Variety is key to ensure good nutrition, and the same is true for children. Nuts are a particularly nutritious food for children, as they are rich in essential nutrients that children need to help them grow and develop.

Research tells us that nut consumption improves children’s diet quality [1].

Nuts are nutrient-rich foods which can make a significant contribution towards helping to meet the nutrient requirements of growing children, including: 

  • Protein: essential nutrient required for growth and development.
  • Minerals: 
    • Iron: required to transfer oxygen around the blood and for immunity.
    • Zinc: important for immunity and helps metabolise carbohydrate and protein.
    • Calcium: essential for bones and teeth, as well as aiding blood clotting, muscle contraction and nerve function.
  • Fibre: important for a healthy digestive system.
  • Vitamins: act as antioxidants, and are important for energy production.

A handful of nuts each day is a valuable inclusion to your child’s diet. 

Nuts make a convenient, healthy and filling snack as they are rich in healthy fats, fibre, protein and contain a wide variety of essential vitamins, mineral and antioxidants.

Nuts should be introduced to infants from around 6 months of age in the form of butters or pastes to avoid the risk of choking from whole nuts.

Replacing energy-dense, nutrient-poor snacks with nuts has the potential to build healthy dietary habits as children develop into adults.

Nuts and weight

Overweight and obesity is a major concern in Australia, with just over 1 in 4 children and adolescents overweight or obese [2]. However, research shows that those who regularly eat nuts have a healthier BMI and healthier body weights [3,4]. Encouraging children to eat a handful of nuts every day is therefore not only helpful in heading off weight problems, but may also help to displace less healthy foods in the diet, thereby promoting a better diet overall. 

Nuts contain protein, fibre and healthy fats, which not only help to satisfy hunger [5,6], but the fats can also switch on satiety hormones helping to tell you when you are full [7,8]. Finally, not all the fat in nuts is absorbed, with up to 20% being excreted in faeces [9,10].

Nuts and allergies

The ASCIA infant feeding guidelines [11] 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. As a guide, mix a small amount (¼ teaspoon) of smooth peanut butter/paste into your baby’s usual food (such as vegetable puree). If there is no allergic reaction, gradually increase the amount, such as ½ teaspoon the next time. Do not give whole nuts or nut pieces until around five years to reduce the risk of choking.

Many schools and childcare centres in Australia claim to be ‘nut free’. However, this approach is not supported by ASCIA or state government health departments. 

Even if your child attends a ‘nut free’ school, nuts make excellent after school snacks, either mixed with homemade popcorn, as a spread on wholegrain crackers, or added to muffins, yoghurts or fruit. 
Aim for a small handful, around 30g every day.

References

  1. Mead, LC., et al., The effect of nut consumption on diet quality, cardiometabolic and gastrointestinal health in children: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2021. 18(2), 454.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017. An interactive insight into overweight and obesity in Australia. Cat. no: WEB 236.
  3. Matthews, V.L., M. Wien, and J. Sabate, The risk of child and adolescent overweight is related to types of food consumed. Nutr J, 2011. 10: p. 71.
  4. Li, H., et al., Nut consumption and risk of metabolic syndrome and overweight/obesity: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies and randomized trials. Nutr Metab (Lond), 2018. 15: p. 46.
  5. Noakes, M., The role of protein in weight management. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr, 2008. 17 Suppl 1: p. 169-71.
  6. Pereira, M.A. and D.S. Ludwig, Dietary fiber and body-weight regulation. Observations and mechanisms. Pediatr Clin North Am, 2001. 48(4): p. 969-80.
  7. Cassady, B.A., et al., Mastication of almonds: effects of lipid bioaccessibility, appetite, and hormone response. Am J Clin Nutr, 2009. 89(3): p. 794-800.
  8. Pasman, W.J., et al., The effect of Korean pine nut oil on in vitro CCK release, on appetite sensations and on gut hormones in post-menopausal overweight women. Lipids Health Dis, 2008. 7: p. 10.
  9. Mattes, R.D., The energetics of nut consumption. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr, 2008. 17 Suppl 1: p. 337-9.
  10. Ellis, P.R., et al., Role of cell walls in the bioaccessibility of lipids in almond seeds. Am J Clin Nutr, 2004. 80(3): p. 604-13.
  11. ASCIA. Guidelines: Infant feeding and allergy prevention. ASCIA 2016. http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergy-prevention/ascia-guidelines-for-infant-feeding-and-allergy-prevention.
Back
Print

Follow Us

Join the NutENews mailing list

For up to date information & the latest research articles