Clementine

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: No
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Three whole clementines before being prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat clementines?

Clementines may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.

Background and origins of clementines

Clementines are on the smaller side, with a bright orange rind and sweet, juicy flesh that is less acidic than oranges and other citrus fruit. They are descendants of the mandarin and the sweet orange—a happy pairing many years ago in Algeria or China (the origin is disputed) that led to clementine groves growing in sunny climates around the world. Some clementines have seeds, others do not, and most varieties have very thin, easy-to-peel skin. California, Morocco, and Spain produce most of the world’s commercially cultivated clementines, which are sometimes called “Christmas fruit” as they are harvested at the start of the holiday season and often gifted to loved ones.

Clementines are often eaten fresh or squeezed for their sweet juice, but the citrus is also used to make essence, oil, peel, and more. For our purposes, the information here is about the fruit itself. Check out our suggestions for safely introducing clementines to babies.

Cooper, 10 months, eats bite-size pieces of clementine with the membrane removed.
Hawii, 15 months, eats bite-size pieces of clementine.
Callie, 17 months, eats bite-size pieces of clementine.

Are clementines healthy for babies?

Yes. Clementines contain tons of vitamin C, which powers your baby’s immune system and aids the absorption of iron from plant foods like beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Clementines also contain B-vitamins (including folate), beta carotene (which converts to vitamin A), fiber, and many other beneficial plant nutrients like carotenoids and phenols, which together promote healthy growth, development, and vision.1 Clementines contain a particular carotenoid called beta-cryptoxanthin, which offers antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory benefits, and more.2 3

Are canned clementines okay? Yes, but try to choose fresh fruit when possible. Canned fruit is often soaked in a lye solution to remove the fruit skins and usually contains added sugar (which often shows up as “100% fruit juice” for preservation.4 Food preferences start early, and kids who are regularly offered canned fruit (which is softer and sweeter) naturally learn to love it. Of course, fruit is better than no fruit. Do what you can with the budget and resources available to you.

★Tip: Like grapefruit, clementines may interact with medications.5 If your child is taking medications, consider talking to your child’s health care provider to learn more.

Can babies drink clementine juice?

No. Juice of any kind should not be given to babies unless directed to do so by a health provider. After the first birthday, small amounts of juice (less than 4 ounces a day, ideally diluted with water to reduce sweetness) may be safely offered.6 That said, we believe that it is best to wait to serve juice until age two and even then, to limit the amount offered to minimize sugar (including natural sugar) in your child’s diet. Regular and especially excessive consumption of sweet beverages (even naturally sweet drinks like orange juice) may reduce the diversity of foods and nutrients consumed and increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and dental caries.7 Plus, whole oranges are more nutritious than juice.

Are clementines a choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Citrus segments (if left in the surrounding membrane) and seeds are choking hazards for babies and children. To minimize the risk, cut mandarins flesh away from the papery membrane and serve as bite size pieces. (See video). Note that juicy fruits like clementines may cause a fair amount of coughing as baby learns to eat it. This is because the juice shoots out of the fruit under pressure, which can be tricky for babies to learn to manage. While this is generally not a concern and resolves with practice and time, be prepared for some coughing and gagging.

As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment, stay within an arm’s reach of your baby during meals, and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.

For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Are clementines a common allergen?

No. However, individuals with grass allergies or Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen food allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to citrus fruit such as clementines.89 Individuals who are sensitive to grass pollen and apples may also be more sensitive to citrus fruits.10 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction. Many clementines are sweet but also acidic, and sometimes the acid in citrus fruit can cause a harmless rash on the skin, typically around the mouth. It usually dissipates shortly after it shows up.

As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity on its own for the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.

How do you prepare clementine safely for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 9 months old: Consider waiting and opt for large wedges of orange on the peel. For mandarins to be safe for babies, the flesh must be cut out of the papery membrane, which yields very small pieces of fruit, which will be frustrating for baby to try to pick up on their own. If you are set on serving clementines at this age, remove the fruit from the membrane, flatten with the back of a fork, and serve atop some yogurt or other scoopable food in a bowl that suctions to the table and encourage baby to scoop with their hands.

9 to 18 months old: Remove each segment from the papery membrane (video above) and offer as bite-size finger food pieces. Remember that clementines, mandarins and other small citrus fruit segments left in their membrane can be a choking hazard, so when in doubt, remove the fruit from the membrane.

18 to 24 months old: Graduation time! If you feel comfortable with your toddler’s chewing and swallowing skills, consider offering clementines segments with the membrane left intact cut in half. Once the child has demonstrated that they can chew these pieces, consider working up to whole clementines segments, coaching your child to take a bite (rather than popping the whole segment into their mouth.) Of course, you can also continue to offer bite-sized pieces of segments with the membranes removed and large sections of orange on the peel for biting and tearing practice. Around age 2 you may find your child is ready to learn how to peel a whole clementine. This is a terrific activity of fine motor skills!

