Pickles are not the perfect baby snack.
Today I saw a video of a six-month-old baby eating a pickle as a snack. The video was absolutely adorable. He is just on the verge of short words (he’s a very fast learner), so he was cooing as he nibbled on the pickle proudly. His mother is a major advocate of baby-led weaning, and she lets him nibble on whatever he’ll eat, assuming it’s safe. Her doctor has approved the foods she hands off to him, so it’s actually really fun to see what he takes and what he turns is nose up at. As I watched the video, I realized pickles are actually a great finger food for babies. They are vegetables, cucumbers. They are easy to hold, but also malleable so that choking isn’t a problem. In fact, he couldn’t even bite a piece off; he was only sucking on the juice.
What is a Pickle?
For a moment, I thought a pickle must be the best baby food ever, but upon further research, I did realize that it has a major drawback. Pickling preserves foods by immersion in a vinegar brine or a saltwater brine to suppress microbes that cause food to rot. It keeps vegetables longer fresh. Depending on the method you use, the process can take a few hours or days for vinegar-brined pickles to be ready to eat, or weeks for saltwater-brined pickles (also called fermented or sour pickles) to reach pickle perfection. Pickles are made by keeping a vegetable in a high-salt solution, a brine. Pickles are not healthy because of their high salt content. A single, small pickle has at least 400mg of sodium. Of course, your baby probably isn’t going it a whole one, but even a bite will contain more sodium than he or she is used to.
A recent study shows that babies who eat a lot of sodium in infancy and in childhood will crave it later in life. As adults, they’ll probably end up getting too much sodium in their diets, and a lot of sodium is very unhealthy.
Though too much sodium is bad, everything in moderation is fine. Giving your baby a pickle once or twice a month as his teeth come in is totally fine. In fact, it will probably alleviate some teething pain because it’s cold and fun to chew on. However, giving your baby a pickle every day could lead to poor life choices later on.
A pickle is the perfect baby food in the sense that it is easy to hold, fun to suck on, and a great introduction to a more bitter set of tastes. As your baby becomes more interested in exploring what’s on your plate, it’s okay to pass him a big pickle to nibble on. Of course, don’t let the pickle become his main course, and try to keep is baby salt addiction at bay.
Source: Leslie J Stein et al: The Development of Salty Taste Acceptance is Related to Dietary Experience in Human Infants. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Volume 95 Issue 1 pp. 123-129 January 2012