Nuts are a tasty food that people across ages enjoy as a part of a dish or a healthy snack. A handful of these energy-dense treats offer several vital nutrients, healthy fats, and health-benefiting bioactive compounds. Besides, they add texture to food and make a dish flavorful. Since eating nuts regularly can boost one’s health, you may want to add them to your baby’s weaning diet. But being one of the common allergens, are nuts safe for babies? What is the right age to feed nuts to babies?
This post will answer all your queries and share the possible health benefits of nuts, their side effects, and age-appropriate ways to feed nuts to babies.
Is It Safe To Feed Nuts To Babies?
Nuts may usually be safe for babies when fed in age-appropriate ways. However, considering their allergenic nature, experts advise consulting a pediatrician before introducing nuts to babies. It is preeminent if the baby has other food allergies or has a family history of allergies (1). Some of the nuts you may give to babies are cashews, walnuts, almonds, hazelnut, pistachio, pecans, and peanuts.
When Should You Introduce Nuts To Babies?
In contrast to their previous recommendation, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends introducing potentially allergenic foods to babies between four and six months of age (2). According to experts, early introduction of possibly allergenic foods may help prevent food allergies (3) (4). If you are unsure about feeding nuts to your babies from an early age, discuss your doubts with your healthcare provider.
Age-appropriate Ways To Introduce Nuts To Babies
Once you get the pediatrician’s approval, introduce nuts in age-appropriate ways. For young babies who have just started eating solids, choose feeding nuts as nut powder added to breast milk or formula or nuts flour used to make cakes or pancakes.
Alternatively, you can feed nut puffs dissolved in different liquid foods, such as puree or breast milk. Once the baby adjusts to the nut’s taste and digestibility, you can feed them smooth nut butter spread over a bread slice or cracker. Avoid feeding nut butter globs, chopped nuts, and chunky nut butter since they are potential choking hazards (5).
Nutritional Benefits Of Nuts For Babies
Nuts contain nutrients that can facilitate the baby’s growth, development, and sustenance. Here are some benefits of adding different types of nuts to your baby’s diet.
1. Nuts are energy-dense foods. One-fourth cup of almonds offers about 208kcal, while cashew and walnuts give 182kcal and 166kcal of energy, respectively (6). Optimum energy intake is essential to meet the rapid development needs of babies and toddlers.
2. Nuts contain vital nutrients. Almonds, walnuts, and cashew contain healthy fats and nutrients, such as vitamin E, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and folate. These could support a baby’s physiological functions, such as brain and eye development, nerve transmission, and enzyme function (7) (8).
3. Nuts offer healthy plant protein and fiber. Optimum protein intake is essential for the baby’s growth, hormone production, enzyme function, and cellular repair. Similarly, dietary fiber consumption is vital for healthy bowel movement and robust gut health. Research has shown that good gut health is essential for an effective immune system (9).
4. Nuts have bioactive compounds such as carotenoids, polyphenols, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds. These phytochemicals possess antioxidant effects, which may improve one’s long-term health. Resveratrol is one such compound in pistachio that may hold immunomodulatory properties (10) (11). Besides, some nuts contain phytosterols that lower cholesterol and maintain heart health (12).
Precautions To Take While Feeding Nuts To Babies
Below are some necessary precautions to ensure nuts’ safe consumption in babies.
1. Introduce nuts in age-appropriate ways in small amounts, such as one-fourth of a teaspoon to half a teaspoon, mixed in other foods that the baby consumes already.
2. Maintain a “three-day wait” rule when introducing nuts to babies. Ensure you feed no new food during this period.
3. Keep a close watch on signs and symptoms of discomfort or allergic reaction. If the baby looks uncomfortable after ingesting nuts, discontinue feeding immediately. After a week or more, reintroduce nuts to the baby’s diet. If the discomfort reappears or persists, consult a pediatrician.
4. Gradually increase the quantity as the baby adjusts to the nuts’ taste and digestibility.
5. Allergy to nuts is common so feed nuts to babies after consulting a pediatrician, especially if your baby is allergic to other foods or has a family history of tree nut allergies. Almond, cashew, hazelnut, pecan, pistachio, and walnut tend to cause allergies more commonly (13).
6. Allergic reactions to tree nuts vary in severity from one baby to another. Some of the tree nut allergy symptoms you may notice during an allergy episode are hives, abdominal discomfort, nausea, nasal congestion or runny nose, difficulty swallowing, and itchy mouth and throat. In severe cases, shortness of breath could occur, leading to a potentially life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis (14).