An open palm with a bite size piece of clementine in it, removed from the membrane and in a small triangular shape.
A bite size piece of clementine in it, removed from the membrane and in a small triangular shape.
Reducing the risk of choking with citrus like clementines and mandarins.
How to cut clementines and mandarins for babies.

For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.

Recipe: Clementines and Pistachios on Ricotta Cheese

ricotta cheese topped with peeled chunks of clementine, sprinkled with ground pistachios

Yield: ½ cup
Time: 5 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 1 clementine
  • ½ cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pistachio
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil (optional)

Directions

  1. Wash and dry the clementine.
  2. Peel and compost the clementine’s peel and inner pith. Peel off the membrane from each segment and compost any seeds.
  3. Add the ricotta cheese to baby’s bowl. Place the clementine segments on top and sprinkle with the ground pistachios. Add a drizzle of olive oil if you’d like to boost nutrition.
  4. Serve with a spoon placed on the side of the bowl to encourage utensil practice. Try pre-loading the spoon and hand it in the air for baby to grab.

This recipe contains common allergens: dairy and tree nuts (pistachios). Only serve to your child after these individual allergens have been introduced safely.

 

Flavor Pairings

Clementines are sweet and tangy—flavors that pair well with hearty fats in almond, bacon, beef, and walnuts; briny foods like olives and sardines; warm spices like cardamom, cloves, coriander, saffron, and vanilla; and fresh herbs like cilantro and mint. Try serving oranges alongside other fruits and vegetables like beet, carrot, dates, fig, honeydew melon, mango, parsnip, peach, pineapple, and strawberry.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. (allergy section)

R. Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician and Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. Czech, A., Zarycka, E., Yanovych, D., Zasadna, Z., Grzegorczyk, I., & Kłys, S. (2020). Mineral Content of the Pulp and Peel of Various Citrus Fruit Cultivars. Biological trace element research, 193(2), 555–563. DOI:10.1007/s12011-019-01727-1. Retrieved September 15, 2020 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6944645/
  2. Rodrigo, M. J., Cilla, A., Barberá, R., & Zacarías, L. (2015). Carotenoid bioaccessibility in pulp and fresh juice from carotenoid-rich sweet oranges and mandarins. Food & function, 6(6), 1950–1959. https://doi.org/10.1039/c5fo00258c
  3. Jiao, Y., Reuss, L. & Wang, Y. β-Cryptoxanthin: Chemistry, Occurrence, and Potential Health Benefits. Curr Pharmacol Rep 5, 20–34 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40495-019-00168-7
  4. Yadav, A. K., & Singh, S. V. (2014). Osmotic dehydration of fruits and vegetables: a review. Journal of food science and technology, 51(9), 1654–1673. DOI:10.1007/s13197-012-0659-2. Retrieved September 15, 2020 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4152536/
  5. Theile, D., Hohmann, N., Kiemel, D., Gattuso, G., Barreca, D., et al. (2017). Clementine juice has the potential for drug interactions – In vitro comparison with grapefruit and mandarin juice. European journal of pharmaceutical sciences : official journal of the European Federation for Pharmaceutical Sciences, 97, 247–256. DOI:10.1016/j.ejps.2016.11.021. Retrieved November 20, 2020 from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0928098716305140?via%3Dihub
  6. American Academy of Pediatrics: HealthyChildren.org. (2017). Where We Stand: Fruit Juice. Retrieved September 15, 2020 from: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Where-We-Stand-Fruit-Juice.aspx
  7. Fidler Mis, N., Braegger, C., Bronsky, J., Campoy, C., Domellöf, et al. (2017). Sugar in Infants, Children and Adolescents: A Position Paper of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Committee on Nutrition. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, 65(6), 681–696. DOI:10.1097/MPG.0000000000001733. Retrieved September 15, 2020 from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28922262/
  8. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) or Pollen Fruit Syndrome (PFS). Retrieved September 15, 2020 from: https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/outdoor-food-allergies-relate
  9. Iorio, R.A., Del Duca, S., Calamelli, E., Pula, C., Lodolini, M., (2013). Citrus allergy from pollen to clinical symptoms. PloS one, 8(1), e53680. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0053680. Retrieved November 20, 2020 from: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0053680
  10. Iorio, R.A., Del Duca, S., Calamelli, E., Pula, C., Lodolini, M., (2013). Citrus allergy from pollen to clinical symptoms. PloS one, 8(1), e53680. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0053680. Retrieved November 20, 2020 from: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0053680