Want your little one to turn into a full fledged veggie lover down the road? Save this list of the 10 best vegetables for babies 6 to 12 months old when you need some plant-based inspiration for your little one.
While future picky eating is not entirely preventable—there’s a genetic component involved!—there are some strategies you can use early on as you introduce your baby to solids that help get them familiar with and remain open to a wide variety of foods. And introducing baby to vegetables early on is one of those things!
But, it’s okay if you didn’t start them on veggies right when they started solids– you didn’t miss your chance. Any time you start incorporating more veggies is a good time!
Today’s post is all about the 10 best vegetables for babies under 12 months. It covers when to introduce these foods, why they’re so great nutritionally, how to incorporate them into baby’s days, and why it’s such a great idea to include vegetables among your baby’s first foods!
Introducing Babies to Vegetables
Many veggies can be introduced right off the bat—as soon as your baby is ready for solids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting to introduce solid foods (which includes finger foods and purees) until your baby is between four and six months old. But I’d say it’s ideal to wait until they’re closer to six months of age because by then, they will have developed head and neck control and the ability to sit stably in their high chair. You don’t want to start solids too early—before they’re physically ready to eat more foods. And, breastmilk and/or formula can provide baby with everything they need nutritionally up until the 6 month mark, so solids are typically not needed sooner.
Generally speaking, your baby is ready to start solids if they:
- Can sit upright
- Can sit unsupported
- Have good head and neck control
- Have some practice bringing toys or objects from their hand to their mouth
- Show an interest in food
If you can begin introducing your baby to veggies around 6 months of age, I highly recommend you do! Because doing so lets them get acquainted with a greater variety of tastes and textures early on, and this helps combat picky eating down the line!
Eat The Rainbow
I’m here to remind you that vegetables aren’t just green! They are one of the most diverse, colorful, and tasty food groups, and there are so many options that are great for your baby.
As a pediatric dietitian, my list of the top ten best vegetables for babies is:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Oyster Mushrooms
- Brussels Sprouts
- Acorn Squash
(See how there are so many different colors represented here? That’s so great for nutritional, textural, and taste variety!)
There’s a LOT more info on why I love each veggie so much below—plus safe ways to serve them, and baby-friendly, veggie-packed meal ideas! So be sure to keep on reading.
Let’s Talk Phytonutrients
Before we start, I want to mention a group of plant compounds called phytonutrients. Because vegetables are not just made up of carbohydrates, fiber, and a little bit of protein or fat. They also contain these complex and multi-dimensional little health warriors that support so many important body processes.
Phytonutrients (also called phytochemicals) are important and highly beneficial compounds found in the plants we eat. They are non-nutritive—meaning they don’t carry calories or actual nutritional components—but they serve a variety of purposes.
A common phytonutrient you’ve probably heard of is beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is in the carotenoid family of phytonutrients and is found in all orange, yellow, red vegetables. It’s what gives those vegetables their colors! Beta-carotene is a compound that our bodies convert to vitamin A, which is an important vitamin for vision health. And, it’s one of many phytonutrients found in vegetables, which all contribute to processes in the body in different ways.
Other phytonutrients you may have heard of include:
- Lycopene: Found in red and pink fruits and veggies
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Found in green veg like spinach and kale
- Glucosinolates: Found in cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts
Some act as antioxidants, some support cell health, and some support cardiovascular function. But they are ALL great reasons to get your baby familiar with these superfoods!
The 10 Best Vegetables for Babies
Okay, you know when and why you want to introduce veggies. Now, let’s break down ten of the best vegetables for your baby. We’ll touch on safe preparation methods (many vegetables in their raw form are choking hazards for babies, so we need to soften ‘em up!), share nutrition information for each vegetable, and give you some helpful serving ideas and food combinations to incorporate these nutritional powerhouses into your baby’s diet.
Broccoli is a great vegetable choice for babies. It’s loaded with immune-boosting vitamins C and K, which are important for bone health and wound healing. Broccoli is also a good source of:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Folate (vitamin B12)
Safe Broccoli Preparation for Baby
Hard, raw broccoli can be a choking hazard for a baby. I always opt for cooked broccoli instead, because it’s safe to offer to babies who are ready for solid foods. Be sure to steam until soft—it should be able to be mashed between your fingers. You can also remove the stalk and just serve the florets if the consistency of the stalk concerns you.
