Fruits and Vegetables for Your Baby – Cooked or Raw?
Cooking your baby’s fruits and vegetables, or giving them raw, will mainly depend on his or her stage of development – though it may also depend on the fruit or vegetable itself.
You will need to consider some of the possible problems that could arise:
Risk of choking…
- Many raw fruits and vegetables present a serious choking hazard – if your baby has no back teeth (molars), he or she will not be able to chew a large piece that has been bitten off.
- A cooked piece of carrot (for example) is soft and makes perfect finger food.
- Specially designed feeding products are available that will allow your baby to gnaw at the food through a mesh without biting off large pieces.
- Raw, hard vegetables may be given if grated very finely.
- Some fruits – such as ripe, juicy pears – should not be hazardous raw if your baby is over 6 months of age.
Problems with digestion…
- Raw fruits and vegetables (except banana and avocado) may be harder on your baby’s digestive system than cooked ones; fresh produce contains cellulose, which the human digestive system treats as a waste product, so uncooked fruits and vegetables may cause diarrhoea.
- Cooking softens or breaks down the cellulose making the food much easier to digest, and is best if your baby is under 6 months old when you begin to introduce fruits and vegetables.
- From the age of about 6 months, your baby’s digestive systems will be more fully developed, and able to handle raw fruits and vegetables easily.
- Produce may be contaminated by bacteria or pesticide residues, therefore, take great care during preparation.
- Washing thoroughly, then peeling fruits and vegetables are MUSTS – whether you are going to cook them or serve them raw.
- When you cook fruits and vegetables for your baby, the heat will destroy most food-borne bacteria.
- Sources suggest that it is best to always introduce produce in the cooked form at first, as cooking will alter any small amounts of protein that the fruit or vegetable contains – making an allergic reaction less likely. If there are no problems with the cooked food, paediatricians suggest that later – when baby is around 7 or 8 months old – you can try introducing it raw.
- A recent report has confirmed that cooking fruits and vegetables for your baby can actually reduce or prevent oral allergic reactions. These occur seasonally when airborne pollen proteins (from trees, weeds and grasses) cross-react with similar proteins in fruits and vegetables – causing allergy symptoms such as mouth, tongue and throat irritation and, occasionally, severe reactions such as swelling of the throat.
- Fruits and vegetables usually taste different when they are cooked – this should not be a real problem, and will actually introduce new flavours to your baby.
- Fruits such as plums, peaches and nectarines can become sour when cooked – always cook these fruits complete with skins and stones as this helps retain natural sweetness. Don’t forget to remove the skins and stones before pureeing or serving!
Ask your baby’s doctor for advice and guidance about cooking fruits and vegetables for your baby, or giving them raw. And remember – do not introduce any other foods for four days. If your baby has any tummy or other problems, then you’ll know which food caused it.
Some fruits and vegetables that may be served raw:
- apple (grate finely and add to yogurt, or similar food)
- bell pepper
- grapes (peel, cut in quarters, remove seeds)
- peaches and nectarines
*Foods marked with an asterisk should be introduced towards the end of baby’s first year, or later – in younger babies they sometimes cause tummy upsets or allergic reactions.