The Top 9 Allergenic Foods To Introduce Into Baby’s Diet by 12 Months
Updated: Feb 28
Starting solids with your baby is a really exciting milestone, but it can also be nerve-wracking, especially when it comes to foods that commonly cause allergies. Food allergies in children have always been a hot topic. And keeping up with the latest food allergy recommendations can seem daunting, as new research (sometimes contradicting old research) continues to emerge.
You have probably always heard that it is best to wait until kiddos are 1, 2 or even 3 years old to give them foods like peanut butter or eggs in order to avoid food allergies. Lately, however, it seems that everyone, including your pediatrician, is recommending the very opposite. In essence, you should expose your baby to the most common causing allergy foods early so you can help reduce their risk for allergies. So what changed?
Read this post to the end to learn what has caused this complete flip in the recommendations for introducing potentially allergenic food into a child’s diet. Plus, discover the top 9 allergy causing foods that are now recommended for early introduction within the first year of life to reduce the risk of food allergies.
DISCLAIMER: Each child has their own development timeline and specific needs. The content below is general information and for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional one-on-one advice. You are responsible for supervising your child’s health and for evaluating the appropriateness of the information below for your child. Please consult your healthcare provider regarding support or advice for your child's well being and health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
Previous vs. Current Recommendations
Up until recently (2017 to be precise), the official recommendation was to wait up to three years to introduce common food allergens. That recommendation has changed, though. The general consensus today is to introduce these foods as soon as your baby starts eating solid foods (between 4-6 months of age).
So what changed?
Since 2015, several groundbreaking studies have been showing strong evidence that early introduction of food allergens—particularly egg and peanut—may prevent allergies to those foods from developing later in life.
This doesn’t work with all children, as there are other factors involved with the development of food allergies. However, in these studies the chances of developing food allergies were reduced by 80% when food allergens were introduced early as part of a balanced diet.
Despite this growing evidence, few babies are being exposed to enough allergens in the first year. So to help you take a proactive approach in protecting your tiny human from food allergies later in life, here’s a list of the top 9 allergy causing foods that are now recommended for early introduction within the first year of life.
>>Download the FREE Quick-Start Guide to Solids to learn WHEN, HOW, and WHAT to feed your baby when starting solids.
Top #1 Allergenic Food: Peanuts
Peanut allergies are among the top three allergies affecting young children (along with egg and milk.) Compared to other food allergies, peanut allergies are more likely to cause a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. And while it was previously believed that an allergy to peanuts was lifelong, research has shown up to 20 percent of individuals with a peanut allergy eventually outgrow it.
In their new consensus report, three leading allergy organizations --- the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI); the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI); and the CSACI (Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology) --- recommend introducing peanuts to babies around 6 months of age, but not before 4 months.
Top #2 Allergenic Food: Milk and Dairy
Cow’s milk is known to be good for your health and good for bone strength. It’s also one of the most common food allergens, particularly in infants and young children. Most children “outgrow” their milk allergy, but this sometimes occurs as late as their teenage years.
Most babies can begin consuming dairy foods around 6 months of age — after a few first solid foods have been introduced. Plain, whole-fat or whole Greek yogurt is a good first form of cow's milk protein for babies to try. Avoid the added sugar commonly found in yogurt marketed to babies and toddlers. You may start offering cow’s milk or other alternatives by using them in cooking, but, before 12 months of age, it shouldn’t be offered as a main drink to replace either breast or formula milk. For more on milk for babies and toddlers, please read our linked post.
In their new consensus report, three leading allergy organizations --- the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI); the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI); and the CSACI (Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology) --- recommend introducing common food allergens, such as dairy, to babies around 6 months of age, but not before 4 months.
Top #3 Allergenic Food: Egg
Egg allergy is one of the allergies with the greatest impact on a child’s quality of life, because so many foods contain hidden egg ingredients. Foods like pasta, mayonnaise, and even ice cream sometimes contain eggs.
Many children may eventually outgrow their egg allergy, but some children will not outgrow their egg allergy until their teenage years, and some egg allergies remain lifelong.
In their new consensus report, three leading allergy organizations --- the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI); the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI); and the CSACI (Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology) --- recommend introducing eggs to babies around 6 months of age, but not before 4 months.
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Top #4 Allergenic Food: Tree Nuts
The six most common tree nut allergies (for children and adults) are allergies to walnut, almond, hazelnut, pecan, cashew and pistachio. Tree nut allergies are one of the food allergy types most likely to cause severe reactions (along with peanut allergies). The allergy is usually lifelong. Only around 9% of children outgrow their tree nut allergy.
Someone with a tree nut allergy could have an allergy to several types of tree nuts. However, just because a person has an allergy to one tree nut doesn't mean that they have to avoid all types of tree nuts. The best way to clear up confusion and manage tree nut allergy is to see an allergist.
