Top 10 Dried Fruits And Nuts To Improve Your Child’s Health
Dried fruits and nuts are highly rich in nutrients and come with a host of health benefits for kids. Let’s look at the top 10 dried fruits for babies and toddlers and their respective health benefits.
By Shirley Johanna
Dried fruits and nuts are called the powerhouse of nutrition, as they are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, antioxidants and dietary fibre. Here, we look at the top 10 dried fruits and nuts, and what it can do to improve your child's health.
How dried fruits are made
Dried fruits are either dried naturally in the sun or using processing machines. Some of the commonly eaten dried fruits are raisins, dates, figs, apricots, prunes, kiwi, papaya and sweet lime.
Nuts are fruits with a hard shell and seeds that are edible. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashew nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, chestnuts and macadamia nuts are some of the popular ones.
When and how to introduce dried fruits and nuts to children?
Dried fruits and nuts can be introduced into your child's diet when she is around 7 to 9 months of age. But it should be done so, in the form of paste or powder to avoid any choking hazards. Dried fruits like dates, prunes and apricots can be cut into smaller pieces before given as snacks for toddlers. Children can be given whole dried fruits and nuts after the age of five years. However, it is still advisable to keep an eye on them to make sure they chew them well.
For children older than five, these make a quick and healthy snack option. Raw, dry-roasted and unsalted nuts are the healthiest, and it is best to avoid nuts and dried fruits with added salt or sugar.
Also, when you introduce nuts to your child's diet, you will also need to consider the possibilities of allergens that your child may react to. So keep a lookout for that and consult your doctor should you have any concerns.
Other ways to add dried fruits and nuts to your child's diet:
- Sprinkle crushed almonds or pecans over a cup of low-fat yoghurt
- Add chopped walnuts to homemade banana bread
- Add dried fruits to porridges or puddings
- Stir a tablespoon of nut butter (almond or cashew butter) into pancakes or muffin batter
10 Dried fruits and nuts for your child’s health
Getting your child to eat healthy is extremely important for his overall growth and development. Dried fruits and nuts are highly rich in nutrients and come with a host of health benefits for your child.
Wondering which nuts and dry fruits are good for the health of children? Here’s a list of the top 10 dried fruits and nuts and their respective health benefits.
Almonds are rich in phosphorus, which helps strengthen both bones and teeth. Almonds contain riboflavin and L-carnitine, two key nutrients that can support healthy brain function. Further, they are rich in dietary fibre that curbs overeating and unhealthy snacking.
Nutritive value of almonds (1 serving):
- Carbohydrate – 6.1 g
- Protein – 6 g
- Fat – 14.01 g
- Energy – 163 Kcal
Walnuts are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids which play a crucial role in you child's brain development. They are also high in minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and zinc.
Nutritive value of walnuts (1 serving)
- Carbohydrate – 3.9 g
- Protein – 4.3 g
- Fat – 18.49 g
- Energy – 185 Kcal
Also read: Health Benefits Of Walnuts
3. Pistachios or pistas
Pistachiosare a good source of essential vitamins such as vitamin A, C, E, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine and folate. Each of these vitamins are essential and play an important role in maintaining the health of your child.
Nutritive value of pistas (1 serving)
- Carbohydrate – 7.8 g
- Protein – 5.7 g
- Fat –12.87 g
- Energy – 159 Kcal
Also read: Health Benefits Of Pista
4. Cashew nuts
This buttery nut contains high levels of antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, which protects the eyes. They also contain high levels of magnesium that contribute to bone growth.
Nutritive value of cashew nut (1 serving)
- Carbohydrate – 8.6 g
- Protein – 5.2 g
- Fat – 12.43 g
- Energy – 157 Kcal
This fibre-packed nut aids in digestion and facilitates regular bowel movements. For children who suffer from constipation, pecans can help relieve the condition. As a good source of vitamin B3, pecans help reduce fatigue in children.
Nutritive value of pecans (1 halve)
- Carbohydrate – 3.9 g
- Protein – 2.6 g
- Fat – 20.4 g
- Energy – 196 Kcal
6. Dried apricots
Dried apricots are high in dietary fibre, potassium, copper, niacin, iron and vitamin E (α-tocopherol) that are essential for a child's development. This dried fruit is particularly beneficial to eye health because it contains the highest amount of vitamin A (3604 IU/100 g).
