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When Can Toddlers Eat Whole Nuts? Pediatricians Weigh In

While I am personally too scared to introduce my son to a grape until he’s 15 years old, some folks may be more curious and less anxious than I am and are wondering if toddlers can eat whole nuts this holiday season. Not that your toddler will be partaking in any kind of cocktail hour, but they may want to try their hand at smashing a walnut with a nutcracker.

Dr. Gina Posner, a board-certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells Romper pretty simply, “Toddlers can never eat whole nuts. You shouldn’t introduce whole nuts until a child is at least 4 years old. There are serious, potentially life-threatening choking hazards.”

Dr. Daniel S. Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, adds, “Once they are older and don't run or walk while they're eating and don't talk while they're eating, then they can have whole nuts, usually around the age of 4 to 6 years old depending on the child.

As far as chopped nuts, Ganjian tells Romper, “Small pieces of chopped nuts can be given probably around the ages of 2 or 3 if they are sitting down and you are watching them chew. They can still choke on them, so be extremely careful.”

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But nuts in all their forms shouldn't be ignored. “The latest recommendations are that babies should get introduced to nuts starting as early as 4 to 6 months old, given usually as a powder or a taste most days of the week for 6 months straight," Ganjian tells Romper. "Studies show that the earlier introduction of nuts and other highly allergic foods such as dairy and eggs prevents the development of food allergies later on in life.”

It's also worth noting that there are many health benefits in nuts. They're a great source of good fats, fiber, omega-6, omega-3, magnesium, and vitamin E, among other nutrients, according to Healthline. So while it's a big no on whole pecans or walnuts for your toddler at Thanksgiving, you could give them frosting made with pulverized pecans, or a pie that's got some kind of smashed nuts in the crust. (Or go totally old school and just smear some peanut butter on something.) I mean, let's be honest, your toddler would probably prefer smashing the nuts with the nutcracker over eating them anyway, so just enjoy the walnuts they'll force you to eat all Christmas long.

Experts:

Dr. Gina Posner, a board certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California

Dr. Daniel S. Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California