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Can Babies Eat Pesto?

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As your little one’s taste buds continue to develop, you may be eager to introduce new and exciting flavours to their diet. Pesto, with its vibrant green colour and aromatic smells, might be on your list of potential additions. But can babies eat pesto? Thankfully, for bold flavour lovers everywhere, pesto is completely safe for your baby to eat from 6 months onwards. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know before adding pesto to your baby’s diet.

pea pesto baby led weaning

How to start incorporating pesto into your baby’s diet.

There are many different types of pesto available on the market, however, for the sake of this blog post, we’re going to mostly be talking about traditional green pesto. This is made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, cheese and oil. There are hundreds of variations on the market that you may wish to try, including pesto made with tomato, spinach, peppers, pea pesto, kale, avocado, cashew nuts and even vegan pesto. So, before offering your baby pesto for the first time, take a look at these points of interest:

  • What are the health benefits of pesto?
  • Is it possible for my baby to be allergic to pesto?
  • Are there any potential hazards for my baby from eating pesto?
  • What is the recommended serving size of pesto for babies?

What are the health benefits of pesto?

One of the main things parents want to know when asking can babies eat pesto? is whether or not it will make a healthy addition to their child’s diet. Considering that pesto is traditionally made with fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, good quality pesto offers several health benefits for babies:

Firstly, pesto is packed with nutrients from its ingredients, including vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, and healthy fats from olive oil and pine nuts.  Basil is a key ingredient in pesto and is a herb well known for its antioxidant properties and potential health benefits. Pesto can also provide your baby with a good source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids; when pine nuts are used during production, they provide a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain development.

Additionally, for a non-health-related benefit, it’s worth noting that the unique taste of pesto is perfect for introducing babies to a diverse range of flavours. Introducing babies to strong flavours will encourage them to be more adventurous with their palates. 

pea pesto baby led weaning with small portions ready for freezing

Is it possible for my baby to be allergic to pesto?

Can babies eat pesto if they have a nut allergy? Well, contrary to popular belief, pine nuts are not actually nuts – they are in fact seeds. However, despite this, it is still possible for your baby to be allergic to this ingredient. 

It’s also worth noting that some types of pesto are made with cashew nuts; this is a tree nut and should not be given to a child with a history of nut allergies in the family without consulting your child’s GP or health visitor first. 

Another common allergen that is present in most types of pesto is parmesan cheese (or other hard cheeses) as these contain cow’s milk. Some children may also suffer from an allergic reaction when eating garlic.

Because of the high number of allergens that could be present in pesto, ensure that you never introduce more than one new food at a time when exploring solids. Keeping things simple will mean that you are able to isolate the cause of any reactions that may occur.  

If your baby does suffer an allergic reaction and it is mild, remove that food from their diet and seek advice from your child’s GP or health visitor before reintroducing it. If your baby begins to have difficulty breathing or loses consciousness, call 999 immediately. 

baby led weaning beetroot pasta sauce for babies in bamboo bamboo bowl, plate and in the pan after cooking

Are there any other potential hazards for my baby from eating pesto?

While pesto can offer health benefits, there are some other potential hazards to consider when introducing pesto into your baby’s diet.

Store-bought pesto can often contain high amounts of salt, which can cause severe health issues for babies. Before offering store-bought pesto to your baby, always check the sodium content and, if possible, purchase pesto with lower salt levels. The NHS recommends that babies get less than 1g of salt per day, whereas toddlers aged 1-3 are limited to 2g per day.

What is the recommended serving size of pesto for babies?

When introducing pesto to your baby, start with a small quantity, such as half a teaspoon, and observe your child as they eat it, looking for any allergic reactions and responses to the flavour. For babies around 8 to 12 months old, you can gradually increase the portion to 1 to 2 teaspoons, however, it’s important that you remember moderation is key. Always serve pesto as part of a balanced diet.

all the ingredients for baby pea pesto in the food processor

Shop-Bought vs. Homemade Pesto

Can babies eat pesto if it’s shop bought? Yes, of course! Although pesto that comes from the store may be higher in salt than a homemade option, there are plenty of varieties available and even some that contain a reduced amount of salt and fat. Therefore, when considering purchasing pesto for your baby, it’s best to keep an eye out for these varieties. There are some obvious advantages to buying pesto from the shop, the most popular being that it is quick and easy to serve! It can be stored in the fridge and there’s no need to faff about with ingredients and kitchen equipment.

With that being said, there are also advantages to making your own pesto at home. One of the biggest benefits of producing your own pesto is that you can control the ingredients that go into the mix. This means that you’re able to include less salt(or even no salt!), as well as being able to substitute or leave out ingredients that your baby may be intolerant or allergic to. 

pea pesto pasta ready for baby

Meal Inspiration with Pesto for Babies

You’re probably wondering how can babies eat pesto? and what’s the best way to serve it to them? Pesto is a fairly versatile food, and it doesn’t matter if you’re using traditional pesto, beetroot pesto, or even green bean pesto, because there are plenty of ways to serve this delicious and nutritious food to your baby.

The most popular way to serve pesto is, of course, with pasta! I have tried almost all types of pasta including:

  • Spaghetti noodles
  • Tagliatelle
  • Fusilli
  • Penne
  • Ravioli
  • Lasagne
  • Macaroni
  • Tortellini
  • Farfalle

From my experience, spaghetti, fusilli and tortellini are the easiest to get hold of in the supermarket, plus they’re very easy for babies to grab hold of and feed themselves.Pesto as a dip for veggies is also a great way to serve this delicious food to your baby. Use a small dollop of pesto as a dip for soft, cooked vegetables.

Use pesto as a spread by spreading a thin layer of pesto on wholegrain bread or toast for a tasty and nutritious snack.

Can babies eat pesto?

Pesto is a great food choice for parents looking to add some extra nutrition and flavour to their baby’s meals. Pesto can come in a variety of flavours and can even be made from scratch at home. Although pesto is generally safe for babies to eat, do be aware that some ingredients in shop-bought pesto may cause allergic reactions, such as hard cheese and pine nuts. Always check the ingredients list when purchasing pesto from a shop and try to look out for varieties that use a reduced amount of salt. 

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