Nutritive value of dried apricots (1 serving)
- Carbohydrate – 62.6 g
- Protein – 0.51 g
- Fat – 3.4 g
- Energy – 241 Kcal
7. Dried prunes
Prunes contain high levels of antioxidants called phenols, which protect the child's cell membranes from damage caused by free radicals. They are also a good source of vitamin C which helps boost the child's immune system.
Nutritive value of prunes (1 serving)
- Carbohydrate – 89.1 g
- Protein – 3.7 g
- Fat – 0.73 g
- Energy – 339 Kcal
Dates are packed with energy and are a good source of minerals like calcium, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and zinc. It contains the highest amounts of iron. This helps prevent anaemia, an iron deficiency, in children. They also contain vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin A, B6 and vitamin K.
Nutritive value of dates (1 serving)
- Carbohydrate – 75 g
- Protein – 1.8 g
- Fat – 0.15 g
- Energy – 277 Kcal
Raisins are a great alternative to sugary treats which children usually like to eat. Studies have shown that raisins contain antibacterial properties that can reduce oral bacteria that contribute to dental cavities. Raisins are natural laxatives that help improve digestion and bowel movements.
Nutritive value of raisins (1 serving)
- Carbohydrate – 22.4 g
- Protein – 0.9 g
- Fat – 0.13 g
- Energy – 84.76 Kcal
Figs are a good source of calcium and phosphorus, which fosters the formation of the bones. They are also rich in fibre and hence helps in easy digestion. Studies have shown that figs possess certain liver-protecting properties and help prevent jaundice, which is common among infants and children.
Nutritive value of fig (1 serving)
- Carbohydrate – 63.9 g
- Protein – 3.3 g
- Fat – 0.93 g
- Energy – 249 Kcal
Also read: Health Benefits Of Fig
Benefits of eating dry fruits
Dried fruits and nuts are highly nutritious and contain proteins, fibres, antioxidants and healthy fats. Including them in the diet is essential for good health and to reduce the risk of certain diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and renal problems. In children, consuming dry fruits is beneficial in preventing gastric problems, weight gain and dental issues. It also helps in overall growth and development of children and boosts their immunity.
For more information on the benefits of eating dried fruits, read the below article by pediatric nutritionist Dr Neha Sanwalka:
Best time to eat dry fruits
Dried fruits can be consumed at any time of the day, but the best time would be in the morning along with breakfast to obtain the maximum benefits. This helps to keep away fatigue and regulates blood pressure. However, it is advisable to avoid eating nuts in the night as it can cause indigestion.
How much dry fruits should my child eat in a day?
Can your child have endless bowls of salted cashews? No, like everything else, even dried fruits and nuts need to be eaten within a limit. Here is the list of the recommended dose of dried fruits and nuts.
1 – 2 years: 2-3 nuts and 1-2 dried fruits/day
3 – 5 years: 2-3 nuts and 2-3 dried fruits/day
6 – 10 years: 4-5 nuts and 2-3 dried fruits/day
11+ years: 6-8 nuts and 3-4 dried fruits/day
Can my child eat dry fruits on an empty stomach?
Yes, eating dry fruits on an empty stomach is beneficial. On an empty stomach, the nuts are easily digested, and you can get the complete nutritious benefits of this mineral and protein rich food.
Will my child gain weight by eating dry fruits?
Dried fruits contain higher calories than fresh fruits. Some dried fruits are sweetened with added sugar. It is easier to consume large amounts of dried fruits and therefore the chances of ingesting higher amount of calories.
Providing healthy snacks for children can help develop good eating habits that last a lifetime. Dried fruits and nuts are smart snack choices that are not only delicious but also nutritious. So, what more does a parent want when her child is eating healthy? Don't forget to pack nuts and dried fruits in your child's snack box or give it as an evening treat!
About the expert:
Reviewed by Priya Kathpal on 15 June 2019
Nutritionist Priya Kathpal has a Master’s degree in Dietary Food Service Management with a PG Diploma in Dietetics, Bsc Applied Nutrition and is also a certified sports nutritionist. With over 10 years of experience in fitness industry she has been involved in clinical and sports nutrition consultations in corporate, gym, fitness centres, clinic set up and R&D team of sports nutrition products.
About the author:
Written by Shirley Johanna, MPhil (FSM & Dietetics) on 14 June 2019; updated on 6 May 2020
The author is a nutritionist, aspiring teacher and a researcher who currently works as a copy editor at ParentCircle. She loves formulating nutritious recipes that can treat common nutritional deficiencies in children and adolescents.
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