Introducing NUTS to your baby can be a scary and confusing time. Nuts are high in calories, fat, protein, and antioxidants – all of which are great for adults but not necessarily babies or toddlers.
Nuts also have the potential to make allergies worse because they’re so potent. But nuts might be what you need! Check out this blog post with ten ways to introduce NUTS into your child’s diet!
Yep, that’s right — introducing your baby to nuts early could prevent nut allergies.
Parents in the United States and other Western countries used to wait to introduce peanuts and tree nuts, such as cashews, almonds, and walnuts.
Then a 2016 study found that in Israel, a country where infants were frequently fed peanuts very early, peanut allergies were rare: The prevalence was just 0.17 per cent compared to 1.4 per cent in the United States and 1.7 per cent in the United Kingdom.
These findings were confirmed with several groundbreaking clinical trials, most notably the LEAP trial. It found that introducing peanut-containing foods to infants between the ages of 4 and 11 months reduced the chances of developing an allergy by more than 80 per cent — that’s huge!
This is because your baby’s immune system is developing during this time.
“As the immune system is developing, we want to intentionally introduce highly allergenic foods and continue to expose the immune system to [them] so that the immune system is trained to recognize [them] as ‘friendly and not a threat,” explains Dr Yan Yan, a board-certified paediatrician, and allergist with Columbia Allergy.
If this doesn’t happen, your baby’s immune system might later perceive nuts as dangerous and overreact, resulting in an allergic reaction.
So when do they recommend we introduce nuts to babies?
The short answer: Unless your baby has a history of eczema or food allergies, they can try nuts shortly after they start solids — as early as 4 to 6 months.
Just make sure that you keep it up once you start (and they don’t react).
“Studies suggest sustained exposure is just as important as the early introduction,” says Dr Jessica Hochman, FAAP, a board-certified paediatrician and member of the scientific advisory board for Ready, Set, Food. “Parents must continue introducing allergens many times a week for several months.
What are the best ways to introduce nuts to babies?
There are lots of options. You can try giving your baby peanut puffs (e.g., “Bamba” puffs) that are kind of like peanut Cheetos and dissolve easily when your baby sucks on them.
They can also be dissolved into your baby’s other foods, including breast milk.
You can use nut powders and sprinkle them into your baby’s food, or you can bake with nut flours.
Nut butter (like peanut butter or almond butter) are great too, but it’s essential to introduce them safely. Because nut butter can be very thick and sticky, large globs could be choking hazards.
“Spread them thinly on a soft cracker or strip of banana, stir them into oatmeal, add them to yogurt, or thin them out with a little water and offer small amounts at a time on a spoon,” says Megan McNamee, a pediatric registered dietitian nutritionist and co-owner of Feeding Littles.
However you introduce them, make sure you start with a small amount (roughly 1/4 tsp or less) until you know how your baby will react.
How do I know if I’m buying the right kind of nut products for my baby?
Always buy smooth nut butter without any chunks of nuts. And look for butter and products with as few ingredients as possible.
“Fewer ingredients can make it easier to determine what a child reacted to should an allergic reaction occur after consuming the nut butter,” says Yan.
Fewer ingredients also mean you can avoid added sugars, which you generally recommend for your child’s first two years of life.
You might also want to look for butter with lower sodium content because your baby shouldn’t be getting more than 0.4 grams of sodium daily before they’re 12 months old.
Never give babies whole nuts.
“Whole peanuts and nuts are a choking hazard to children under 4 because if they are not chewed well and are inhaled into the lungs, they can block their air passages,” explains Dr Florencia Segura, FAAP, a board-certified paediatrician with Einstein Pediatrics.
Children have died choking on whole nuts; she adds because the pieces blocked the entire airway.
That’s why new guidelines from multiple leading allergy organizations recommend not giving whole nuts to children before their fifth birthday.
What are the nutritional benefits of nuts?
In general, “Nuts are a good source of fat, which is important for growth and development,” McNamee says. “They are tasty foods that help us feel satisfied when we eat them.”
That’s partly because they’re also good sources of protein and fibre.
“Walnuts specifically contain more omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain and eye development,” McNamee adds.
Cashews are also a good source of omega fats and copper (which is essential for iron absorption), magnesium, and amino acids that power cell growth.
Meanwhile, almonds are a great source of fibre, plant-based protein, and monounsaturated fats (the same kind of heart-healthy fats found in other superfoods, like avocado and olive oil).
They’re also high in other vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium.
Parents should introduce Nuts to their babies. There are many ways this can be done because nuts are a good source of healthy fats, protein, and fibre.
Introducing Nuts early may help your child develop stronger immunity against nut allergies later in life. However, make sure you start with small amounts until the reaction is determined.
Don’t give whole nuts to children before they’re five years old due to choking hazards and new guidelines from multiple leading allergy organizations that recommend not giving whole nuts to children before their fifth birthday.