7. If your baby is allergic to a tree nut, they are highly likely to be allergic to other foods called nuts, such as peanuts, which are legumes. In such cases, you must avoid feeding all types of nuts to the baby (14). Additionally, you also need to avoid other nut products, such as nut oils, nut milk-based food products, and foods that may get cross-contaminated with nuts during processing and manufacturing processes.
8. If the baby doesn’t have a nut allergy, you may try several exciting ways to add nuts to your baby’s or toddler’s diet. For instance, you can add the nuts powder to your baby’s soup or porridge or make nuts flour bread.
9. You can add finely chopped nuts to yogurt or salads for toddlers. Avoid feeding whole nuts to children younger than five years of age (15).
10. Nut milk, such as almond milk, is another option that you may try as part of different baby-friendly recipes for your baby.
Healthy And Tasty Nut Recipes For Babies
Here are some tasty and easy-to-prepare nut recipes that you can feed to your baby with relative ease.
1. Steamed apple and walnut mash (6 months)
You will need:
- ½ apple (de-skinned and steamed)
- ½ tsp walnut (steamed)
- Breast milk or formula (optional)
How to prepare:
- Blend steamed apple and walnut into a smooth, lump-free mash using a blender or food processor.
- Pour the mash into a feeding cup and adjust the mash’s consistency by mixing some breast milk or formula.
- Feed the mash immediately or store it in an airtight container in a refrigerator.
2. Almond and strawberry oatmeal (8 months)
You will need:
- 1½ cup water
- ½ cup steel-cut oats
- ¼ cup strawberry (pureed)
- 1tsp almond powder
- ½ tsp jaggery powder
How to prepare:
- Cook oats with water as per instructions given on the packet.
- Once oats are ready, stir in strawberry puree, almond powder, and jaggery powder. Mix everything thoroughly.
- Pour the oats into a feeding bowl and feed the baby.
3. Peanut butter and jam sandwich (10 months)
You will need:
- 2 bread slices (corners removed)
- 1tbsp pineapple jam (or any other jam of your choice)
- 1tbsp smooth peanut butter
How to prepare:
- Apply jam on one bread slice and peanut butter on another.
- Put the slices together to make a sandwich.
- Serve to the baby as a healthy finger food snack to practice self-feeding.
4. Mango and banana nutty smoothie bowl (12 months)
You will need:
- 1 cup almond milk
- ½ cup frozen mango
- ½ cup frozen banana
- 1tsp cashew and walnut powder
How to prepare:
- Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend into a smooth, lump-free smoothie.
- Pour the smoothie into a serving bowl and feed the baby immediately.
- Alternatively, you can freeze the smoothie for two hours to convert the smoothie into a sorbet.
Nuts are a powerhouse of energy and essential nutrients that can benefit babies and toddlers in the long run. You can feed nuts to babies in several age-appropriate ways, provided the baby isn’t allergic to one or more tree nuts. If a baby is allergic to a nut, it is best to avoid other nuts and their products, including nut milk.
2. David M. Fleischer, Early introduction of allergenic foods may prevent food allergy in children; American Academy of Pediatrics
3. Carla Kemp,Will early introduction of foods prevent allergies?American Academy of Pediatrics
4. Infant Nutrition and Feeding;USDA
5. Choking Hazards; CDC
6. Your Challenge – Choose Nuts and Seeds More Often;Dietitians of Canada
7. The crucial brain foods all children need;Harvard Medical School
8. Penny M Kris-Etherton et al.,Nuts and their bioactive constituents;The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
9. Helen Fields,The Gut: Where Bacteria and Immune System Meet;John Hopkins Medicine
10. Cesarettin Alasalvara, Jordi-SalasSalvado, and EmilioRoscd,Bioactives and health benefits of nuts and dried fruits;,ScienceDirect
11. Bradley W Bolling, Diane L McKay, and Jeffrey B Blumberg,The phytochemical composition and antioxidant actions of tree nuts;U.S. National Library of Medicine
12. Phytosterols lower cholesterol levels in a dose-dependent manner;UC Davis Department of Nutrition
13. Tree Nut Allergy;Food Allergy Research & Education
14. Tree Nut Allergy;American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
15. Choking Hazard Safety;Nationwide Children’s Hospital