My kids were babies just a few years ago, but at that time parents were told to avoid offering peanuts, almonds and other tree nuts until they were toddlers and as late as 3-years-old.
The food philosophy was meant to prevent babies from developing severe and life-threatening food allergies.
Nearly 8 percent of children in the U.S. have food allergies and peanuts are the most common allergen, according to a 2018 study in the journal Pediatrics.
In a short amount of time a lot has changed however. Now experts say introducing peanuts and tree nuts early on when babies start solids can actually prevent food allergies.
In January 2017, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) endorsed new guidelines from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in an effort to reduce the amount of kids with peanut allergies.
The updated recommendations came after a 2015 landmark study, the Learning Early About Peanut (LEAP) trial, which found that early introduction of peanuts can prevent peanut allergies in kids who are considered “high risk,” meaning those who have eczema and/or an egg allergy.
As a result, the AAP now recommends parents with babies who don’t have eczema or food allergies can “freely” introduce peanuts between 4 and 6 months of age.
Babies with mild or moderate eczema can be introduced to peanuts and tree nuts at 6-months of age.
Those with severe eczema and/or an egg allergy should also be introduced to peanuts and tree nuts between 4 and 6 months of age and after they have started other solids without any reactions, but they should also have allergy testing done beforehand.
Knowing whether your child has a moderate or high risk for food allergies can be tough, so air on the side of caution and talk with your pediatrician first before introducing nuts into your baby’s diet.
Nuts are a healthy first food for babies
For infants without food allergies, nuts can be one of the best first foods for babies.
Nuts are an excellent source of protein, and are high in omega-3 fatty acids which supports brain and eye health, and vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that protects cells from the damage of free radicals.
Here, learn how to safely introduce nuts to your baby.
Never feed your baby whole nuts
It goes without saying, but whole nuts are a chocking hazard for babies. The AAP says you shouldn’t introduce them into your baby’s diet until he can chew them well—probably around age 4 or 5.
Also, never feed your baby a spoonful of peanut butter or another nut butter, which is also a choking hazard.
Once you get the green light from your baby’s pediatrician to introduce nuts into your baby’s diet, offer just a taste at first.
As long as your baby has no symptoms of an allergic reaction or an intolerance, you can gradually increase the amount the next time.
Offer a tiny taste
Peanut butter, almond butter and other types of nut butters are an ideal way to introduce nuts to your baby.
Since they’re so sticky however, make sure you mix a very small amount with yogurt, a vegetable or fruit puree or infant cereal. Blend it well and make sure the nut butter is super smooth and has a consistency your baby can handle.
Serve a spread of nut butter with finger foods
When your baby is ready for finger foods, spread a small amount of nut butter on toast, pancakes, or waffles or even soft fruits like bananas or pears.
Adding nut butter to finger foods is a great way to get protein, more nutrition and extra flavor into your baby’s diet.
Prepare a pesto sauce
Pesto is a healthy and delicious way to introduce nuts to your baby.
Since many types of store-bought pesto sauces are high in sodium however, make your own version with pine nuts, walnuts or almonds.
Add pesto to pasta, grain dishes, soups or vegetable purees.
Swap all purpose flour for almond flour
Using almond flour in your baking recipes is a great way to introduce nuts to your baby.
Almond flour has more protein than all-purpose flour, is gluten-free and quite tasty. Use it to make breads and muffins for your baby, but be mindful of the amount of sugar you use.