Grapes, hot dogs and popcorn all have one thing in common: They’re choking hazards! Choking prevention is the key to keeping kids safe.
You probably saw this crazy story about a grape stuck in a kid’s throat that went viral recently. (Good news: He’s OK!) We’d love to remind parents and grandparents about other edible choking hazards, and what you should do for choking prevention.
It may surprise some of you to know that cutting up food shouldn’t stop at age 2 or 3. Sure, some kids will be more proficient in the chomping department than others. But when there’s a risk of choking, it’s wise to err on the side of caution.
The Most Common Choking Hazards
The majority of kids’ choking injuries are caused by food. Let’s break down the riskiest foods as well as how to keep your kids safe at snack time:
America’s favorite picnic food is actually the most risky food for choking among children. If your toddler or child under age 4 likes hot dogs, slice the hot dog lengthwise in long, noodle-like strips.
Round Fruits or Vegetables
Even healthy snacks like grapes, cherry tomatoes, cherries, blackberries and blueberries pose a choking hazard for young children. These can block a child’s airway if swallowed whole. If you slice around the equator, there is still a risk involved with grapes and cherry tomatoes, so be sure to quarter ’em or slice these items lengthwise. This slick tool ($8) will help you get the job done quick.
This PBJ on a Stick recipe would be a fun afternoon snack or lunch, but please remember to halve the grapes!
Firm Fruits and Vegetables
Apples, carrots, pears, bananas and melons can be risky if swallowed in large chunks. Carrot “coins” may seem fun, but can still lodge in the throat and block breathing. Instead, cut them into matchsticks. This handy slicer ($10) does just that. You can also serve carrots well-cooked.
Have a picky eater on your hands? Here are 15 ideas to make mealtimes easier.
Some candy tastes so good kids just want to swallow it—eek! That hard shape can block their airway, so it’s best to skip hard candy all together. For a sweet treat, drizzle chocolate on fruit or cut a peanut butter cup into small pieces.
Peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts and pistachios all have potential to get lodged in a child’s windpipe. They are important foods to include early on due to allergy prevention, but instead of serving them whole, chop them up. This little chopper ($12) is even fun to use!
Nut butters may seem like a less risky choice to serve up than nuts; however, too much in a child’s mouth can ball up and get lodged in their throat. Instead, stir nut butters into yogurts or oats for the very young (six months of age) and slowly increase to thinly spread onto toast or on sandwiches for toddlers.
This healthy Homemade Peanut Butter recipe would taste heavenly on whole wheat toast!
Popcorn may seem like a fun snack for children, but the shape and difficulty to chew can cause a popped kernel to get stuck in the throat. Skip popcorn until around 5 years of age or a child is able to recognize the importance of chewing.
Skip marshmallows with younger children, and teach older children to bite them instead of trying to eat them whole. Don’t mistake the importance of this conversation, it’s often still an issue with kids as old as 11.
How to Reduce Choking Risk
The fears of choking are understandable. But we can all take steps to minimize the risks and eat risky foods, too. Sit down with your children for meals and model how to chew food. Make sure your toddler is alert and not falling asleep while eating. Have those tough conversations, talk to your child about choking on foods and the importance of chewing. (Here are things dietitians never say to their kids.)
When you’re packing a lunch and not able to supervise your child, pre-cut foods to help minimize risk. Be sure caregivers recognize the signs of choking and know how to handle these situations, as well!
