, G. L. (2018). Carotenoids-Antioxidant Properties. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 7(2), 28. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox7020028
  4. Bungau, S., Abdel-Daim, M. M., Tit, D. M., Ghanem, E., Sato, S., Maruyama-Inoue, M., Yamane, S., & Kadonosono, K. (2019). Health Benefits of Polyphenols and Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Diseases. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2019, 9783429.
  5. Khoo, H. E., Prasad, K. N., Kong, K. W., Jiang, Y., & Ismail, A. (2011). Carotenoids and their isomers: color pigments in fruits and vegetables. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 16(2), 1710–1738.
  6. D’Ambrosio, D. N., Clugston, R. D., & Blaner, W. S. (2011). Vitamin A metabolism: an update. Nutrients, 3(1), 63–103.
  7. Story, E. N., Kopec, R. E., Schwartz, S. J., & Harris, G. K. (2010). An update on the health effects of tomato lycopene. Annual review of food science and technology, 1, 189–210.
  8. Stahl W, Heinrich U, Wiseman S, Eichler O, Sies H, Tronnier H. Dietary tomato paste protects against ultraviolet light-induced erythema in humans. J Nutr. 2001;131(5):1449-1451. doi:10.1093/jn/131.5.1449
  9. Chaudhary, P., Sharma, A., Singh, B., & Nagpal, A. K. (2018). Bioactivities of phytochemicals present in tomato. Journal of food science and technology, 55(8), 2833–2849.
  10. Braun J. M. (2017). Early-life exposure to EDCs: role in childhood obesity and neurodevelopment. Nature reviews. Endocrinology, 13(3), 161–173. DOI: 10.1038/nrendo.2016.186. Retrieved August 14, 2020
  11. Asero R. (2013). Tomato allergy: clinical features and usefulness of current routinely available diagnostic methods. Journal of investigational allergology & clinical immunology, 23(1), 37–42. Retrieved August 14, 2020
  12. Muluk, N. B., & Cingi, C. (2018). Oral allergy syndrome. American journal of rhinology & allergy, 32(1), 27–30. DOI: 10.2500/ajra.2018.32.4489. Retrieved August 14, 2020
  13. Paulsen, E., Christensen, L. P., & Andersen, K. E. (2012). Tomato contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis, 67(6), 321–327. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0536.2012.02138.x. Retrieved August 14, 2020