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Nitrates and Homemade Baby Food: How to avoid nitrate poisoning

Homemade baby food is a great way to go green, but you may have heard about the risks of nitrates with homemade baby food.

Beets, carrots, broccoli, spinach, and cabbage are all high in nitrates. 

"Blue Baby Syndrome" can be caused by nitrate poisoning.  However, it's extremely rare and usually caused by contaminated well water, NOT homemade baby food.   It's also treatable, but PLAY IT SAFE!  Here are some tips to avoid nitrate poisoning from homemade babyfood:

- Nitrates increase with storage time unless the food is frozen. When you use fresh vegetables to make homemade baby food make the food and freeze extra servings ASAP.

- Use frozen veggies for those vegetables high in nitrates.  

- Don't bother boiling the veggies first.  It won't reduce the nitrate concentration.

- Choose organic.  It doesn't eliminate the risk of nitrates, but it does minimize it.

- Wait before offering your baby foods like carrots.  Opinions vary about when to give a baby food that's higher in nitrates.  I've read anywhere from 6 to 9 months.

If you're still concerned and can decode all of the medical speak in this publication from the AAP, you can read about their take on nitrates.  The Mayo Clinic says:  "For babies younger than age 4 months, also avoid home-prepared spinach, beets, turnips and collard greens, which may contain high levels of potentially harmful compounds from soil (nitrates). " But I don't know of any infants eating solids before 4 months, anyway!  

By the time a baby is 6 months old, they will have developed the stomach acids necessary to fight the bacteria that helps nitrate conversion and can cause nitrate poisoning. This is mostly a concern for 4-5 month olds, so it is most important take extra precaution to avoid foods with high nitrate levels early on.  (source)

If you're still concerned, call the pediatrician.  

Here are some baby food cookbook recommendations:  Super Baby Food (which recommends waiting until 9 months before starting carrots) and Cooking for Baby.  You can also find plenty of recipes for baby food online.  Some of these avocado recipes sound particularly delicious.  Have fun cooking for your baby!