Quick tip – steam roasting is one of my favorite easy ways to soften veggies like broccoli for baby. This is very handy when you already are turning the oven on to cook something else! Drizzle the chopped florets with some olive oil or avocado oil and then wrap tightly in foil, making it like a little packet. Cook until nice and soft!
Of course, you can always go ahead and purée any vegetable if you’re not ready to serve it in pieces.
Baby-Friendly Meals With Broccoli
Broccoli is an easy one to serve on its own since it’s great finger food, but you can also:
- Drizzle it with olive oil or lemon juice for flavor
- Serve in it one-pot dishes like curries
- Add it to meals like omelets
Peas are a great source of fiber and have a surprisingly high protein content for a vegetable! They also contain alpha-linolenic acid which is an omega-3 essential fatty acid—something we all need to get from our diets because our bodies don’t naturally produce it. It also has a good dose of:
- Vitamin A,
- B Vitamins (especially B6 and folate or B12)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Iron (although not a ton!)
Safe Pea Preparation for Baby
Single peas may be harder for your baby to pick up until closer to nine months of age when they’ve developed the pincer grasp. Before that, it’s best to serve them mashed.
Baby-Friendly Meals With Peas
You can cook peas and serve them mashed then mix them into all kinds of things!
- Mix mashed peas with yogurt
- Serve mashed peas with butter
- Combined mashed peas and potatoes
- Serve mashed peas in soups and stews*
*Just be sure to keep an eye on your baby’s sodium intake!
#3 Sweet Potato (All Kinds)
Sweet potatoes are a strong candidate to be one of baby’s first foods! They’re rich in fiber and vitamin B6, and the different color varieties have different phytonutrients. Orange sweet potatoes have beta-carotene (think vitamin A) and Japanese purple sweet potatoes have anthocyanins, which act as antioxidants in the body.
Safe Sweet Potato Preparation for Baby
Sweet potatoes need to be softened and either cut into wedges baby can hold onto (baby-led weaning style) or mashed.
Baby-Friendly Meals With Sweet Potatoes
There are so many ways to serve sweet potatoes to babies!
- Cut them into wedges and bake with olive oil and seasonings until soft.
- Bake them whole in the oven and serve them mashed.
- Make mashed sweet potatoes and mix in breast milk, yogurt, butter, or olive oil to up the fat content and make the texture easier for your baby to eat!
Asparagus is a great source of plant-based iron for babies. Iron is an important nutrient to include in your baby’s diet because they run out of the iron stores they build up in utero at around six months of age—right around the time they start to eat solids! Plant-based sources of iron are a little harder to come by than animal sources, but are valuable ways to increase baby’s iron intake. Asparagus is also a great source of B vitamins (B6 and B12, or folate) and fiber.
Safe Asparagus Preparation for Baby
For young eaters, asparagus needs to be steamed in whole stalks and offered when soft.
Baby-Friendly Meals With Asparagus
- Serve whole stalks steamed with butter or seasonings.
- Add cooked asparagus to foods like omelets.
Carrots are definitely on the list of choking hazards for babies—especially baby carrots, because of their shape, size, and firmness. But, when prepared safely, they’re a great veggie choice for babies. Carrots are loaded with vitamin B6, fiber, and beta-carotene which our bodies use to create vitamin A.
Safe Carrot Preparation for Baby
Carrots can be steamed until soft and presented to baby in long, spear-like halves the width of two adult fingers. They can also be mashed! Remember, just like all other veggies, the carrot should be able to be smashed between your fingers for your baby to be able to safely handle it. Once your baby is a bit older, grated carrots are a great option, too!
Baby-Friendly Meals With Carrots
Carrots are an easy one to serve by themselves since they can be easily grasped with a palmar grasp. But, you can also dice them into small pieces, cook them, and add them to soups and stews for babies that can chew and manipulate more complex textures.
#6 Oyster Mushrooms
Mushrooms are great because they are one of the only plant sources of vitamin D—a necessary vitamin for your baby’s growth and development. Vitamin D is crucial because it helps the body absorb calcium and aids in the formation of strong bones.
Related: Best Vitamin D Drops for Babies
Oyster mushrooms specifically are a great source of vitamin D, and they’re loaded with other good stuff that makes them a great option for your baby, too. Things like:
- And other vitamins!
Safe Mushroom Preparation for Baby
Mushrooms can be tricky to prepare for the youngest babies. The best thing to do is take the largest mushroom caps and sauté them. Then, present them to your baby whole, so they can grip them. Once babies are a little older, they may be able to eat oyster mushrooms cut up into small pieces, whether on their own or mixed into other dishes.
