Can Babies Eat Olives? Safety and Nutritional Info

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Whether you are using purees or finger foods, your watching your child explore new foods is exciting! Offering new and different flavors and textures early on is important to help your baby grow into an adventurous eater.

Olives seem like an innocuous choice, they’re not highly processed with a unique flavor – plus, think of how cute kids look with an olive stuck on each finger. 

Once your baby is old enough, olives can be a great way to introduce briny flavor if prepared and offered correctly. Olives should be quartered, diced, or sliced to ensure they’re not a choking hazard. Offering smaller portions in moderation is also recommended, as they tend to be quite salty. 

Quartered, sliced, and diced- what do those actually look like and when can you move on to serving bigger pieces of olives? Knowing how and when to cut your baby’s food can feel daunting but is actually more straightforward than it seems. I’ll walk you through when each type of olive is safe to serve to your baby. 

Are Olives Safe for Babies? When Can They Eat Them?

At the top of many new parents’ fears is choking, especially for little ones who are just starting to eat table foods/solids. Olives come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles all with their own safety recommendations. 

When it comes to choking risk, serving foods in the proper size is helpful. While most parents are already aware that circular or ‘airway shaped’ foods are a choking hazard, how your baby picks up foods to put in their mouth can give you more clues. 

Green olives in bowl with leaves on table

When babies start grabbing for the first time, it usually looks like the baby putting the whole item into the palm of their hand, and holding it with their fist. This is called the palmar grasp. Using the palmar grasp it is safest to serve bigger pieces of foods that babies can hold in their hands and gnaw on. 

Around 9-10 months, babies develop the pincer grasp which is where they pick up smaller pieces of food between their thumb and forefinger. Once babies develop their pincer grasp, they can pick up and eat small bites of food. 

When deciding which foods are safe for your baby and the best ways to offer them, keep in mind that all babies develop at different rates. If you have questions about your child’s specific development and what foods are appropriate for them, ask your pediatrician for individualized guidance. 

Below is a helpful chart with general suggestions for how to serve olives to your little one. 

Serving Style6-9 months 9-12+ months
With pits
Pits are small, airway sized, hard, and often hidden in the olive. Avoid serving any olives with pits to babies and young children. 

Pits are small, airway sized, hard, and often hidden in the olive. Avoid serving any olives with pits to babies and young children. 
Whole
Just like grapes, whole olives are a choking risk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends quartering foods of this size and shape for all children under 2 years of age.

Just like grapes, whole olives are a choking risk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends quartering foods of this size and shape for all children under 2 years of age.
Sliced
Ensure the olive ‘rings’ have a hold that goes all the way through. In the case that the slice gets stuck in your baby’s airway, the presence of a hole in the center will mean your baby will still be able to breathe. 

Ensure the olive ‘rings’ have a hold that goes all the way through. In the case that the slice gets stuck in your baby’s airway, the presence of a hole in the center will mean your baby will still be able to breathe. 
Diced/minced
Baby is unlikely to be able to pick up small pieces as their pincer grasp is not yet developed. 
May be added to other foods such as tomato sauce if finely diced. 

Once the baby’s pincer grasp is developed, diced olive makes good practice for their fine motor skills. 
OtherA few other ways to serve olives:
-Pureed into a dip such as hummus. Spread a thin layer on strips of toast. 
-In other dishes, such as tomato sauce, if diced or sliced into an age-appropriate size. 
A few other ways to serve olives:
-Pureed into a dip such as hummus. Spread a thin layer on strips of toast. 
-In other dishes, such as tomato sauce, if diced or sliced into an age-appropriate size. 
Source (CDC, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, AAP).   

Black olives are often the go-to for young kids because of their milder flavor, but is there a difference between types of olives (ie: black, green, kalamata, etc.)? 

Safety wise, there’s no difference between the color or variety of olive. Green and kalamata olives are more likely to be served or sold with pits, so it’s worth a second glance of the label at the store to save yourself time- removing olive pits is a tedious task! 

How to Cut and Serve Olives to Babies

How to cut and serve olives is totally up to you, your baby’s development, and your comfort level. 

Doing purees? Start with olives pureed into a mashed potato or hummus. 

sliced black olives in a bowl

Loving baby-lead weaning? Sliced, quarters, and diced in other dishes are all great options. 

No matter which infant feeding method you have chosen as the parent, what’s most important is that you cut olives before serving. 

Are Olives too Salty for Babies?

The reason most of us adults love olives is their saltiness, but this same thing is why they are best limited for babies and young kids. 

Babies have young kidneys that are not yet big enough to deal with large amounts of sodium. Too much sodium puts unnecessary and extra stress on this vital organ and can lead to serious health problems. Until they are 1 year old, babies should get no more than 1 gram of salt daily, and even after age 1 sodium needs are still rather low (source: NHS). 

In their first year of life, babies should get the majority of their nutrition from breast milk or infant formula. Both breast milk and infant formula and designed to provide the right amount of salt for babies- meaning your baby doesn’t need to eat salt in their table foods and the solids your offer should have as little salt as possible. 

Whether canned, in a jar, from an olive station, or when dining out most olives will be quite salty. Those jarred in brine will likely have more salt, but olives marinated in oil will still have some added to the marinade. 

Canned black olives tend to be the most popular choice for serving to young ones. Just 1 tablespoon of canned sliced black olives contains 63 milligrams of sodium. 

If you choose to offer your baby olives, opt for ‘no salt added’ or low sodium versions. You can also rinse the olives under running water to wash off any salt on the outside of the olives. 

How Many Olives Should a Baby or Toddler Eat?

Knowing that olives are super salty and getting too much salt is not good for babies, is there a limit to how many olives babies can have?

The ‘limit’ really depends on how much salt is in the olives, as well as what else baby is eating. Your baby will get less salt from olives in dishes, such as diced pieces in a sauce, since they’ll likely only be getting a few small pieces in the whole dish. 

If you serve sliced olives, on the other hand, it is more important to take into account the other foods you’re serving baby that day. In my personal practice, I recommend limiting to 1 higher salt food each day for little ones. 

If you served baby sausage at breakfast, for example, then they will have already gotten a bit more salt from that meal and it might be best to save the olives for another day.  

Different kinds of olives in bowls on a market's stall

Are Olives Hard for Baby to Digest?

For many, many years well-meaning healthcare professionals recommended bland, smoothly pureed, simple carbohydrates were the optimal first food for babies. Over the years research on early childhood development has come by leaps and bounds.

We now know that not only can babies who are just starting table foods skip purees entirely and go straight to finger foods, but that we don’t need to (and shouldn’t) give them only bland and simple foods. 

There are some foods that need to wait until after age 1, such as cow’s milk- though this is due to the amount of protein and minerals, which are too much for babies’ young kidneys to process. 

By the time they are ready for solids, babies’ digestive systems are strong enough to handle many foods, including olives. 

Can Babies Be Allergic to Olives?

In the US, the top 8 allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, mustard, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat, and milk. Sesame will be added to this list in January 2023, and is already listed as a top allergen in Canada (source: FDA). When your pediatrician tells you to start introducing allergens, these are the foods they are referring to. 

Of course, babies are humans and can be allergic to any food. It is possible that your baby could be allergic to olives, but it is not a common allergy. 

The signs of an allergic reaction include hives, new flush or rash, face or tongue swelling, coughing or wheezing, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. You will notice these signs a few minutes to a couple of hours after eating the food that caused the allergic reaction. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s time to head to the doctor. 

Knowing which foods to serve your little one, not to mention figuring out the safest way to offer them is a whirlwind of excitement and nerves.