Allergies to tree nuts, like almonds, cashews, and walnuts, affect up to 1% of children and adults and are considered one of the most common allergies in babies. And with research showing that only 9 percent of children eventually outgrow a tree nut allergy, it is considered to be lifelong alongside shellfish, fish, and peanuts.
As with other allergies, a tree nut allergy can be severe, but thanks to landmark clinical studies, we now know that introducing babies to tree nuts early and consistently, before they turn one, is essential.
Tree nuts in a safely prepared format may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, along with most other allergenic foods, around 4-6 months of age according to the 2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines.
Introducing tree nuts early and often is essential in helping to prevent this allergy and reduce stress later in life.
Excellent sources of plant-based protein, fiber, and healthy fats, tree nuts most commonly include these six types: almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts.
Serving whole or crushed tree nuts or hard tree nut snacks to babies is not a safe method as they can pose a choking hazard. Similarly, nut butters can have too thick or sticky of a texture for babies to swallow. Instead, introduce tree nuts in a form that is appropriate for your baby.
Is your baby ready for their first taste? Here are our favorite ways to introduce tree nuts to your baby for the first time:
Nut butters, such as almond, cashew, or walnut butters, can be thinned with formula or breastmilk, making them safe to eat. You can feed this directly to your baby on the spoon, spread on a cracker, or mix it into other baby foods like yogurt and oatmeal.
You could also add nut flours or nut powders into your baby’s diets by baking them into their favorite recipes, or sprinkling them on top of smoothies, applesauce, yogurt, or other meals.
Reactions to tree nuts can be severe, including life-threatening anaphylaxis. Found in many foods and other unexpected sources, tree nut allergies can be difficult to navigate. Nut paste, oils, or proteins are commonly used in many different types of cuisine, including items such as cereals, crackers, cookies, candy, and ice cream.
Although having an allergic reaction to one type of tree nut will not necessarily mean your child will develop allergies for other types, according to FARE, an allergy to one tree nut will increase the chances of having an allergy to more types of tree nuts. This is especially true for closely related types of tree nuts, like walnuts and pecans, and cashews and pistachios.
Though tree nuts are not considered the same as a peanut, which is actually a legume, 30% of peanut-allergic individuals are also allergic to tree nuts, making early introduction an essential milestone.