Grapes are nature’s candy. Succulent and sweet, they make a delicious, pop-able snack, whether red, green, or in between.
Not only are they the so-called fruit of the gods, they’re highly nutritious, too! The juicy little orbs are packed with vitamins C, K, and other antioxidants. People of all ages have been eating grapes since time immemorial — as early as the Neolithic era, according to some research.
If you’re a fruit fan, you likely enjoy eating grapes in cooked dishes or as a solo snack. So when can you introduce them to your child (and how can you do so safely)?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you can begin feeding your child a variety of solid foods — including grapes, in age-appropriate preparations — around 6 months of age.
And contrary to the advice of bygone years, experts now say there’s no set order in which you should introduce different types of foods, whether fruits, veggies, baby cereals, or anything else.
However, although kids can start most foods from the time they hit the half-year mark, it’s important to ensure they eat every food safely. When it comes to grapes, this means preparing them in the right ways.
The primary safety concern around babies and grapes has to do with choking. Because of their size and shape, grapes can all too easily slide down a small child’s windpipe, blocking airflow.
For this reason, it’s critical to serve grapes the right way for babies and toddlers. (We’ll explain how below.)
Some little ones, depending on their number of teeth and chewing savvy, may also have trouble chewing through grape skin.
This may not be a matter of safety, per se, but it can make for a messy, unpleasant experience for both parent and child, as grape skins get spat out onto the high chair (or the floor).
Unfortunately, grapes also make the list of the so-called “dirty dozen” — the 12 fruits and veggies with the most exposure to pesticides. Buying organic grapes can help clear up concerns you may have about the harmful effects of chemical pesticides.
Peel me a grape! It’s not just a snarky phrase — it’s actually good advice for parents of infants.
For younger babies who haven’t yet developed their chewing skills or the pincer grasp (which typically shows up around 9 or 10 months), it’s best to spoon-feed peeled grapes, either sliced into quarters or blended.
These preparation methods will not only minimize choking hazards, they’ll save frustration for babies who can’t pick up grape pieces to feed themselves.
As your child grows (and reaches the crucial pincer grasp phase) you can let them self-feed unpeeled grapes cut up into quarters. This can be a fun and effective part of baby-led weaning.
Then, as they near their second birthday, try offering grapes sliced in half lengthwise, keeping a watchful eye for signs of choking.
When to dive in and give your kiddo the whole fruit? Some experts caution against giving children whole grapes until the age of 2. Talk with your pediatrician about your child’s developmental readiness for the unsliced version before their second birthday.
Cutting grapes the right way boils down to making them narrow and thin. This way, even if — heaven forbid — a piece of grape goes down unchewed, it won’t cut off baby’s ability to breathe.
For children with a pincer grasp who can feed themselves, start by cutting grapes into quarters. Then, when you’re ready to provide baby with a little extra edible challenge (closer to age 2), slice grapes in half lengthwise, from the stem side to the bottom.
If using grapes with seeds, be sure to remove them before placing the fruit in front of your child.
Grapes offer commendable nutrition to include in your growing baby’s healthy diet.
One-half cup of red grapes provides
This important nutrient supports the immune system and enhances iron absorption. Plus, as an antioxidant, it protects baby’s cells from damaging free radicals (as do multiple other flavonoids in grapes’ skins).
An abundance of vitamin K also contributes to baby’s health by helping blood to clot. Since this vitamin is fat-soluble, it requires dietary fat for absorption. Try serving with grapes with peanut or almond butter for a yummy, nutritious combo.
Ready to get your grape on? Try these simple recipes for your little fruit eater:
- Grape sorbet (6 months and older). Freeze 3 cups of red or green grapes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place frozen grapes in the bowl of a food processor with a splash of lemon or lime juice. Purée until smooth and serve immediately.
- Toddler grape crostini (12 months and older). Slice a whole wheat baguette into bite-sized rounds. On each round, spread a layer of cream cheese and top with quartered grapes.
Although pure grape juice contains many nutrients, it’s not a replacement for the fruit itself.
In fact, because of the risk of cavities and childhood obesity from excess sugar, the AAP now recommends babies under age 1 drink no fruit juice, and children ages 1 to 3 have no more than 4 ounces per day.
You can think of grape juice as an occasional treat for your little one, rather than a regular way to fill the bottle.
The last 20 years have seen a remarkable uptick in food allergies.
But although it’s possible to develop an allergy to any food, grapes aren’t among the top eight food allergens (the ones responsible for most allergies).
If you notice your child develops symptoms like a rash, hives, wheezing, runny nose, or upset stomach after eating grapes, talk to your doctor about the possibility of an allergy.
Serving grapes safely to your baby or toddler is critical to prevent choking. But by preparing these tasty fruits in safe ways, you can make a grape lover of your child from a young age.