Jello is a soft, tasty treat made from gelatin and fruity flavors. It may be a low-calorie, fat-free food, but is it safe to give to your baby?
Babies need a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein, so it’s important to find out what foods are safest and most nutritious for your child.
Can babies eat jello? While eating jello in moderation is safe for babies, you may want to find healthier snack options for your child. Jello has little nutritional value, and its high sugar content isn’t recommended for young children. You may want to make healthy jello with fruit instead of the dry mix.
Check out these considerations for giving your child jello and ways to offer healthier alternatives.
Jello for Babies – 4 Considerations
Even though jello is colorful and attractive, consider these four reasons why you may want to wait before giving it to your child.
1. No Nutritional Value
Jello isn’t considered healthy by food and medical professionals. Even though it may be a low-calorie, fat-free food, gelatin has little nutritional value and isn’t worth the calories.
According to the USDA Food Composition Database, 100 grams of dry mix prepared with water contains 60 calories, 1.22 grams of protein, and 0 grams of fiber.
Since children need nutritious food early in life to develop healthier food preferences, you may want to wait to introduce jello to your child’s diet.
2. Choking Hazard
Although jello isn’t a common choking hazard for babies and toddlers, you need to prepare jello safely to prevent choking. Babies play with food while eating and may even shove food into their mouths.
When you make jello for your child, mash it or cut it into smaller pieces. Since it can be soft and slippery, always stay within reach of your child’s high chair, especially when trying jello for the first time.
3. High Sugar Content
On top of jello having little nutritional value, it also has added sugar that could be harmful to developing bodies. While natural sugar in food is safe to eat, excess sugar in a baby’s diet could cause obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay.
You can limit the sugar your child consumes daily by reading food labels and avoiding products with added sugar.
A balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein will help establish the healthy development of the brain, bones, and muscles.
4. Potentially Harmful Ingredients
Jello often contains food dyes, artificial sweeteners, and artificial flavors. Although red #40, yellow #5, and yellow #6 are linked to a higher risk of cancer, the FDA has labeled these food dyes safe in low doses.
Excess consumption of these additives has caused hyperactivity in children. You may want to stay away from these ingredients if you’re nervous about your kid’s health and energy level.
Besides food dyes, sugar-free jello also contains artificial sweeteners and flavors. Sucralose and aspartame are artificial sweeteners that can cause inflammation, digestive issues, and weight gain.
Can Babies Eat Sugar-Free Jello?
Sugar-free jello isn’t recommended for babies and toddlers. Products labeled “sugar-free” may contain artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose. These artificial sweeteners can upset your child’s stomach and cause weight gain.
Pay attention to the type of sweeteners in any jello products you buy from the store. If you want to avoid giving sugar to your baby, the best option is to make homemade jello without any added sugars.
At What Age Can Babies Eat Jello?
Babies typically start eating solids at ages 6 months and older. Parents introduce purees and other soft foods for their children to try.
Even though jello is generally safe for babies, you may want to wait until your child is over 2 years old to give treats with added sugars and food dyes.
Can Babies Play With Jello?
Babies can play with jello as a sensory activity to help develop fine and gross motor skills.
Playing with jello in their hands encourages skills such as grabbing, squeezing, and picking up items. The different colors and textures of jello can also be helpful for their sensory development.
Older kids may enjoy playing with jello that has plastic animals, such as fish or dinosaurs, inside. Toddlers can dig through the jello to find the hidden treasure.
If you allow your baby to play with jello, keep in mind that you’ll probably need to put it in the refrigerator to maintain its shape and diligently supervise the entire time.
Although store-bought jello typically contains artificial ingredients that could harm your children, you can make homemade jello that promotes healthy bones, skin, and hair.
Check out these recipes for healthy homemade jello.
Fruit Juice and Gelatin Powder
This simple recipe from SuperHealthyKids only takes five minutes to mix together. All you need is 2 cups of pomegranate juice, 2 cups of apple juice, and 2 tablespoons of powdered gelatin.
- Pour half of the fruit juice into a bowl. Distribute the gelatin throughout the top of the bowl, and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Put the other 2 cups of juice into a pot, and heat the liquid to a boil.
- Pour the hot liquid into the bowl, and stir to dissolve the gelatin and combine the whole mixture.
- Transfer the liquid to a 9×12 baking pan. Keep in the refrigerator for several hours until firm.
- Slice the jello into cubes. You can either serve it plain or add some whipped cream on the top.
Fruit Juice and Agar Agar
This vegetarian-friendly recipe from Happy Kids Kitchen replaces gelatin, made from animal by-products, with agar powder derived from seaweed.
All you need is 4 cups of fruit juice with no sugar added and 4 tablespoons of agar powder. Follow these directions for a healthier alternative to store-bought jello:
- Combine all ingredients into a small pot.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking often.
- Simmer until the powder is dissolved.
- After cooling the liquid a little bit, pour it into a 9×13 baking dish.
- Refrigerate for about 3 or 4 hours until the jello has set.
- Use cookie cutters to cut your jello pieces into different shapes.
Is Food Coloring Safe for Babies?
Food coloring in high doses is not considered safe for babies. Excessive consumption of artificial food dyes can lead to cancer, allergies, and behavioral issues.
It’s best to avoid food dyes when possible, especially if there’s a history of cancer in your family.
How Much Sugar Can a Baby Have per Day?
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that children 2 and younger avoid consuming any added sugar in foods.
Sugar naturally found in fruits, dairy products, and vegetables is okay for babies, but skip added sugar to your child’s diet to make more room for nutritious food and encourage healthy choices.
Jello may be fun and colorful for your baby, but you may want to think if the risks outweigh the benefits of serving this treat to your child. Make your own healthy jello, or choose nutritious fruits or vegetables at snack time.
Mom of three (including identical twin boys), wife, and owner of Parents Wonder. This is my place to share my journey as a mother and the helpful insights I learn along the way.