By: Kristen Yarker, MSc, Dietitian
A parent asked the following question:
“What age is it safe to give my baby strawberries (and other possibly allergenic foods)?”
Anyone browsing the internet, reading parenting books, or listening to the advice of family and friends will be confused about what foods you should and shouldn’t introduce to your baby to minimize her/his risk of allergies. Everyone says something different!
Read on and I’ll share with you the inside scoop on why there’s so much conflicting information. And, how the new recommendations are based on the current scientific evidence.
The reason for much of the conflicting information is that most of the previous medical theories about what causes babies to have food allergies have proven not to be true.
As a result, the scientific research community has gone back to the drawing board to develop and test new theories for why babies develop food allergies. And even more importantly, they’ve gone back to the drawing board to find out how to prevent them.
There are lots of theories being tested currently. Two examples include exposure to pollution and almost the opposite theory that babies are raised in too clean and sterile an environment.
The (frustrating) fact is that we currently just don’t know what causes food allergies or how to prevent them.
So the reason that there’s so much conflicting information out there is that some of it is outdated. And, some of it is based on theories that are currently being tested (but not yet proven to be true).
On the other hand, what we do know is that the old rules about waiting until certain ages to introduce specific foods didn’t prevent allergies. In fact, there’s some emerging evidence that delaying the introduction of some foods, such as peanuts, may actually increase the risk of allergy.
Starting at about 6 months of age, introduce almost any food that your family eats. There’s no need to wait to introduce foods such as strawberries, peanuts, shellfish, or any of the foods previously off limits.*
That being said, there are a few foods that we do recommend waiting to introduce. These recommendations are either from a nutrition point of view or a prevention of food poisoning point of view. The foods to delay introducing are:
- Honey – wait until after 12 months of age
- Cows milk until 9 – 12 months (small amounts of yogurt and cheese are OK after about 6 months).
- Raw meats, fish, raw/runny egg whites, or unpasteurized dairy foods until 4 years
Do you have a question that you’d like me to answer here? Email me at Kristen@vitaminkconsulting.com and mention “Love Child Blog” in the subject line.
Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD
The Dietitian who Transforms Picky Eaters into Food-Confident Kids
Answering the question “How do I get my kids to try new foods?”
* References: Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants: Recommendations for Birth to Six Months – Joint Statement of Health Canada, Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and The Breastfeeding Committee of Canada, 2012. The American Academy of Pediatrics, 2008: Effects of Early Nutritional Interventions on the Development of Atopic Disease in Infants and Children: The Role of Maternal Dietary Restriction, Breastfeeding, Timing of Introduction of Complimentary Foods and Hydrolyzed Formulas.