For adults and kids over 4 years of age, sunflower seeds are healthy, tasty snack, but never give sunflower seeds to toddlers, 3-year-old children or any child under 4, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Toddlers and kids under 4 shouldn't eat sunflower seeds because your toddler does not have the ability to separate the seed from the shell in his mouth -- and so, he could choke. It may seem harmless to offer your tot a seed or two, but it could lead to disastrous consequences. You can make tasty foods with sunflower butter, instead.
It is important to avoid giving sunflower seeds to any child under 4, because the hard, smooth surface is slippery and difficult for a child this age to chew -- and a seed could become lodged in your child’s windpipe. Even if you shell the seed for your toddler, (or buy preshelled seeds) -- your child could still choke, so skip the seeds!
Sunflower seed allergies do exist, but they're not as common as peanut allergies. Food allergies occur when your body mistakes a food protein as a harmful substance, triggering an immune system reaction. Be alert when introducing sunflower products into your child's diet -- particularly, if he has other food allergies. Common symptoms of a dangerous allergic reaction include facial swelling, itchy or swollen lips, rashes, shortness of breath, coughing and a tummy ache. Most sunflower allergies are annoying (rather than life threatening), but as with any food allergy, anaphylactic shock is a remote possibility. If your child suddenly has difficulty breathing -- call an ambulance immediately, because anaphylaxis can be fatal, if not treated immediately.
Do you want the health benefits of sunflower seeds without the work? Try sunflower butter made from ground sunflower seeds. You can use sunflower butter in baking, as a spread on toast, or you can eat it with crackers. It is also a good alternative if your little one is allergic to peanuts (but not to sunflower products!) Sunflower butter is high in vitamin E, fiber and protein and is a safe way to introduce this nutrient-rich food into your toddler's diet without the risk.
Sunflower Butter Uses
Make your toddler a quick snack by mixing sunflower butter in yogurt, spreading it on celery, dipping apples in it, or making a yummy sunflower butter-and-jelly sandwich. You can also use sunflower butter in any recipe that calls for peanut or almond butter; substitute the same quantity of sunflower butter for peanut butter in peanut butter cookies or bars. Sunflower oil is also a great alternative to vegetable or olive oil, and it has the highest amount of Vitamin E of any vegetable oil -- so consider using it for your cooking needs, as well.