Good Nutrition Starts Early
- Peanuts and peanut butter are affordable and nutritious options for growing children, with a flavor that they love.
- New guidelines from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease recommend introducing peanut protein to infants as early as 4-6 months (depending on risk) to prevent peanut allergy.
The Trifecta of Nutrition: Nutrition, Cost and Flavor
Getting children to eat food that’s nutritious can be a challenge. Taking a cue from many adults, kids often think nutritious food tastes bad or bland. But unlike many other nutritious foods, peanuts and peanut butter represent the “trifecta” of nutrition since they offer a great overall nutrition profile, are affordable, and taste delicious. Surveys show that more than 90 percent of American households have at least one jar of peanut butter in the pantry! It’s a taste kids love and a food we can all feel great about feeding them.
With seven grams per ounce, peanuts have more protein than any nut. Protein is essential for growing children. In fact, peanuts are a Superfood offering more than 30 essential vitamins and nutrients. Peanut butter also serves as a great vehicle for other foods. For instance, 64 percent of children surveyed said they’d eat more fruits and vegetables when served with their favorite peanut butter dip. When paired with baby carrots, celery and jicama sticks, apple and pear slices, peanut butter can encourage kids to try foods they might otherwise avoid. Peanut butter adds protein and mostly good fats, which also help the body absorb fat soluble vitamins. For details on the vitamins and nutrients in peanuts, check out our peanut nutrition page.
Getting kids involved with meal preparation is another way to help gather excitement for healthy eating. Age appropriate activities such as dumping ingredients into the bowl, stirring, and cracking eggs can help children feel invested in the meal. Even the youngest children can help set the table for a family meal. Older kids can even chop vegetables with supervision. Bring children to the store and let them pick out one new food (like fruit, vegetable, nuts and seeds) they’ve never tried can also be another great way to increase their interest in food.
Try these delicious and nutritious recipes that kids can even help make:
Nutritious from the Start
It just makes sense that good nutrition starts even before birth. Mom’s diet impacts growth and development, and may impact lifelong health. For this reason, pregnant women are encouraged to eat enough foods that include protein, mostly good fats, and the nutrient folic acid, or folate. Peanuts are a good source of folate and can help women get enough of this important nutrient when included as part of a balanced and nutrient-dense diet.
Many people are concerned about potential allergens during pregnancy and lactation, so it’s helpful to be aware of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) (Pediatrics, 2008) guidelines, which state that there is insufficient evidence to avoid allergens as a strategy to prevent food allergies.
In infancy, breastfeeding is the best nutrition and should be encouraged for at least the first six months, per the AAP guidelines. The introduction of solid foods should not be delayed beyond six months and may be introduced between four and six months. In fact, AAP’s guidelines state:
Although solid foods should not be introduced before 4 to 6 months of age, there is no current convincing evidence that delaying their introduction beyond this period has a significant protective effect on the development of atopic disease regardless of whether infants are fed cow milk protein formula or human milk. This includes delaying the introduction of foods that are considered to be highly allergic, such as fish, eggs, and foods containing peanut protein.
The 2017 NIAID adendum guidelines recommend the early introduction of peanut protein in infants between 4-6 months of age depending on risk (low, medium or high) to prevent peanut allergy. They also provide ways to simply introduce peanut to babies (through thinned peanut butter, peanut puffs or powdered peanut butter) and recommendations for how frequently infants who are at-risk for peanut allergy should eat peanut foods (at least 3 times per week). If a baby isn’t at risk for peanut allergy, parents can offer peanut foods as often as they would like.
It’s important to properly introduce foods for safety to avoid choking. Parents concerned about food allergies should discuss them with their pediatrician. Ensuring that foods are cut into appropriate sized pieces and that children are supervised when eating are important considerations.
As children grow, peanuts and peanut butter provide a nutrient-dense and shelf-stable food that can make mealtimes easier.
- Thygarajan and Burks. American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations on the effects of early nutritional interventions on the development of atopic disease. Curr Opin Pediatr. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2659557/. Accessed on November 19, 2012.
- Nwaru, B., Age at the Introduction of solid foods during the first year and allergic sensitization at 5 years. Pediatrics. Available at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/1/50.full. Accessed on November 19, 2012.