When my kids were still babies, I always looked forward to letting them try new foods. It was exciting watching them try new things and work their finger and mouth muscles.
Cheese is a fabulous first finger food, whether you do baby-led weaning or not. Cheese was a favorite in my house: my babies loved the taste and it was full of good-for-you nutrients.
Below, you’ll find some of the best cheese for baby and a few snacks that contain real cheese, too.
Best Cheeses for Babies
Ricotta cheese is a good choice because of its lower sodium level (with an average of 50mg or less per serving). It is also usually made using whole milk, so it’s easy to find the most nutritious varieties at your grocery store.
Ricotta cheese is a little blander than some other cheeses, so you may want to add some flavor. It is great for spreading on small pieces of toast or crackers and can also be mixed with mashed fruits or vegetables or added to pasta.
The smooth texture of goat cheese also makes it great for spreading. It is higher in sodium than some other cheeses at around 80mg of sodium per ounce, however, it’s still low enough to be a good choice for your baby.
Goat cheese spreads well. You could put it on toast or use a tortilla shell to make a pizza’ for your baby. The smooth texture is also perfect for stirring into pasta or any type of veggies that your baby enjoys.
Other Spreadable Cheeses
Spreadable cheeses are nice for mixing into different foods or spreading on almost anything your baby enjoys. Many have low sodium because they do not have salt added and are high in the same nutrients as solid cheese. Some good examples include mascarpone, creme Fraiche, farmer’s cheese, and quark.
Buy most cream cheese brands with caution. Not only is cream cheese higher in sodium, it usually does not have the same calcium or protein benefits of other spreadable cheeses. As with many other kinds of cheese, your best option is reading the label and comparing nutrient levels as you choose.
For parents that want a cheese that can be easily sliced, swiss can be a good option. On average, cheddar cheese can have around 200mg of sodium per slice, whereas swiss only has 35mg of sodium.
Swiss is a more flavorful cheese than some of the other options. However, it can also be an acquired taste. If you want the flavor to be milder, try melting it with some mozzarella on a toast or a pizza. Baby swiss is another good option for a milder tasting cheese that is still low in sodium.
Fresh mozzarella is usually sold in balls or logs. It has a mild flavor and can be melted on top of anything (including pizza). Its texture is also perfect for cutting into baby finger-sized strips, which can encourage your little one to use their grasping motion.
Fresh mozzarella is that found in brine. String cheese or shredded mozzarella is usually significantly higher in sodium. This means that fresh mozzarella also has a much milder flavor than other mozzarella cheeses. If your baby does not like it alone, you can try sprinkling some seasoning on it.
There are plenty of other cheeses that are rich in the same nutrients as the cheeses already mentioned. They might have higher sodium levels, but this just means you should offer them in moderation. On average, experts recommend that babies under a year have less than 1 gram of salt each day, which is 0.4 grams (or 400mg) of sodium.
Best Baby Cheese Snacks
In addition to the cheeses mentioned above, your baby may enjoy several snacks that contain real cheese. These are a good choice to help your baby adjust to the flavor of cheese. Something to be wary of when buying snacks is sodium. Look at this and the level of nutrients, because some can be lost when the cheese is processed. When feeding snacks, they should supplement a balanced diet, as your little one should be getting most of their nutrition from breastmilk or formula until they are one year old.
Gerber Lil’ Crunchies Mild Cheddar
The Gerber Lil’ Crunchies Mild Cheddar is a great way to keep your little one munching on healthy foods. The cheese packs are made with cheddar cheese and without genetically modified ingredients.
The crisps are perfectly sized for little fingers and include Calcium, Iron, and Vitamin E. Even though the outside is crunchy, the Gerber Lil’ Crunchies still easily dissolve in your little one’s mouth.
These are free of artificial flavors and colors. The snacks are crispy and easy to bite down on, however, you’ll want to be sure your little one is comfortable chewing food before feeding them this snack.
Find the best baby yogurts to help your little one get some great dairy.
- Provides calcium, iron, and vitamin E
- Made with cheddar cheese
- Crisps are easy and convenient to eat
- No GMOs, artificial dyes, or artificial flavors
- Can be a choking hazard if your little one hasn’t mastered chewing yet
- No Vitamin D
Messy Monkeys Baked Cheese Snack Rings
The Messy Monkeys Baked Cheese Snack Rings are shaped similar to Cheerios for a poppable, enjoyable experience. They are non-GMO, gluten-free, and peanut-free, which makes them a good choice for kids with allergies. These snacks are also kosher.
In addition to being made using real cheese, these snack rings have healthy ingredients like sorghum and quinoa. They also have 8 grams of whole grains and a healthy amount of protein and fiber.
The texture does not melt away as some other snacks, so your little one’s ability to chew them will depend on their development. If they cannot eat Cheerios yet, they might not be able to chew these without choking
- Easy to pick up
- Non-GMO, gluten-free, and peanut-free
- Made using real cheese
- High level of whole grains, protein, and fiber
- Do not melt away like some other baby snacks
FAQs About Babies and Cheese
When can I introduce cheese to my baby?
As a general guideline, babies can be introduced to cheese between 8 and 10 months of age.
Even though you should hold off on whole milk until your baby is over 12 months, cheese goes through an aging process. During the aging process, milk proteins break down and become easier to digest. This means most babies can eat cheese sooner.
If you have any immediate relatives with a food allergy, you may want to hold off on introducing your little one to cheese until after they are one year old. You should consult their pediatrician for advice on when to start.
What are the health benefits of cheese for babies?
Cheese is full of beneficial nutrients, including protein, calcium, and Vitamin D. These are all important for the development of healthy teeth and bones.
Another benefit for vegetarian families is the B12 found in cheese, which is generally found in meat products. Additionally, it is high in calories, which is good for high-energy, growing babies.
How should I introduce cheese to a baby?
Before your baby is one year old, they may not have mastered the chewing motion needed to break down hard chunks of cheese. Therefore, softer cheeses are the best option. Cottage cheese is another good choice for introducing cheesy foods to your baby.
If your baby does not like the texture of cottage cheese, you can puree it a little to break down some of the more solid chunks. Another option is to mix it with something like mashed banana or avocado, beans, or finely diced fruit. You could also add a pinch of onion powder, garlic powder, or pepper, especially if you are trying to introduce your little one to new flavors.
When you are ready to introduce your baby to cheese, start with shredded cheeses that have a mild flavor. American and Colby are good choices before introducing something stronger like Romano or Parmesan. In addition to just feeding your baby shredded cheese, try cutting up small pieces of toast or bread and melting cheese on it, melting over veggies, in a cut-up quesadilla, over pasta, or in cheesy scrambled eggs.
What should I look for when buying cheese for my baby?
When you are buying cheese for your baby, you want to choose full-fat varieties. You also want to look for something lower in sodium, which can be hard to find. The best thing to do is to compare several brands side-by-side and see which varieties have lower levels of sodium. This is especially true since sodium levels can vary by brand, not just by cheese type.
As you shop, you’ll also want to choose cheeses that are pasteurized. Unpasteurized cheese is made from raw milk and does not go through the same sterilization process, so it may contain bacteria that can be harmful to your little one’s digestive system. Some dairy may create inflammation as well. Some of the most common unpasteurized cheeses you’ll want to avoid are blue cheese, Brie, Camembert, feta, and Roquefort.
Cheese is full of healthy fats and beneficial nutrients that are important for a growing baby. It also makes a tasty snack and can be added to several foods that are likely already part of your baby’s growing diet. Hopefully, this article has given you some good guidelines for choosing the best cheese for your baby.