It can be very exciting when your little one is old enough to start exploring solid foods. There are so many flavors and textures to enjoy! Starting on solids can also help young children sleep for longer stretches while enjoying the experience of new discovery. Fruit is, of course, delicious and sweet while being full of nutritional value. But what about when it is smaller, chewier, and dehydrated?
When is the ideal age?
Professionals in early childhood development agree that the ideal time to start introducing finger foods is somewhere around 7 to 9 months of age. However, in the beginning, you want those finger foods to be soft and easily dissolvable. Puffed snacks, bread, and oatmeal are great examples of early meals to introduce. The CDC lists raisins as a plausible choking hazard for a child that is 12 months and younger. Between 12 to 18 months, it would be wise to integrate raisins and dried fruit as a component of other foods (raisin bread, smoothies, and the like).
In the case of foods that are chewier or more substantial, it is safer to wait until the child is approximately 1 year to 18 months. This is the recommendation for most dried fruits. The key is to make sure your child is eating finger foods with confidence. It’s safest to provide raisins and dried fruit as a stand=alone snack when your child is 18 to 24 months old.
What are the different ways to integrate dried fruit?
If your child is not ready to eat chunks of dried fruit on their own, you’re in luck! There are many ways to serve them up safely. The primary factor to keep in mind with children who are between 7 to 18 months of age is that dried fruits are hard on the digestive system. They can often be coated in a sugary type of layer, which provides the potential for cavities or perhaps a choking hazard.
You can mince raisins into very small pieces and incorporate them into muffins, smoothies, or oatmeal. As your child gains confidence with finger foods and learns to chew thoroughly, it may be wise to soak dried fruit in water or milk to better soften the chunks. Hot water will soften raisins like magic. Always cut dried fruit into bite-sized pieces. Soak raisins in hot water until they are soft. It is a great trick!
Here is a great recipe to try:
Simple Honey Raisin Smoothie
- 1/3 cup of ice
- 1/4 cup of vanilla greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup of almond milk
- 3 tablespoons of honey
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1/4 cup of raisins
Add all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. You may adjust proportions to your taste and preference.
What are the biggest nutritional benefits?
A diverse diet is extremely beneficial to children. The great thing about dried fruit is that it maintains the same nutritional value it had before it was dehydrated. In fact, the dehydration process can even concentrate the nutrients. Potential benefits of dried fruit include prevention of anemia, improved energy, protection from constipation, promotion of digestive health, improved bone and eye health, and healthy brain development.
In the case of raisins specifically, one serving of raisins has 45 milligrams of calcium per a half-cup serving. Dried dates, apples, and apricots are lowest on the glycemic scale, meaning their impact on blood sugar is positive. An important tip to remember is, like any food, ensure there is balance. Indulgence in dried fruit is not ideal. Rather, use dried fruit as a convenient and healthy snack option.
Raising little humans is such a wonderful adventure, and fueling their growing bodies is no small feat! As your baby grows, soak in each wonder-filled moment as they explore all the sensory milestones the world has to offer. Fruits and vegetables are some of the best food groups to nourish your child. There is a lot of information out there about how and when to introduce certain foods. Listen to your pediatrician, and monitor your child’s readiness as they get older.
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