There seems to be some confusion amongst parents regarding the who, what, when and how of feeding nuts to kids, so here’s our take on it…
Nuts, such as almonds, walnuts and brazil nuts, are a great source of protein, unsaturated fats and minerals and can boost the nutrient profile of many sweet and savoury dishes. BUT whole nuts are easy to choke on and nut allergies, in particular peanut allergies, are one of the most common allergies and the allergic reactions involved can be life threatening.
So which kids should be eating nuts, at what age can they have them and how should you give them?
First of all you should assess your child’s allergy risk. If you have a family history of nut or food allergies or atopic conditions (such as hayfever, asthma, eczema) then you must speak to your GP or Health Visitor before introducing nuts into your child’s diet. If your child has a nut allergy they will need to avoid them for life.
If you don’t have a family history of nut or food allergies then, like any other food first introduced, you should still look out for any symptoms your child may have after eating them for the first time – in particular a rash, swelling on the face, difficulty breathing, wheezing or tingling lips or mouth (if you are concerned call 999).
The NHS recommends that children under 5 should not be given whole nuts due to the risk of choking. This doesn’t mean though that younger children can’t enjoy ground-up nuts or little pieces. Speak to your Health Visitor about the lastest advice regarding when to introduce nuts as it may have changed.
You must also be aware that unbeknown to you, other children may have a nut allergy, so avoid giving your child nut-containing foods at kid-gatherings such as school, nursery, playgrounds, playgroups and parties. It can take even the tiniest nut particle to trigger an allergic reaction.
If you have been given the green light to feed your kids ground or small pieces of nuts, then start including them in their meals and snacks at home. They are a great way of boosting the protein content of a dish, which not only supports growth but also helps to keep energy levels steady across the day. Here’s a summary of some of our favourite nuts:
|Nut||A source of…||When to have them|
|Delicious ground in cakes; plays a starring role in chicken korma; spread almond butter on toast; extra tasty sprinkled in slivers over baked apples or nectarines…|
|Cashews||Copper, Manganese, Magnesium, Monounsaturated fats||Delicious broken into little pieces and added to a stir-fry.|
|Walnuts||Omega 3, Manganese, Antioxidants||Add little chunks to banana muffins, homemade flapjacks or sprinkle over porridge with a little honey*.|
|Hazelnuts||Vitamin E||Nutella would be nothing without them…|
* Do not give honey to any under 1 year olds.
Some interesting nut facts to quote in the playground (once you’ve covered preferred nappy brands and how many hours of sleep you got last night)…
- Almonds contain more calcium per gram than milk (but also more calories).
- Walnut oil can absorb strong odours so it should be stored in the fridge (which also protects its delicate omega 3 fat content).
- Macadamia nuts were not harvested until the 1930’s.
- The brain-shape of walnuts meant people in medieval times thought they could cure headaches.
- Despite the children’s song Here We Go Gathering Nuts in May, there are actually no nuts to gather in May. It comes from “Here we go gathering knots of may” and refers to the ancient custom of picking bunches (knots) of flowers on May Day to celebrate the end of winter….Well I never!