When can babies eat olives?
Olives may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age, however, it would be best to wait until the first birthday to serve them with any regularity. Olives are quite high in sodium—an essential nutrient that our bodies need in small amounts, but that can be unhealthy when consumed in excess.1
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Where do olives come from?
Olives are an ancient fruit that originated in the lands around the Mediterranean Sea. Today, olives are grown in sunny, warm climates around the world on farms that specialize in different varieties. There are the fruity Arbequina olives of Spain, the meaty Beldi olives of Morocco, the buttery Castelvetrano olives of Italy, the Kalamata olives of Greece, the Picholine olives of France, the Souri olives of Lebanon, and hundreds more. They range in size and color, from brown to green to black, depending on their ripeness and processing methods. Because olives are very bitter when picked fresh from their trees, they are cured to be palatable to our tastes.
Are olives healthy for babies?
No, as olives are high in sodium, which should be limited in a baby’s diet. That said, for toddlers, olives are a great source of gut-friendly fiber and healthy fats that support blood, cardiovascular, and cell health.2 Olives also offer vitamin E for to strengthen the brain, skin, and vision; vitamins A and C to support the immune system; and even iron to help move oxygen through the body. Lastly, they contain beneficial plant compounds that offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits.3
When purchasing olives, opt for brands that are marked as “low-sodium” on the label and choose glass jars over other options, if possible. While olives are often available in cans, try to purchase olives in a glass jar or from the self-serve counter at your local store, then transfer them to a glass container at home. Olives sold in cans or plastic containers may be exposed to BPA, an industrial chemical used in some food packaging.4 5 Studies show that frequent exposure to BPA can disrupt neurological development.6 7
★Tip: Jarred olives keep for months when sealed and stored in a cool, dark pantry. Olives from a self-serve counter will keep for far less time—up to 1 month in the fridge.
Are olives a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Olives range in size, but all share a similar round shape and may contain a hard pit, which make them a choking hazard. To reduce the risk, make sure any pits are removed and slice olives into rings or quarter olives lengthwise. As always, be sure to create a safe eating environment and stay within arm’s reach of baby at mealtime. For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.
Are olives a common allergen?
No. However, individuals who are allergic to the pollen from olive trees or who have Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen food allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to olives.8 9 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction. As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity on its own for the first few of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
How do you cut olives for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 12 months old: A taste here and there is fine, but it would be wise to wait to regularly serve olives until after the first birthday due to high sodium levels. If you want to offer a taste, remove the pit then slice the olive into quarters or rings (saving any ends that don’t have a hole in them for yourself) or serve a small amount of tapenade dip or spread.
12 to 24 months old: Pitted olives sliced into rings are great fun for toddlers and fantastic for working their fine motor skills as they will often try to hook the rings on their finger. You can also slice pitted olives into quarters lengthwise. Serve alongside an easier-to-eat food so the child can play with the olives while satisfying hunger.
24 months old and up: Continue serving sliced or quartered pitted olives. If a child is taking accurate sized bites, not stuffing their mouth with food, and is able to follow instructions, they may be ready to learn how to practice eating a whole olive. While whole olives are a choking hazard, it is our professional opinion that there are enormous benefits in teaching toddlers to take bites from round foods and to work with a whole olive in the mouth so they learn how to safely eat it. If you feel your child is ready for it and you are okay taking the risk, consider serving whole, pitted olives, coaching your child how to take bites and to chew thoroughly. Make sure to create a safe eating environment, that you are within an arm’s reach.
Get all of baby’s caregivers on the same page with our guide Baby-led Weaning with Daycare and Caregivers.
Recipe: Olive Rings with Smashed Chickpeas and Orange Segments
Serving: 1 child-sized serving
Recommended Age: 12 months+
- ½ cup chickpeas (from a container with a BPA-free label)
- 4 pitted olives (from a container with a BPA-free label)
- 1 navel orange
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Rinse the chickpeas to remove excess sodium. Smash the chickpeas to reduce the choking risk.
- Cut the olives into quarters or rings to reduce the choking risk.
- Cut the orange into segments. First, wash and dry the fruit, then slice off and compost the flower and stem ends. Place the orange upright on one of its ends, then run the knife down the side to cut away the peel and white pith around the flesh. Rotate and continue to cut until all peel and pith are removed. Now hold the orange in one hand over a bowl, and with the other hand, run a knife between the flesh and the white membranes to release the segments, which fall into the bowl as you cut. Double check that no seeds fell into or remain hidden in the segments.
To Serve: Add the chickpeas, orange, olives, and oil into a bowl or plate. Let your child try to pick up the food, or pass a piece in the air for the child to grab
To Store: The salad keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Depending on the variety, olives range in taste, from fruity and grassy, to buttery and nutty, to earthy and meaty, but almost all share a common flavor: salty. Just like regular table salt, the olive’s briny taste acts as a flavor bomb, enhancing the natural flavors of the foods with which it is paired. Serve with foods filled with healthy fats like almond, fresh goat cheese, or sardine; sweet fruits and vegetables like bell pepper, carrot, or fennel; or tart flavors from lemon, pomegranate, or tomato. Try seasoning with aniseed, coriander, garlic, juniper, rosemary, thyme, or your favorite herbs and spices for extra flavor!
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
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
- Tandoi, F., Morlacchi, L., Bossi, A., Agosti, M. (2017). Introducing complementary foods in the first year of life. La Pediatria Medica e Chirurgica, 39(186). Retrieved November 18, 2020
- Zhu, L., Liu, Z., Feng, Z., et al. (2010). Hydroxytyrosol protects against oxidative damage by simultaneous activation of mitochondrial biogenesis and phase II detoxifying enzyme systems in retinal pigment epithelial cells. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 21(11):1089-98. Retrieved December 4, 2020
- Nemati, M., Nofuzi, S., Ahmadi, S., Monajjemzadeh, F. (2018). Quality Control of the Migration of Bisphenol A from Plastic Packaging to Iranian Brands of Food Grade Oils. Pharmaceutical Sciences, 24, 141-147. Retrieved November 18, 2020
- Welshons, W.V., Nagel, S.C., vom Saal, F.S. (2006). Large effects from small exposures. III. Endocrine mechanisms mediating effects of bisphenol A at levels of human exposure. Endocrinology, 147(6 Suppl),S56-69. DOI:10.1210/en.2005-1159. Retrieved November 18, 2020
- Braun, J.M. (2016). Early-life exposure to EDCs: role in childhood obesity and neurodevelopment. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 13(3),161-173. DOI:10.1038/nrendo.2016.186. Retrieved November 18, 2020
- Acconcia, F., Pallottini, V., Marino, M. (2015). Molecular Mechanisms of Action of BPA. Dose-response: a publication of International Hormesis Society, 13(4), 1559325815610582. DOI:10.1177/1559325815610582. Retrieved November 18, 2020
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) or Pollen Fruit Syndrome (PFS). Retrieved September 15, 2020
- Unsel M, Ardeniz O, Mete N, Ersoy R, Sin AZ, Gulbahar O, Kokuludag A. Food allergy due to olive. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2009;19(6):497-9. PMID: 20128426.