Wheat

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.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Common Allergen: Yes (
  • Wheat
  • )

May cause allergic reactions.

Jump to Recipe ↓
a pile of wheat berries before being prepared for babies starting solid food

When can babies eat wheat?

Wheat may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Wheat is a common allergen in children, so take care to introduce the grain in small amounts at the start.1

Background and origins of wheat

The nutty, nutritious wheat plant has come a long way since prehistoric times when humans began growing and eating the ancient grain. Now one of the world’s most cultivated cereal grains—second only to corn—the wheat plant has an extensive family tree with many varieties to try, from einkorn to emmer, farro to freekeh, semolina to spelt. However, one type of wheat dominates the worldwide market: common wheat, or “bread wheat” as it is sometimes called because of its popularity in baking. At harvest time, farmers thresh the seed from the grass, and from there, the grain kernels are processed to create hundreds of food products. For example, common wheat is used to make bagels, beer, bread, couscous, crackers, croissants, flour tortillas, naan, noodles and pasta, pita, pizza dough, plant-based meat, udon, and many more delicious foods.

For information on other wheat products, check out our pages on bread, couscous, freekehKhorasan wheat, and pasta.

Elliott, 6 months, eats a wheat farina cereal.
Mahalia, 15 months, eats a wheat berry porridge.
Max, 15 months, eats blueberry pancakes.

Is wheat healthy for babies?

Yes. Wheat offers plenty of carbohydrates plus some fiber and protein, too. However, some types of wheat offer more nutrition than others. The amount of processing also plays a vital role in nutrition. Let’s take a look at three everyday wheat products:

Wheat Berries. The most nutritious way to serve wheat is the wheat berry, which is simply the whole grain kernel with the inedible husk removed. A wheat berry can be milled to make flour, but when served as a whole grain, it offers lots of nutrition thanks to the kernels’ key components: the fiber-rich bran, the starchy endosperm, and nutrient-packed germ. These parts of the kernel contain lots of fiber, protein, and nutrients like iron, magnesium, selenium, and B vitamins. Wheat berries contain beneficial plant compounds like carotenoids, lignans, and phytosterols that can support heart health.2 3

Whole Wheat Flour. Whole wheat flour is a great choice when baking for a child. When wheat berries are milled to make flour, sometimes producers include the bran and germ; other times these parts of the grain kernel are stripped away. That’s the difference between whole wheat flour and white flour, which consists of only the starchy endosperm. Pound for pound, whole wheat flour contains more calories, protein, fiber, and nutrients like iron, zinc, and B-vitamins than white flour.

White Flour. White flour contains fewer nutrients than whole wheat flour, but it still offers plenty of carbohydrates to energize growing babies. White flour has many monikers: all-purpose, bleached, cake, enriched, pastry, self-rising, unbleached, and wheat flour. Each type has slight variations in the amount of nutrients, with enriched flours generally offering the most nutrition of white flours.

★Tip: Choose organic wheat when budget and access allow it—or opt for alternative grains like amaranthbuckwheatKhorasan wheat, or quinoa. Conventionally-grown wheat is commonly sprayed with pesticides that can negatively impact human and environmental health.4 5

Which breads are most nutritious for babies?

Sprouted bread is an excellent choice for babies. Sprouted bread is made from grains that have begun the germination process, meaning that the seeds have started to sprout from exposure to water and warm temperatures. Not only does this process yield more nutrients than whole wheat grains, sprouted grains help the human body better absorb these nutrients from the food.6

Another great choice is sourdough bread. Sourdough bread is made with a starter dough that consists of water and wheat. As wheat ferments in water, the starter dough develops natural yeast and breaks down gluten. Like sprouted breads, sourdough is also easier to digest, plus the nutrients in them are also more easily absorbed by the human body than bread made with refined white flour.7

Learn more about the best breads for babies.

Can babies eat gluten?

Yes—as long as a child does not have wheat allergy, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or celiac disease.

