Experts now agree you can (and should) give nuts to babies and toddlers. But how do you do it safely--and get your kid to actually eat them? We crack the code.
Everything in this slideshow
The Real Allergy Stats
It's nerve-wracking to give your kid nuts for the first time--some parents even wait until their kids are in preschool or later to introduce them to tree nuts and peanuts (the latter are technically a legume, but they're often lumped in with nuts). Still, 95 percent of kids aren't going to develop a nut allergy no matter when nuts are introduced to them. One to 2 percent of kids will get it because they're genetically predisposed, and for the remaining kids, feeding them nuts at an earlier age may even help stop them from developing an allergy to begin with, says Robert Wood, M.D., director of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, in Baltimore.
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) changed its policy of avoiding ground nuts and foods containing nuts until age 3. Now the group says that parents can offer them to babies 6 months and up, as long as they aren't showing signs of other food allergies and don't have a family history of nut allergies. Of course, whole nuts or spoonfuls of peanut butter are still a choking hazard, so avoid them until age 4. But ground nuts or nut butters baked into foods are super nutritious.
Kids under age 2 need about half of the calories in their diet to come from fat, and most types of nuts supply the healthy unsaturated kind.
Other nutrients supplied by nuts include:
*omega-3 fatty acids
What Nuts Give You
Additionally, nuts are also a better choice of snack for kids than pretzels or animal crackers. In those snacks, kids get refined carbohydrates and very little protein, which causes a spike in blood glucose levels, and then a quick decrease of the same, which means kids could be hungry an hour later, whereas nut eaters stay full longer.
The Nuts and Bolts
Even knowing all the health benefits of nuts, it's still a little scary to take the plunge. Try these tips for starters:
--Offer your child only a small amount the first time
--Do it in the morning on a day you'll be with your child so you can be on the lookout for symptoms of an allergic reaction
--If your child seems fine, offer slightly greater amounts of each over the next several days. After 4 or 5 days he's in the clear and you can start introducing nuts in the following ways.
Easy Ways to use Nuts
* Stir a few tablespoons of nut butter into pancakes or muffin batter, or mix 1 to 2 teaspoons into oatmeal or rice cereal
* Stir a few teaspoons of ground nuts into the foods your kid likes, like yogurt or applesauce. For toddlers, use ground nuts as a coating for finger foods, like fish sticks and chicken nuggets.
* For toddlers, stir together equal parts nut butter and light cream cheese with a little milk for a dip you can serve with sliced banana.
* Blend together 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 cup frozen fruit, and a few teaspoons of ground nuts for a fun drink that is appropriate for kids ages 1 and up. Just be sure to grind up the nuts first--otherwise they will sink to the bottom.
Apple Walnut Baby Puree
You can safely add nuts to purees for babies 4 to 6 months and up.
Chocolate-Hazelnut Pancakes with Raspberry Sauce
For babies 9 to 12 months and up, tear hazelnut butter-filled pancakes into pieces and put a few teaspoons of sauce on her plate. Let her "paint" the pancakes in the sauce.
Pecan-Crusted Cod Strips
For babies 12 to 18 months and older, jazz up ordinary fish sticks with a crispy, nutty topping. Use Atlantic cod for the fish sticks, though, because it's not overfished or high in mercury.
This pasta dish is for babies 12 to 18 months and up. Cut up the pasta, or use orzo or dot-shaped pastina.
Chicken Lollipops with almond dipping sauce
This recipe is great finger food for kids two and up.
Originally published in the December 2010 issue of Parents magazine.
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