Many parents wonder when kids can safely eat nuts and seeds. These foods can be an especially important source of healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals on a predominantly plant-based diet. Here’s what the research and recommendations say about introducing nuts to babies.
Nuts are a great source of healthy unsaturated fat and protein for kids. They’re also calorie-dense, offering a lot of energy in a small portion, which is great for little, growing tummies.
Although highly nutritious and versatile, nuts do require some special considerations when they are first introduced to young children.
When can babies have nuts?
Nuts are a great food for many reasons, but they are a choking hazard for babies in their whole form. Hence, it’s important to introduce nuts to babies in an age appropriate way.
The most widely agreed upon recommendation is that whole nuts should not be given to kids under the age of 5 years.
That being said, children under the age of 5 years can be introduced to nuts more safely in a variety of other ways.
How to introduce nuts to babies
When your baby is old enough to be introduced to his first solid foods like nuts, it’s important to serve them in a consistency, method, and amount that are age appropriate.
This typically means ground up or in the form of a nut butter, thinned with water.
You can sprinkle ground nut powder on foods like oatmeal, toast, yogurt, and applesauce. Nut powders can also be added to baked goods like muffins and pancakes.
Nut allergies and babies
When it comes to peanuts and tree nuts (e.g. cashews, almonds, walnuts), you may want to introduce these foods more slowly due to their allergic potential.
This may require extra caution if you have a family history of nut or other food allergies, or if your child has a history of eczema.
Current recommendations are to introduce peanuts to babies between 4-6 months of age or at the very least, before 12 months.
This typically involves introducing peanut butter paste over a period of a couple of hours, in small amounts, to allow for observation of any adverse reactions.
Although older recommendations were to wait for as long as possible before doing so, research has shown that earlier exposure to peanuts can actually be protective when it comes to allergies.
For instance, a 2018 study concluded that early introduction and regular exposure to peanuts lowers peanut allergy risk in high-risk infants from 17.2% to 3.2% at 5 years.
For more information on how to expose allergenic foods like peanuts to kids, check out our article on introducing allergenic foods.
Alternatives to nuts for babies
If nuts aren’t going to work in your household, you may choose to feed your kids seeds instead, which are less likely to be allergenic.
A good way to serve seeds to 4-6 month old babies is also to blend them up into a powder to mix with other foods, or serve them as seed butter spread on strips of toast, crackers, or banana.
You can find sunflower butter or sesame seed butter (tahini) at most grocery stores, just look for ones without added sugar and salt whenever possible. For young babies, it’s a good idea to thin seed butters with a little bit of water.
Once your child is old enough to have whole seeds, you can incorporate chia, hemp, and flax seed into meals as well as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds into their diet.
If you’re looking for non-seed sources of plant-based fats, foods like avocado, olives, and olive oil can be easily incorporated into your child’s diet. Tofu, tempeh, whole grains, seitan, beans, peas, and lentils are excellent plant-based protein foods for babies.
Introducing nuts to babies in the best ways can depend on a few individual factors, but can generally happen along with other first solid foods. Just be sure to expose them in a way that is age appropriate and follows current allergen introduction guidelines.
Chime in: What other questions do you have about introducing nuts to babies? What’s your family’s favorite way to enjoy nuts?
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