Gluten is simply a type of protein in wheat and other grains such as barley, rye, and some oats. Gluten is edible, but it becomes problematic for individuals with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease characterized by damage of the small intestine when gluten is consumed.8 9 10 Some individuals may be sensitive to gluten, but may not have a wheat allergy or celiac disease. In some cases, this may be non-celiac gluten sensitivity. However, gluten-containing grains can also contain certain carbohydrates that are difficult for some individuals to digest.

Is wheat a common choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Whole wheat berries, bread, and many products made from wheat are potential choking hazards. For information on how to modify foods to reduce the choking risk and to see age-appropriate cuts and shapes for babies, see our page on choking hazards.

As always, make sure to create a safe eating environment, stay within arm’s reach of a baby during mealtime, 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 wheat a common allergen?

Yes. Wheat is one of the most common food allergens in children.11 Fortunately, two-thirds of children outgrow the allergy by their 12th birthday.12 Also, keep in mind that breads often contain multiple grains and other added ingredients, such as milk, sesame, and soy, which are also common allergens.

It is important to note that wheat allergy is not the same as celiac disease. While a wheat allergy may be outgrown, celiac disease requires a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet and lifestyle.13 A gluten “allergy” is typically a misnomer, often in reference to celiac disease.14

If your baby has a family history of allergies or if you are concerned that your baby may be allergic to wheat, talk to a pediatric health care provider before introducing wheat at home. As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first couple of servings and watch closely for any signs of an allergic reaction. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the amount over future servings.

While rare, some individuals have a condition known as wheat-dependent, exercise-induced anaphylaxis, which can result in a severe allergic reaction if the person exercises within a few hours after eating wheat. These patients should avoid eating wheat in the four hours before strenuous activity.15

Lastly, individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also known as pollen food allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to wheat, particularly those who are allergic to grass pollen. Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching in the mouth. It is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction.16

How do you introduce wheat for babies with baby-led weaning?

An infographic showing the sizes of bread by baby age: large ends or strips of bread at 6-9 months, bite size pieces from 9-12 months, and a half a piece of bread at 12 mos+

6 to 9 months old: Offer a warm wheat farina cereal or any multigrain fortified infant cereal. Stir in mashed fruits and veggies to add more vitamins and minerals, and once wheat has been safely introduced a few times, sprinkle with ground nuts for an extra nutritional boost and allergen exposure. You can also offer a strip of whole wheat bread or the end of a baguette or boule (crusty ends are often safer!) for baby to munch on. Just prepare yourself: bread, when moistened by saliva, can stick to the roof of the mouth and cause gagging. In the mood for pancakes? Check out our buttermilk pancake recipe.

9 to 12 months old: Boost nutrition by serving wheat berries (flatten with a fork to reduce any choking risk) and experiment with flavors by cooking the grains in different liquids such as coconut milk or unsalted broth or stock. Use wheat berries as a base for other foods like steamed vegetables, or try making a porridge, pudding, or risotto.

12 to 24 months old: This is a great time to expand the range of wheat products that you’re serving: bagels, breads, pancakes, and pizza made from whole grain wheat flour. Just be sure to keep tabs on the toddler’s overall sodium intake and round out their diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole foods to create balance.

Introducing common allergens to babies can be scary. We have a First 100 Days plan that walks you through exactly when to introduce each one with the right amount of time between them.

Recipe: Strawberries and Cream Wheat Farina

bowl of wheat farina with mashed strawberries and ground pecan, topped with a whole strawberry, on a countertop

Yield: 1 cup (1 child-sized serving)
Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 fresh large ripe strawberries or ½ cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup whole milk or fortified plant-based milk of choice
  • 3 tablespoons dry wheat farina
  • ½ teaspoon ground pecan (optional)

This recipe contains common allergens: wheat, dairy, and tree nuts. Only serve after each of these individual allergens have been introduced safely.

