10 Foods to Think Twice About Before Giving to a Toddler

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When your child begins to eat solid food, it’s important to remember that just because his palate is expanding, there are still a variety of foods that aren’t suitable for him to eat at such a young age. Due to choking hazards, allergy concerns, and your toddler’s nutritional needs, some foods should be banned from your little ones plate until he’s older. You should avoid giving these ten foods to your toddler, and should carefully consider whether you want to introduce some of them into his diet at all, even when he’s older.

  1. Tree Nuts – Tree nuts, like pecans, almonds, and walnuts, should never be given to a toddler. The reasons for this policy are two-fold, due to the choking hazard that they present and their place on the list of most common food allergens. Children with food allergies often react negatively to tree nuts, and it’s not a good idea to introduce them when your child is still so young, especially if tree nut allergies run in the family.
  2. Peanut Butter – Ingesting a small amount or coming into contact with peanut butter can be harmful or deadly to an allergic child, and peanut allergies are among the most common in young children. The thick consistency of peanut butter can also present a choking hazard to toddlers that don’t have any known peanut sensitivities, making it wise to hold off on introducing this kid favorite until your little one is a bit older.
  3. Soft Drinks – Keep Kids Healthy recommends that toddlers only have four to six ounces of fruit juice each day, and never soda or other soft drinks. These sugar-laden beverages can be harmful to little teeth, are filled with empty calories, and often contain caffeine – a stimulant your toddler probably doesn’t need.
  4. Hard Candy – Hard candies, which are usually little more than a mix of solidified sugar, artificial flavoring, and coloring agents, are an unwise choice for your toddler’s diet due to the high choking risk that they pose, as well as their lack of nutritional value.
  5. Hot Dogs – Generally made from highly-processed meat and filled with sodium and additives, traditional hot dogs may not be the best choice for your child’s diet. If you do decide to feed them to your toddler, however, it’s imperative that you slice hot dogs lengthwise before serving them. Coin-shaped slices, a popular choice because they’re easy for little fingers to maneuver, pose a very serious choking risk and are among the most common causes of fatal choking incidents.
  6. Low-Fat Milk – Seattle Children’s Hospital recommends that children under one year of age avoid having cow’s milk entirely, and that kids under two years of age steer clear of drinking low-fat, non-fat, or reduced-fat milk. Toddlers need some fat in their diets for a variety of reasons, not least of which is their neurological development. After your child reaches two years of age, your pediatrician may or may not recommend a switch to low-fat or skim milk.
  7. Popcorn – Popcorn can be tricky for adults to eat because of the pesky bits of kernel that can stick to your teeth and throat, and are even more dangerous for kids. Because partially-popped kernels can be very hard, and fully-popped ones can present a choking hazard as well, your toddler should not eat popcorn. Additionally, microwaveable popcorn brands are almost invariably awash in a sea of chemicals, some of which can be harmful.
  8. Eggs – Because egg whites can cause upset stomach and skin complaints in some toddlers and whole eggs are a very common food allergen, it’s best to avoid eggs until your child is a bit older and you can safely test for signs of an allergic reaction.
  9. Honey – While it’s not altogether common, honey contaminated with bacteria that causes botulism can lead to a very serious illness. After toddlerhood, the likelihood of your child contracting botulism from ingesting honey is very slight, but it’s best to avoid this natural sweetener altogether until then.
  10. Fish – Some types of fish can be quite high in mercury, and exposure to them can be toxic in large amounts. Fish is also a relatively common allergen, so it’s best to skip those fish sticks until your child is well past toddlerhood. Even then, opt for types of fish that aren’t known to be particularly high in mercury.

Because there are a variety of food items that can be somewhat controversial when it comes to being a regular part of a toddler’s diet, it’s best to consult with your pediatrician before introducing these foods, especially if allergies run in the family. When in doubt, it’s far better to consult a medical professional than to gamble on the health and wellbeing of your child.

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2 Responses to “10 Foods to Think Twice About Before Giving to a Toddler”

  1. Eileen Behan, RD Says:

    September 24th, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    As a registered dietitian and author of the Baby Food Bible I thought I would make a few comments about these recommendations. Avoiding soft drinks, hard candy and honey is good advice but parents should check with their child’s doctor about nuts, milk, eggs and fish.
    The American Academy of Pediatrics has revised its allergy prevention guidelines, some pediatricians are actually advising the addition of nuts to reduce the risk of allergy. All nuts because they can be hard and round are a choking risk so do be careful. It was once automatic to introduce whole milk instead of 1% or 2% but again, some pediatricians suggest the lower fat milk, so check with your child’s doctor for individualized advice. Eggs are a great source of protein and fish is actually a food parents want to introduce and the earlier the better. Yes you should limit canned tuna, but salmon, haddock even shrimp and cod are great foods for children, eaten in abundance in other countries. To chose the healthiest fish for your child go to the Monterey Bay Fish Aquarium web page for guidance http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/download.aspx

    One of the best nutrition tips I can offer parents is to serve a fruit or vegetable with every meal and most snacks. Kida introduced fruits and vegetables early are more likely to eat them when older.

  2. Michelle Says:

    September 25th, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Hi Eileen!

    Thanks for the comments and the information about the updated guidelines. It’s always best practice to check with your child’s doctor whenever you have questions.


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