Olives

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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a pile of olives before being prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat olives?

Olives may be introduced as soon as your 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

Olives are an ancient fruit that originated in the lands around the Mediterranean Sea. While the trees have grown on our planet for millions of years, it is believed that humans began cultivating olives only a couple of thousand years ago—perhaps in Greece, though the exact origin is unknown. 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, as well as 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. 

Zeke, 11 months, eats green olives.
Adie, 12 months, eats black olives.
Callie, 12 months, eats black olives.

Are olives healthy for babies?

Yes—in moderation. Olives are an excellent source of gut-friendly fiber and healthy fats that power your baby’s blood, cardiovascular, and cell health while also supporting your baby’s hormones and nervous system.2 Olives also offer vitamin E for to strengthen the brain, skin, and vision; vitamins A and C to support the immune system; and iron to help move oxygen through the body. They even contain beneficial plant compounds that offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits, while supporting a healthy cardiovascular system.3 Just like all fruits and veggies, different varieties of olives offer different nutrients. Serving different colors of olives introduces a wider range of flavors and nutrients. 

For all of their benefits, keep in mind that olives are packed with sodium, which you want to limit in your baby’s diet. Read all about sodium and babies >>

When ripe, olives taste bitter—a signal of their powerful antioxidant properties. To make them palatable and protect from spoiling, olives are preserved in different ways: in a salt brine (the standard method), in water (less common because the olives remain bitter), or in a lye brine (deemed safe when used for food in small quantities).6 7 Studies show that frequent exposure to BPA can disrupt your baby’s bodily functions and development.89 Increasingly, companies are moving toward “BPA-free” food packaging, however, similar chemicals called BPS and BPF are also used to line containers. While they are also considered to disrupt the endocrine system in our bodies, there is no legislation requiring identification of these chemicals on food product labels.10 11

★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 choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Olives range in size, but all share a similar round shape, which makes them a choking hazard. To reduce the risk, slice olives into rings or quarter olives lengthwise. As always, be sure to create a safe eating environment and read on for age-appropriate suggestions. 

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.12 13Oral 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 to cut olives for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 12 months old: A taste here and there is just fine, but it would be wise to wait to serve olives with regularity until after the first birthday due to the 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 as a tapenade dip or spread.

12 to 18 months old: Play time! 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. Serve alongside an easier-to-eat food so your child can play with the olives while satisfying hunger.

18 to 24 months old: Olive puppets! At this age, your toddler may be ready for a whole, pitted olive, which can be stuck on a fingertip to play a make-believe game. While whole olives are a choking hazard, the benefits of learning to work with a whole olive in the mouth are tremendous. If you feel your child is ready for it and you are okay taking the risk, consider serving whole, pitted olives for chewing practice. Make sure to create a safe eating environment, that you are within an arm’s reach, and model how to take small bites.

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

Recipe: Olive Rings with Smashed Chickpeas and Orange Segments

Serving: 1 child-sized serving

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  1. Rinse the chickpeas to remove excess sodium. Smash the chickpeas to reduce the choking risk.
  2. Cut the olives into quarters or rings to reduce the choking risk.
  3. 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.
  4. Add the chickpeas, orange, olives, and oil into your baby’s bowl. For babies who are starting solids, try using a bowl that suctions to the table, which can aid with hand-scooping food.

     

    To Serve: Serve as finger food with a baby spoon on the side. Let your child try to pick up the food, or encourage utensil practice by offering a pre-loaded spoon for your child to grab.

    To Store: The salad keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Flavor Pairings

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!

Reviewed by:

Jamie Truppi, MSN, CNS

Venus Kalami, MNSP, RD

Kimberly Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT

Sakina Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

Rachel Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. Chemical Safety Facts, Sodium Hydroxide. {website}. Retrieved December 20, 2020.4 When purchasing olives, opt for brands that are marked as “low-sodium” on the label. 

    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 stored in plastic containers may be exposed to BPA, an industrial chemical used in some food packaging.5Nemati, 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

  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. Wanger, C. (2014). Bisphenol S. Food Packaging Forum. Retrieved September 30, 2020
  9. Jacobson, M.H., Woodward, M., Bao, W., Liu, B., Trasande, L. (2019). Urinary Bisphenols and Obesity Prevalence Among U.S. Children and Adolescents. Journal of the Endocrine Society, 3(9), 1715-1726. DOI:10.1210/js.2019-00201. Retrieved November 18, 2020
  10. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) or Pollen Fruit Syndrome (PFS). Retrieved September 15, 2020
  11. 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.