Directions

  1. Defrost, wash, and dry the strawberries. Cut away and discard the stems. If you are starting with whole berries, set aside the largest berry aside to serve whole. Otherwise, mash the berries.
  2. Bring the milk to a boil. Pour in the wheat farina, whisking to prevent lumps. Turn the heat to medium low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cereal has softened and thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir the mashed strawberries into the porridge. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Scoop the porridge into baby’s bowl. Sprinkle ground pecan on top before serving.
  4. To Serve: Place the bowl, the whole strawberry if serving, and a baby spoon in front of baby. Let baby self-feed by scooping with hands and trying to pick up the food. If baby needs help, pass a pre-loaded spoon or the whole strawberry in the air for baby to grab from you.

To Store: Cooked wheat farina porridge keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3 days.

Flavor Pairings

Wheat flours and wheat berries have a nutty taste that pairs with sweet and savory foods alike. Try experimenting with different flavor combinations that suite your family’s preferences and tastes.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD

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

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. (allergy section)

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

  1. Food Allergy Research & Education. Wheat Allergy. Retrieved June 7, 2020
  2. Luthria, D., Lu, Y., Maria John, K.M. (2015). Bioactive phytochemicals in wheat: Extraction, analysis, processing, and functional properties. Journal of Functional Foods, 18(B), 910-925. DOI: 10.1016/j.jff.2015.01.001.Retrieved February 17, 2021
  3. Okarter, N., Liu, R.H. (2010). Health benefits of whole grain phytochemicals. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 50(3), 193–208. DOI:10.1080/10408390802248734. Retrieved February 17, 2021
  4. Ram, H., Rashid, A., Zhang, W. et al. Biofortification of wheat, rice and common bean by applying foliar zinc fertilizer along with pesticides in seven countries. Plant Soil 403, 389–401 (2016). DOI:10.1007/s11104-016-2815-3. Retrieved February 17, 2021
  5. Yılmaz, H., Cagla Ormeci Kart, M., Demircan, V. (2016). Economic analysis of pesticide use in wheat production for sustainable rural development. International Conference: Economic Science for Rural Development, 42(16), 295-302. Retrieved February 17, 2021
  6. Benincasa, P., Falcinelli, B., Lutts, S., Stagnari, F., & Galieni, A. (2019). Sprouted Grains: A Comprehensive Review. Nutrients, 11(2), 421. DOI:10.3390/nu11020421. Retrieved February 19, 2021
  7. Gänzle, M., Loponen, J., Gobbetti, M. (2008). Proteolysis in sourdough fermentations: mechanisms and potential for improved bread quality. Trends in Food Science and Technology, 19(10), 513-521. DOI: 10.1016/j.tifs.2008.04.002. Retrieved February 17, 2021
  8. Celiac Disease Foundation. What is Celiac Disease? Retrieved February 17, 2021
  9. Massachusetts General Hospital. Center for Celiac Research: Celiac Disease FAQ. Retrieved February 17, 2021
  10. Elli, L., Branchi, F., Tomba, C., Villalta, D., Norsa, L., et al. (2015). Diagnosis of gluten related disorders: Celiac disease, wheat allergy and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. World journal of gastroenterology, 21(23), 7110–7119. DOI:10.3748/wjg.v21.i23.7110. Retrieved February 17, 2021
  11. Food Allergy Research & Education. Wheat Allergy. Retrieved June 7, 2020
  12. Food Allergy Research & Education. Wheat Allergy. Retrieved June 7, 2020
  13. Food Allergy Research & Education. Wheat Allergy. Retrieved June 7, 2020
  14. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Wheat Allergy. Retrieved February 17, 2021
  15. Feldweg AM. Food-Dependent, Exercise-Induced Anaphylaxis: Diagnosis and Management in the Outpatient Setting. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2017 Mar-Apr;5(2):283-288. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2016.11.022. PMID: 28283153.
  16. 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 February 17, 2021