When can babies eat oranges?
Oranges may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Oranges range in flavor from bitter to sweet. The sweet ones are descendants of the mandarin and the pomelo—a happy pairing thousands of years ago in Southeast Asia that spawned hundreds of varieties that now grow in warm, humid climates around the world. Some oranges have seeds, others do not, and the flesh reflects shades of the sun, from the coral pink Cara Cara, to the ruby red Tarocco, to the bright golden Satsuma, to the fiery saffron Valencia. Orange season varies depending on where you live but considering that the citrus is the world’s most cultivated fruit tree, you will likely find one variety or another in your local market all year long.
Oranges 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 below is about the fruit itself. Read on to learn how to introduce oranges safely to babies.
Are oranges healthy for babies?
Yes. Oranges contain tons of vitamin C, which powers baby’s immune system and aids the absorption of iron from plant foods like beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Oranges also contain some B-vitamins (including folate), as well as beta carotene (which converts to vitamin A), and many other beneficial plant nutrients such as carotenoids and phenols.1 The pulp also contains fiber to promote gut health, antioxidants, and other plant chemicals like beta cryptoxanthin, which offers anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory benefits, and more.2 3 4
Are canned oranges 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.5 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.
Can babies drink orange 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.8 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.9 Plus, whole oranges are more nutritious than juice.
Are oranges a common 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, serve the orange on the rind for baby to gnaw and suck on and/or supreme the fruit to cut the orange segments away from the membrane. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment, stay within an arm’s reach of your baby during meals, and never put cow milk in a bottle or sippy cup.
Are oranges a common allergen?
It’s complicated. Orange is not classified as a common food allergen in the United States. However, self-reported sensitivity to citrus is described frequently in medical literature around the world. Also, individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen-food allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to citrus fruits such as oranges.10 In particular, individuals who are allergic to grass and certain tree pollens may also be more sensitive to citrus fruits.11 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction.
In some cases, allergy to proteins in orange can result in serious reactions. There is evidence to suggest that the major allergens causing serious allergic reactions to orange are concentrated within the seed of the fruit—and while uncommon, chewing the seeds may be responsible for allergic reactions.12
There are also reports of orange ingestion contributing to eczema.13 In addition to being sweet, many oranges are also acidic, and 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 for the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
How do you prepare oranges for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline. The preparation suggestions below are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional, nutritionist or dietitian, or expert in pediatric feeding and eating. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 9 months old: Wash the orange (the skin often contains pesticide residue) then cut into large wedges (with the peel on but seeds removed) and hand them to baby, who will suck and munch on the flesh. If baby bites through the rind, take a deep breath and coach them to spit it out. Alternatively, you can supreme an orange by cutting each segment out of the membranes and offering whole segments that way (see video below). Avoid offering whole segments of clementines, mandarins, or other small oranges in their membranes as they can be choking hazards.
9 to 18 months old: As baby’s pincer grasp develops (where the pointer finger and thumb meet), move down in size to bite-size piece of oranges that have had the membrane and seeds removed. If you feel comfortable with it, you may continue to offer large segments of oranges with the membrane and seeds removed for biting and tearing practice. Remember that clementines, mandarins, and other small citrus fruit segments left in their membrane can be a choking hazard, so when in doubt, supreme the fruit, which will be easier to do with a large orange.
18 to 24 months old: Graduation time! At this age, if you feel comfortable with your toddler’s chewing and swallowing skills, try offering large orange segments with the membrane left intact. Bigger pieces to bite and scrape will be less of a choking risk than say, a small segment of mandarin orange in the membrane (which a toddler may attempt to swallow whole.) Of course, you can also continue to supreme the fruit and offer bite-sized pieces or large wedges of orange on the peel for biting and tearing practice.
For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Recipe: Beet + Orange Salad
Yield: 1 cup
Time: 10 minutes
Age: 6 months+
- 1 large beet or 4 small beets (precooked or fresh)
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil or high-heat oil of choice
- 1 large orange
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Pre-cooked packaged beets save time but cost more and sometimes contain added preservatives like salt. To start from scratch, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit / 205 degrees Celsius.
