When and How to Introduce Nuts to Babies

Chicken Lollipops with Almond Dipping Sauce
Frances Janisch
Experts now agree you can (and should) give nuts to babies and toddlers. But how do you do it safely and deliciously? We crack the code.
Nina Buday/Shutterstock
Nina Buday/Shutterstock

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, more than 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.

Alexandra Grablewski
Alexandra Grablewski

Nut News

Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) changed its policy of avoiding ground nuts and foods containing nuts until age 3. Now the group recommends that parents offer nut products to babies, which may help prevent nut allergies altogether. The group says, "There is now scientific evidence that health care providers should recommend introducing peanut-containing products into the diets of 'high-risk' infants early on in life (between 4 and 11 months of age) in countries where peanut allergy is prevalent because delaying the introduction of peanut can be associated with an increased risk of peanut allergy." Questions? Talk to your child's pediatrician.

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. 

Frances Janisch
Frances Janisch

Nutty Nutritionals

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

*protein

*fiber

*zinc

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.

Frances Janisch
Frances Janisch

The Nuts and Bolts

Even knowing all the health benefits of nuts, it's still a little scary to take the plunge. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) offers these guidelines

--Don't introduce nuts if your baby has a cold or any other illness.

--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 (see next slide).

--Prepare a full, baby-sized portion of peanut or nut-containing food, such as 2 tsp. of creamy nut butter or peanut powder mixed with 2-3 Tbs. of fruit or vegetable puree.

--Give your baby just a taste of the nutty food. Wait 10 minutes.

--If there's no allergic reaction, offer your baby the rest of the portion and over the coming days continue offering your baby nuts and peanuts in new, age-appropriate ways. 

Alexandra Grablewski
Alexandra Grablewski

Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction

According to NIAID, here's what you should look for:

Mild symptoms can include:

- A new rash

- A few hives around the mouth or face

More severe symptoms can include:

- lip swelling

- vomiting

- widespread hives over the body

- face or tongue swelling

- any difficulty breathing

- wheezing

- repetitive coughing

- change in skin color (pale or blue)

- sudden tiredness/lethargy/seeming limp

If you have any concerns, get immediate medical help or call 911.

Frances Janisch
Frances Janisch

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, rice cereal, or yogurt.

* Stir a few teaspoons of finely ground nuts or nut butter into fruit or vegetable purees. 

* For toddlers or baby-led weaning, use finely ground nuts as a coating for finger foods, like fish sticks and chicken nuggets.

* Mix 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 non-dairy milk, 1/4 cup frozen fruit, and a few teaspoons of nut butter for a fun drink older babies will love. 

Frances Janisch
Frances Janisch

Apple-Walnut Baby Puree

You can safely add nuts to purees for babies 4 to 6 months and up.

Frances Janisch
Frances Janisch

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.

Frances Janisch
Frances Janisch

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.

Frances Janisch
Frances Janisch

Pistachio Pesto

This pasta dish is for babies 12 to 18 months and up. Cut up the pasta, or use orzo or dot-shaped pastina.

Frances Janisch
Frances Janisch

Chicken Lollipops with almond dipping sauce

This recipe is great finger food for kids two and up. All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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