When is it safe to feed toddlers raisins and other dried fruits?

Gradually introducing your child to new foods and the wide world of food in general can be an enjoyable and exciting experience for all involved. But sometimes, you have to get creative to get your kiddo to eat their fruits or veggies. Serving green foods prepared in various ways might be a more successful approach to this task. Dried fruit is one example of an alternative preparation method. But when exactly can your young child eat dried fruit safely?

Dried fruit in the first year

Baby in high chair with milk and cereal
Andersen Ross Photography Inc/Getty Images

Babies can be fed pureed or thoroughly mashed fruits and vegetables from the time they start eating solid foods. Once they have the ability to eat finger foods, you can feed them small pieces of dried fruit or vegetables. You can tell your child is ready for finger foods when they start grabbing at spoons. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you cut large dried foods into pieces no larger than a raisin. As with any food, your child should not eat dried fruits while unsupervised. Always keep an eye on your baby while they are eating and stay close by in case they start to choke. Also, don’t let toddlers and younger children eat in the car to help prevent choking.

Health benefits of dried fruits

Most dried fruits are good sources of multiple nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other bioactive compounds. This makes dried fruit healthy in general. But of course, the exact nutrition associated with any one dried food is dependent on what kind of food it is. Dried fruits are often nutrient-dense and serve as a suitable source of nutrition without too many calories. The micronutrients acquired when dried fruit is eaten contribute to proper growth and development, especially in the first few years of life. Most dried fruits are rich in fiber, which promotes satisfactory digestive health. Prunes are an especially good source of fiber, and prune juice is sometimes recommended to treat constipation in babies.

assorted dried fruits on table
Merve Sehirli Nasir/Unsplash

Some kinds of fruit promote the maintenance of the gut microbiome by introducing chemicals that bacteria needs to eat. Another property of fruit relevant to bacteria is that most have anti-inflammatory and antioxidative compounds that work throughout the body. When consumed regularly, fruit helps to boost your immune system, as well as that of a baby’s. Babies are prone to anemia, particularly between the ages of 9 months and 24 months. Supplement a baby’s diet with dried fruits like raisins or apricots to provide a sufficient amount of iron. Finally, some dried fruits have been shown to have a protective effect on bone formation.

Drawbacks of dried fruit

Although dried fruit has a good deal of benefits associated with its consumption, there are also a number of risks associated with feeding dry fruit to a baby. Like any solid food, dried fruit can pose a choking hazard to young children. Make sure foods are diced into small portions prior to giving them to a baby. By itself, the high sugar content of many dried fruits can contribute to a few health issues. Candied fruits are the worst culprit when it comes to types of dried fruits laden with sugar. Excessive sugar consumption has been linked to obesity. Babies may get used to the sweet taste of dried fruit and may not want to eat other preparations of fruit. The chewy texture of dried fruits often causes pieces to get stuck in the mouth. Exposing teeth to sugar for long periods of time is what causes the destruction of tooth enamel and the formation of cavities.

Limit the number of times your child eats candied fruit each week to one or two. Although a good source of fiber, eating too much dried fruit can also cause gastrointestinal issues like bloating or cramps. Since most dried fruit is preserved using sulfites, allergic reactions to dried fruit may occur in some children. Buying organic dried fruits ensures that your child’s meal is free of sulfites. Be sure to properly store any dried fruit and throw away expired pieces. This can help keep dried fruit fresh and safe to eat.

Dried foods are quite the delicious treat. Luckily, your child can eat these from a young age. Dried fruits have myriad benefits besides just their great taste. Encourage your toddler to eat dried fruits by introducing them to their diet when appropriate.

Editors' Recommendations