- Wash and scrub the beetroots. If the greens are still attached, cut off and reserve for yourself. Beet greens are a terrific source of plant-based iron for mamas who have just given birth!
- Coat the beetroots in avocado oil or the high-heat oil of choice. Wrap the beets in parchment paper and then in foil. This prevents the aluminum from coming into contact with the food.
- Place on a sheet tray or in an oven-proof dish. Roast until soft and a butter knife easily slides into the center, between 30 and 60 minutes depending on the size of your beets.
- Remove the beets from the oven. Unwrap and slice in half to speed up the cooling.
- Once the beets are cool to the touch, peel and compost the skins. Slice the flesh into age-appropriate sizes and place in a mixing bowl.
- To supreme the orange, 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 pith. Rotate and continue to cut until all peel and pith are removed. Hold the orange in one hand over the bowl with the beets, and with the other hand, run a knife between the flesh and the membranes to release the segments, which will fall into the bowl as you go. Once all segments are released, squeeze the membrane to extract a little juice, then compost the membrane. Double check that no seeds fell into the bowl or remain hidden in the segments.
- Add the olive oil to the mixing bowl, then gently stir to coat the beets and orange segments.
- Serve: Spoon some fruit salad into the child’s bowl. Serve with an age-appropriate fork placed to encourage utensil practice but encourage baby to use fingers as well.
To Store: Leftover beet and orange salad keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3 days.
Oranges are sweet and tangy—flavors that pair well with hearty fats in bacon, beef, and walnuts; briny foods like olives and sardines; warm spices like cloves, coriander, saffron, and vanilla; and fresh herbs like cilantro and mint. Try serving oranges alongside other fruits and vegetables like beet, carrot, fig, honeydew melon, mango, parsnip, peach, pineapple, and strawberry.
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
- 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
- Rangel-Huerta, O. D., Aguilera, C. M., Perez-de-la-Cruz, A., Vallejo, F., Tomas-Barberan, F., Gil, A., & Mesa, M. D. (2017). A serum metabolomics-driven approach predicts orange juice consumption and its impact on oxidative stress and inflammation in subjects from the BIONAOS study. Molecular nutrition & food research, 61(2), 10.1002/mnfr.201600120.
- Ghanim, H., Sia, C.L., Upadhyay, M., Korzeniewski, K., Viswanathan, P., et al. (2010). Orange juice neutralizes the proinflammatory effect of a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal and prevents endotoxin increase and Toll-like receptor expression. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91(4), 940–949. DOI:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28584. Retrieved November 20, 2020
- Jiao, Y., Reuss, L., Wang, Y. (2019). β-Cryptoxanthin: Chemistry, Occurrence, and Potential Health Benefits. Current Pharmacology Reports, 5, 20–34. DOI:10.1007/s40495-019-00168-7. Retrieved November 20, 2020
- 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
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), National Institutes of Health, U.S Department of Health and Human Services. (2004). Bitter Orange (Citrus aurantium var. amara) Extracts and Constituents (±)-p-Synephrine [CAS No. 94-07-5] and (±)-p-Octopamine [CAS No. 104-14-3] Retrieved November 20, 2020
- U.S Department of Health and Human Services: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2020). Bitter Orange. Retrieved November 20, 2020
- American Academy of Pediatrics: HealthyChildren.org. (2017). Where We Stand: Fruit Juice. Retrieved September 15, 2020
- 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
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) or Pollen Fruit Syndrome (PFS). Retrieved September 15, 2020
- Iorio, R.A., Del Duca, S., Calamelli, E., Pula, C., Lodolini, M., et al. (2013). Citrus allergy from pollen to clinical symptoms. PloS one, 8(1), e53680. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0053680. Retrieved November 20, 2020
- Zhu SL, Ye ST, Yu Y. Allergenicity of orange juice and orange seeds: a clinical study. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol 1989;7(1):5-8.
- Steinman HA, Potter PC. The precipitation of symptoms by common foods in children with atopic dermatitis. Allergy Proc 1994;15(4):203-10.