Baby-Friendly Meals With Mushrooms
- Cut off the stems and sauté large tops with oil and seasonings.
- When your baby is a bit older, add small, cooked pieces to foods like omelets or meatloaf.
Artichokes may seem intimidating to prepare and serve to a baby, but they’re a wonderfully nutritious option, so it’s worth the work if you have the time! Artichokes are packed with healthy fat and some protein, contain vitamins K, C, and B, plus magnesium and several other vitamins and minerals.
Safe Artichoke Preparation for Baby
Start by steaming artichoke hearts and serving them to baby whole. Eventually, you can move to serve them smaller pieces—but only once they’ve developed the pincer grasp.
Baby-Friendly Meals With Artichokes
- Serve steamed artichokes whole, with a little seasoning if you feel like adding it.
- Once the pincer grip is there, offer small, cooked pieces either on their own or mixed into dishes. You know what would be delicious? A piece of lightly toasted sourdough topped with a mixture of greek yogurt, feta, and diced artichoke hearts. Yum!
- When your child is old enough, the fleshy petals of the artichoke can also be used to dip in sauces or dips.
#8 Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts used to have a bad rap, but they can be pretty delicious. They’re also a nutritional superstar! They are a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, and folate.
Safe Brussels Sprout Preparation for Baby
Quartered Brussels sprouts should be steamed to the point where they’re almost coming apart, then served to baby. You can also buy the shredded kind, then bake or sautee them with olive oil and seasonings—but your baby may need help eating this form if they have yet to develop a pincer grasp.
Baby-Friendly Meals With Artichokes
- Serve soft cooked, quartered Brussels sprouts to baby with any seasoning you choose to add.
- Add cooked, shredded Brussels sprouts to other dishes when baby is ready!
#9 Acorn Squash
There are several different squash varieties out there, and they’re all great options to serve your baby. But I love acorn squash for its easy preparation and shape. It’s got a good amount of B vitamins, some vitamin C, magnesium, and of course, carotenoids.
Safe Acorn Squash Preparation for Baby
To prepare acorn squash:
- Remove the seeds
- Cut it into wedges
- Roast in olive oil and seasonings
The wedge shape is easy for baby to grip and chew on, and the soft texture of the squash is great for new eaters. It may feel weird to give them such a big piece! But this can be a safe way to help them learn to take bites of something.
Baby-Friendly Meals With Acorn Squash
- Serve the roasted acorn squash wedges I described above.
- Mash cooked acorn squash and fortify it with yogurt or breast milk.
- Mash cooked acorn squash with cooked red lentils.
- Add cooked acorn squash to other dishes, like soups or curries.
Beets are a wonderful food for babies. They have good fiber content, they’re rich in iron, and they have many important phytonutrients, including those from a class called phenols that help promote cardiovascular health.
Safe Beet Preparation for Baby
Beets can be tricky to prepare because of their shape. And, they’re known for being super messy. So try prepping them on the porch! For baby (and you), you’ll want to peel them, steam or boil them, and cut them down into safe-sized pieces baby can eat. Or, start with golden beets. Not nearly as much of a mess.
Baby-Friendly Meals With Beets
- Steam beets whole or buy them steamed and offer them in large pieces (large quarters or sticks) for baby to grip.
- Grate or mash cooked beets.
- Eventually, when baby has the pincer grasp, serve cooked beets in small, diced pieces.
A Final Word On Veggies for Babes
Veggies tend to be low in calories, so it’s always a good idea to bulk them up in your preparation before serving them to your baby. Adding oils, breast milk, whole milk yogurt or coconut milk yogurt as you cook and serve them are great ways to increase the fat content. We want fat intake to be unrestricted in the first two years of life, so opting for good fat sources like whole milk yogurt or olive oil is a great way to make sure baby is getting the fat they need for their central nervous system development. Also, feel free to season baby’s vegetables with herbs and spices. Just hold off on adding salt until after their first birthday!
Don’t get discouraged if your baby doesn’t love asparagus or beets right away. Kids can sometimes be slower to learn to like veggies than fruit or other carbs. Offer them anyway, and do it consistently. The progress may feel slow (or non-existent), but trust me, every exposure you give them goes a long way in helping them get acquainted with—and stay open to—all the best veggies have to offer.
Remember: You’re offering them safe, nutritious options. And your work ends there! It’s their job to decide what and how much to put in their mouth!
Let’s Make Solids Easier On You!
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