Something you may be wondering if you’re feeding little ones, is if babies and toddlers can have beans in their diet and, if so, from what age? A question I’m often asked is “can my baby have beans” and, in particular, parents want to know about offering baked beans to babies. In this blog, I’ll answer all you need to know when it comes to offering beans to your baby.
Can my baby eat beans?
The simple answer is, yes! Beans are a nutritious food that are a great option for babies and young children.
There are so many different varieties of beans including kidney beans, butter beans, black beans, cannellini beans, adzuki beans and borlotti beans. Do check that they are tinned in water and don’t have added salt in the ingredients list.
My blog on reading food labels for toddlers can help you to make sense of the food labels on foods such as beans!
From a practical perspective, beans (if tinned) are:
- Easy to store and have a long shelf-life
- Easy to prepare
All in all, beans are a great option for feeding babies and young children.
And from a nutrition perspective, beans contain:
|Protein / 100g
|Fibre / 100g
|Iron / 100g
|Calcium / 100g
|Magnesium / 100g
|Potassium / 100g
Data from Nutritics
To put that into context, 2 tablespoons of black beans provides:
- 8% of daily recommended protein intake
- 17% of daily recommended fibre intake
- 9% of daily recommended iron intake
- 5% of daily recommended calcium intake
(based on the nutritional requirements for a 1 year old)
What are the best beans for my baby?
Put simply, there’s no ONE perfect type of bean that’s best for babies. As you can see from the table above, different types of beans provide varying levels of different nutrients, which is another reason why I ALWAYS talk about the importance of variety!
When can my baby have beans?
From 6 months, once your baby has had their first tastes of food, beans are an ideal food for starting to build in different flavours, textures, as well as offering a source of iron, which is important for babies at this stage. My sweet potato, butterbean and cumin mash is an ideal recipe for babies at the start of weaning.
Can my baby have baked beans?
Baked beans, in tomato sauce can be quite high in salt and sugar. As it’s not recommended to offer babies (or young children) much in the way of added sugar and salt they aren’t ideal options for young babies and are best to be offered as occasional options for toddlers. Don’t worry if you are offering them, that’s fine, just try and stick to them being every now and then, convenient options instead.
When it comes to the LOW salt and SUGAR ones, it’s really about your family’s preference. However, these ones DO contain sweeteners. In the UK, it’s recommended that food manufacturers don’t add artificial sweeteners and food additives to food prepared for babies and young children. Whilst they are likely to have these ingredients from other sources – and that’s ok – it’s best to keep their intake to a minimum where possible.
I personally prefer offering the standard version of baked beans, but just not too often as I think they taste better than the low sugar varieties, but it’s really up to you what your family prefers. For more on offering salt and sugar to babies, check my blogs: how much salt should a baby have and sugar for babies and young children.
Can babies choke on beans?
A real worry for parents is whether beans are a choking hazard. The size and shape of beans can make them a bit problematic until your baby has developed more in the way of eating skills and the ability to bite and chomp these soft beans. For younger babies it’s a good idea to give them a bit of a mash with a fork or blend them into sauces before serving. For older babies who have developed their chewing skills are bit more and also their pincer grip, soft beans that have been cooked should be manageable. Use your judgement and if you’re worried, you can still flatten them before serving to your baby. Check out my blog on moving through finger foods for more info on this too.
How to serve baked beans to baby
Some of favourite ways to serve beans to babies and young children are:
- With jacket potatoes
- On toast
- In a chili sauce with rice
- As a base for hummus – try my butter bean hummus recipe for babies and toddlers
- In pasta sauces – try this butternut squash and butterbean pasta bake recipe
- In soups – roasted pumpkin and cannellini bean soup recipe
- In stews – baby friendly bean stew recipe
Homemade baked beans
Making a homemade version of baked beans can actually be quite simple. As I mentioned earlier in the blog, one option is to simply mix some drained, tinned beans together with some tomato puree. Or another option is to heat together a can of chopped tomatoes with a can of drained beans and add some of your favourite herbs or spices.
I also have a recipe for veg packed baked beans in my book How to Feed Your Toddler, and my kids really love it.