How Your Baby Can Start Eating Tree Nuts

Hands holding assorted nuts
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Tree nuts are on the "big eight" list of food allergens. But that doesn't mean you should avoid giving your baby nuts. In fact, pediatricians and allergists now recommend giving babies tree nuts (and peanuts) whenever they are ready to start solid foods—usually between four and six months of age. There are exceptions, though, so talk to your pediatrician about what's best for your baby. Always let your pediatrician know if you have a family history of any allergies.

What Are Tree Nuts?

Tree nuts, for the purpose of food allergies, include the following types of nuts (remember, peanuts are actually not a tree nut, but a legume). If any of these are present, a warning will be included on food labels stating that the product contains tree nuts. If your child has a known allergy to nuts, also be careful about cooking oils and additives that are in soaps, lotions and other things you might be putting on your baby's skin.

  • Almonds
  • Artificial nuts
  • Beech nuts
  • Black walnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Butternuts
  • Cashews
  • Chestnuts
  • Chinquapins
  • Coconuts
  • Filberts
  • Gingko nuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Hickory nuts
  • Lichee nuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Nangai nuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine or pinon nuts
  • Pili nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Shea nuts
  • Walnuts

Signs of Allergic Reaction

Whether or not you have a family history of allergies, the first time you introduce tree nuts, watch for the signs of an allergic reaction: hives, difficulty breathing or asthma symptoms, swelling of the mouth or throat, vomiting or diarrhea, loss of consciousness. Be ready to call 9-1-1 if your baby shows symptoms of anaphylaxis.

If your baby is at high risk, your pediatrician may ask that you introduce certain foods at their office so they can observe reactions in a clinical setting.

How to Feed Your Baby Tree Nuts

Nuts contain lots of healthy fatty acids, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and protein, so don't be shy about giving them to your baby. However, whole nuts are choking hazards, and so are spoonfuls of thick, sticky nut butter. Instead:

  • Spoon feeding: Thin out nut butter with water, breast milk, or formula. Then stir into yogurt, oatmeal, baby cereal, or fruit puree until thoroughly blended. You can also use powdered nut butters, stirred directly into these foods until smooth.
  • Finger foods: Use nut butter or pesto—made from pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, or any nuts you like—as a sauce for pasta (bonus: the noodles will be less slippery than when tossed with butter or olive oil). Or spread nut butter thinly on toast.
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By Stephanie Brown
Stephanie Brown is a parenting writer with experience in the Head Start program and in NAEYC accredited child care centers.