Absolutely. A handful of nuts each day is a valuable inclusion in your child's diet. Nuts are a particularly nutritious food, rich in healthy fats, high in fibre, a source of protein and contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (1).
Nuts make a convenient, healthy and filling snack, and are a good replacement for less nutritious snack foods such as chips, biscuits, muffins and lollies. If your child goes to a "nut free" school nuts are a perfect after school snack to tie them over until dinner.
Research in children also shows that nut eaters have healthier body weights and have a lower risk of heart disease (2,3).
So, a handful of nuts everyday is a smart snack for kids*.
* It is recommended to introduce nut butters or pastes from around 6 months of age, and to avoid whole nuts until around 3 years due to the risk of choking.
1) Nuts for Life. 2016 Nutrient composition of tree nuts.
2) Nuts for Life. Nuts and the Big Fat Myth - The positive role of nuts in weight management. Nuts for life 2016.
3) Mikkila V et al. Major dietary patterns and cardiovascular risk factors from childhood to adulthood. The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study. Br J Nutr. 2007;98(1):218-25.
Published December 2016
If your child is not allowed to take nuts to school or attends a 'Nut Free' day care or primary school, it’s probably because there is a child at the school who is allergic to nuts. For information on nuts see the section on Nuts and Allergy or our fact sheet
For children not allergic to nuts, sprinkle a handful of nuts over breakfast cereal, or blended into fruit smoothies; provide a handful with afternoon tea, or combined in muffins or biscuit recipes; add them to dinner and don't forget to include them on weekends for meals and snacks. They're also great before or after sport/dance. Check out our recipe section for some great ideas
Last Update July 2016
Previously, it was recommended delaying the introduction of nuts until around 12 months of age to reduce the risk of allergies. However, there is little evidence to suggest that this can prevent allergies, and in fact may actually have the opposite effect (1,2). Studies are ongoing in this area, but it would appear that there is a critical period of time whereby immune system development is optimised and is primed to accept protein foods. It is suggested that this critical window is around 4-6 months of age (3).
The NHMRC and ASCIA infant feeding guidelines (4,5) recommend introducing foods according to what the family usually eats - regardless of whether the food is considered to be a common food allergen, at around 4-6 months of age. Nut butters, pastes and flours can be introduced at this time, just like other foods. Hold off on whole nuts or nut pieces until around five years to reduce the risk of choking; smooth nut pastes are a great and nutritious alternative until they are old enough to chew whole nuts well.
1) Koplin JJ. et al. Can early introduction of egg prevent egg allergy in infants? A population-based study. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010; 126(4):p807-13.
2) Du Toit G. et al. Early consumption of peanuts in infancy is associated with a low prevalence of peanut allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008; 122(5):p984-91.
3) Prescott SL et al. The importance of early complementary feeding in the development of oral tolerance: concerns and controversies. Pediatr Allergy Immunol.2008; 19(5):p375-80.
4) NHMRC Eat for Health: Infant Feeding Guidelines Summary 2013.
5) ASCIA Guidelines: Infant feeding and allergy prevention. ASCIA 2016. https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergy-prevention/scia-guidelines-for-infant-feeding-and-allergy-prevention.
Last Update July 2016