In their new consensus report, three leading allergy organizations --- the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI); the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI); and the CSACI (Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology) --- recommend introducing common food allergens, such as tree nuts, to babies around 6 months of age, but not before 4 months.
Top #5 Allergenic Food: Soy
Similar to egg allergy, soy allergies can be very challenging because so many foods contain hidden soy. Soy is a common ingredient in infant formulas and many other processed foods. If your child has a soy allergy, you'll need to read food labels carefully.
Typically, allergic reactions first appear in infants and young children under 3. Most children with soy allergies eventually outgrow the allergy. But some soy allergies become lifelong.
Based on those studies, the 2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines suggest that, along with most allergenic foods, soy proteins should be introduced to children with solids around 4-6 months of age. However, similarly to cow’s milk, they caution against offering soy milk as a beverage until your child is 12 months old. You can add soy into your baby’s diet by offering foods like edamame or tofu, or by using small amounts of soy milk in cooking.
Top #6 Allergenic Food: Wheat
Wheat sometimes appears in unexpected places, like hot dogs, sauces, breaded fried foods, and ice cream. So, if your child has a wheat allergy, you'll need to read food labels carefully.
Wheat allergy affects around 0.4% of children. This allergy is often outgrown in childhood, although some wheat allergies last into adulthood.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is no evidence that waiting to introduce or limiting allergy-causing foods such as wheat or other gluten-containing grains (e.g., rye or barley) beyond 4 to 6 months of age prevents food allergy or the onset of celiac disease.
Top #7 Allergenic Food: Finned Fish
Finned fish allergies are allergies to fish like salmon, cod, and tilapia. They are different from shellfish allergies. Unlike other food allergies, which are typically first observed in babies and young children, an allergy to fish may not become apparent until adulthood. Finned fish allergies tend to be lifelong.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a growing body of research shows that introducing fish early in a child’s diet may help prevent allergic diseases such as asthma and eczema. They also state that "within a few months of starting solid foods, your baby’s daily diet should include a variety of foods each day that may include...fish."
And according to the 2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines, fish in a safely prepared format may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, along with most other allergenic foods, around 4-6 months of age.
Top #8 Allergenic Food: Shellfish
Shellfish allergies include allergies to crustaceans (like shrimp, crab, crawfish, and lobster) and to mollusks (like clams, mussels, scallops, oysters, and squid). A shellfish allergy is different from an allergy to fish. Those who are allergic to shellfish do not necessarily have to avoid fish, and vice versa. Around 1-1.5% of children have a shellfish allergy. But around 60% of people with allergies to any shellfish have their first allergic reaction as adults.
And according to the 2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines, shellfish in a safely prepared format may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, along with most other allergenic foods, around 4-6 months of age.
Looking for more resources to help you raise a healthy and happy little eater? Try our FREE FOOD LIBRARY for inspiration of first foods to offer to your baby!
Top #9 Allergenic Food: Sesame
Sesame is the 9th most common food allergen and is found in many popular dishes, including hummus, under the name “tahini.” According to the FDA, “Under the FASTER Act of 2021, sesame is being added as the 9th major food allergen effective January 1, 2023. Until that time, manufacturers do not have to list it as an allergen, although in most cases it must appear in the ingredient statement. An exception is when sesame is part of a natural flavoring or spice.”
The median age of sesame allergy onset is 3.5 years, with one in four individuals developing the allergy as an adult. Sesame allergy is rarely outgrown (an estimated 20% to 30% of infants outgrow their allergy during childhood), and more than 80% of those allergic to sesame report having allergies to multiple foods.
Sesame may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, along with most other allergenic foods, around 4-6 months of age according to the 2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines. There is no data to suggest that delaying sesame introduction has any benefit, so alongside other common allergenic foods, early and often introduction of sesame is recommended.
Move Forward with Confident and Joyful Feeding
If you are facing the dilemma of whether or not to give your baby any of the foods listed above, you’re not alone. The biggest fear parents have is that of a possible allergic reaction. And this is a legitimate fear. But know that all of these 9 foods, that you and many other parents might be concerned with, may be introduced to babies once they’ve started solid foods and have eaten a few low risk foods without any reaction.
When it comes to offering babies the most common allergenic foods, keep in mind that you have research and the current recommendations supporting you. Unless otherwise advised by your healthcare provider (due to specific risk factors your baby may have), NOT introducing these foods into your baby’s diet is a much bigger risk than introducing them. Strong evidence from recent studies suggests that by introducing the most common food allergens early and often in the first year of life (after 4 months of age), you have a better chance of preventing food allergies than if your baby avoids the food altogether.
Happy Eating & Feeding,
As always, discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider. This post and this site is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice. The materials and services provided by this site are for informational purposes only.