What’s with all the hype around lacto-fermented vegetables like sauerkraut? What are they, why should your baby eat them and where can you find them?
What are lacto-fermented vegetables?
Lacto-fermented vegetables (or simply “fermented veggies”) include foods like sauerkraut, pickles and pickled seasonal vegetables. They contain a healthy dose of gut-friendly bacteria, also known as probiotics. Regular consumption of these good bacteria is beneficial to your baby’s health.
Why are fermented vegetables good for babies?
Fermented vegetables help with digestion and provide a healthy boost to the immune system, improving all-around gut function . Foods like sauerkraut and fermented vegetables have even been shown to reduce the risk of some cancers . For babies in particular, fermented foods might be beneficial in helping with digestive issues like constipation, diarrhea, or gas .
Aren’t fermented vegetables too salty for babies?
While fermented veggies like sauerkraut offer a wide range of health benefits to your baby, it’s important to keep in mind that they’re quite salty. While sodium is a required nutrient for babies, too much of it is not a good thing. Keeping this in mind, if you’re offering small amounts of fermented foods to your baby – like 1 pickled carrot spear, or 1 tablespoon of sauerkraut – the benefits of including them in your baby’s diet is worth the extra salt. Please note that babies will suck on the piece of sauerkraut and not eat a whole lot. Offer them a large piece and always supervise them.
Here is a six-month old enjoying a large piece of sauerkraut:
Before doing Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) with your baby, it is important to proceed safely by contacting a pediatric registered dietitian. Among other things, make sure that:
- your baby is ready and does not start too early
- your baby is sitting at 90 degrees
- you do not place food in his/her mouth with your fingers
- the environment is calm during meals
- you offer the right foods to your baby (always test the texture of the food in between your tongue and roof of your mouth)
- you watch your baby eat at all times
- you contact a pediatric registered dietitian to make sure you are proceeding safely
- you read the warning below
BLW is contraindicated for babies at risk of dysphagia, such as babies who have an anatomic disorder (cleft palate, tongue tie), a neurological disorder (developmental delay, hypotonia, oral hypotonia) or a genetic disorder. Follow-up by a health professional (doctor, pediatric registered dietitian) is necessary for babies at risk of anemia such as babies born prematurely, babies with low birth weight (less than 3000 g), worries related to growth, babies born to an anemic mother, baby for whom cow’s milk was introduced early and/or a vegan baby.
*Cusson and Labonté, Baby-Led Weaning Conference, June 2018, Nutrium, Faculty of Medicine, University of Montreal
Here she is chomping down on a fermented carrot. It’s the perfect texture for her where she can easily grab it and it’s soft enough to take bites from:
Here she is about to enjoy lacto-fermented turnips (right) and sauerkraut (left):
Where can I find fermented vegetables?
One of my favorite store-bought brands of fermented foods is Tout Cru. They are a Montreal-based company that I absolutely love. I really believe in Pedro and Rachel’s mission. They make a wide range of fermented foods including kimchi, sauerkraut and seasonal fermented vegetables which are all so delicious. Check out their website to find out where you can purchase some near you!
- Parvez S, Malik KA, Ah Kang S, Kim HY. Probiotics and their fermented food products are beneficial for health. Journal of applied microbiology. 2006 Jun 1;100(6):1171-85.
- Marchand V. Using probiotics in the paediatric population. Paediatrics & child health. 2012 Dec;17(10):575.
Have you ever given sauerkraut to your baby?