Should Toddlers Eat Pickles?

salted cucumber
A jar of homemade pickles on the kitchen counter. (Image: peredniankina/iStock/Getty Images)

It wasn't too long ago when your toddler was eating the softest, purist foods you could supply, but now that she and her appetite are expanding, it's a good idea to ask which new foods are appropriate and which aren't for her young, growing body. Pickles are a relatively nutritious finger food, appetizing to many toddlers, but are they healthy enough? While they can be a great source of Vitamin A, iron and potassium, there are some ingredients to watch out for. Whether or not your toddler should be eating pickles could depend on the brand.

Sodium Content

Despite being, technically, a vegetable, most pickles are sky high in sodium content. Doctors recommend no more than 1000 mg per day of sodium for toddlers, since sodium can tax your toddler's kidneys and lead to hypertension. Many brands contain more than 1200 mg for a single pickle. Select low-sodium varieties, which can contain as little as 12mg of sodium -- far more healthy for your little one.

Sugar Content

No longer relegated to little white packets, sugar now hides everywhere--in drinks, in packaged foods and even in processed vegetables. The pickle, so seemingly fresh and healthy, undergoes quite a bit of processing before it reaches your pantry, so check the label to be sure the sugar content isn't too high for you toddler. Experts recommend that little ones have no more than 1 tbsp. per day per year of age --or 15 to 45 grams in the toddler years. A store-bought jar of pickles will usually have 5 or so grams of sugar, quite a lot when you consider that the pickle is just a snack.

Natural Flavors

Almost anything packaged and store-bought these days comes with a load of preservatives and chemicals we didn't bargain for -- and pickles are no different. Watch out for added chemicals like "natural flavors," which are anything but. Natural flavors are designed by flavorists who test natural and synthetic chemicals to create their "natural" tasting concoctions. Look for natural and organic brands with few preservatives and added flavors.

Homemade Pickles

One great way to control the sodium, sugar and chemical content of the pickles your toddler eats is to make them yourself. Perhaps your toddler can even lend a hand. For dill pickles, you'll need fresh, crisp cucumbers, a handful of dill, a few cloves of garlic, and salt and pepper. The website Vegan Reader has a very workable recipe (See Resources).

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