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The following is adapted from Dr. Tanya Altmann's "What to Feed Your Baby: A pediatrician's guide for raising a veggie-loving, healthy-eating baby,"released tomorrow and published by HarperOne.
Your pediatrician was wrong when she said to hold off on
giving your baby peanut butter until age 1 (or even older). It's not her
fault—I was once wrong too—as those were the recommendations until a few years
ago. We now know that holding off on peanut products and other allergenic foods,
such as fish and eggs, will not decrease the chance that your child will
develop a food allergy. In fact, a recent landmark study actually showed that
giving peanut products early to high-risk infants (those with eczema and other
signs of allergic disease) decreased the chance that they would later develop a
The bottom line: introducing nuts early does not put your child
at risk of becoming allergic. So I recommend parents introduce this important
food early on.
Nuts and nut butters are delicious, healthy and convenient.
Nutrient-wise, they offer vegetarian protein, vitamin E and healthy
monounsaturated fats. Nuts and nut butters are an easy way to add healthy
protein to any meal, even breakfast.
It's important to note that whole nuts are a serious choking
hazard and should not be given to children under age 3. So how do you
introduce peanuts to a baby? Around 6 months, I melted 1 teaspoon of
creamy peanut butter into 1 ounce of oatmeal and fed it to my third son for
breakfast three times a week. At 9 months, I gave him a little creamy nut butter
by itself (to lick off my finger) and then on whole grain bread. He also loves
Bamba (a peanut puff snack from Israel).
Peanut butter and almond butter are favorites for young
kids, but not all nut butters are created
equally. I recommend buying natural nut butters with no sugar added. The
main ingredient should be nuts. You can now find no-stir varieties of natural
Here's a quiz:
BRAND A—Natural creamy peanut butter. Contains: dry roasted
peanuts with or without salt
Which is the better choice? Brand A because there's no added
sugar or oil. There is no need to buy low-fat peanut butter, because the fat in nut
butter is a healthy, good-for-you fat.
Eventually your preschooler will be better able to handle
chewing crunchy nut butters and small pieces of raw nuts—a great snack or
portable protein to carry with you anywhere. I always have stashes of nuts in
my bag for me or my older kids.