Our Best Lunch Ideas for Kids
I invented these cute little muffins so I could enjoy the flavor of cheeseburgers without resorting to fast food. I often freeze a batch and reheat however many I need. They’re also great as appetizers. —Teresa Kraus, Cortez, Colorado
I’ve made this creamy noodle side for years. Since kids and adults go for it, I keep the ingredients on hand at all times. —Anita Groff, Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania
I first made this fresh, fruity salsa for a family baby shower. Everyone wanted the recipe. Now, someone makes this juicy snack for just about every family gathering—and I have to keep reminding everyone who introduced it! —Jessica Robinson, Indian Trail, North Carolina
Red pepper pieces accent this yummy side dish, and the pasta wheels really drive the theme home. —Amber Kimmich, Powhatan, Virginia
Ever wondered how to make guacamole? Just whip together this delicious blend of your favorite fresh ingredients.—Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas
I love when an entire meal can be cooked outside on the grill and I don’t need to heat up the kitchen. These grilled sweet potatoes meet that requirement and are healthy, too! —Natalie Knowlton, Kamas, Utah
This third-generation hearty chili is a family favorite. It’s a sweet and easy chili that’s sure to warm up the whole family on those chilly fall nights. —Terri Keeney, Greeley, Colorado
You can prepare this snackable pizza in just 10 minutes! It’s a great way to sneak in those daily servings of fruit. —Dalynn Dowling, Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota
I always try to come up with new ways to serve lunch to my kids. This recipe was a hit! —Sara Martin, Brookfield, Wisconsin
Young relatives were coming for a Christmas party, so I wanted something fun for them to eat. Instead, the adults devoured my mini mac and cheese. —Kate Mainiero, Elizaville, New York
My children like this dip because the seasoning is mild. You can use plain veggie sticks or cut out numbers and letters from the sweet peppers. —Kimberly Miller, Norfolk, Virginia
This recipe features the flavors of your favorite pie but only takes a few minutes to make—and there’s no cooking or baking required. Perfect for when you’re rushing to get kids on the bus! —Elizabeth Dumont, Boulder, Colorado
Everyone at my table goes for this feel-good soup. It’s quick when you’re pressed for time and beats fast food, hands down. —Darlis Wilfer, West Bend, Wisconsin
My kids love sausage and pancakes but making them during the week was out of the question. I bought the frozen variety on a stick but wasn’t keen on the calories, additives or price. This version of pigs-in-a-blanket is a tasty, thrifty alternativee. —Lisa Dodd, Greenville, South Carolina
The best way to get kids interested in cooking and eating right is to let them help. These apple and peanut butter “sandwiches” are one fun way to pique their interest and kitchen creativity. —Shirley Warren, Thiensville, Wisconsin
We serve these quesadillas as chili dippers or load them up with salsa and sour cream for a super starter. —Terri Keeney, Greeley, Colorado
When you have these fun-to-make mini pizzas, it’s no challenge finding lunch fare that the kids enjoy. Plus they pack nicely in sandwich bags and travel well, so there’s no mess. —Rhonda Cliett, Belton, Texas
After craving tomato soup, I decided to make my own. My sister Joan likes it chunky-style, so she doesn’t puree. Serve it with a grilled cheese sandwich. —Marian Brown, Mississauga, Ontario
I came across this easy and tasty snack while searching online for healthy munchies for kids. Great for after school, it’s really quick to make and filling enough to hold the kids until dinner. To satisfy heftier appetites or to serve as a power lunch, cut each tortilla into fewer pieces or provide one per child. The recipe is easy to increase as needed. —Mary Haluch, Ludlow, Massachusetts
My father loves to entertain, and these buttery egg delights are one of his favorite items to serve at brunch. The leftovers are perfect to reheat in the microwave on busy mornings, so Dad always stashes a few aside for me to take home once the party is over. —Amy Soto, Winfield, Kansas
Every person who tries this dip wants to know what makes it taste special. The secret is the blend of yogurt, sour cream and mayo. —Krisann Durnford, Muskego, Wisconsin
Fix and freeze these moist little meat loaves packed with pizza flavor. They’re great to reheat for an after-school snack or quick dinner on soccer night. My family likes to drizzle extra pizza sauce on top. —Susan Wollin, Marshall, Wisconsin
Our Test Kitchen staff, many of whom are busy parents themselves, came up with this fresh and fruity summer snack idea. It’s easy to make ahead and carry to the ballpark, beach or playground, and the cinnamon-spiced yogurt dip adds a fun touch kids love. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
When I was a girl, Mama used Texas longhorn cheese in this recipe. After it melted all over the macaroni, I loved to dig in and see how many strings of cheese would follow my spoonful. —Imogene Hutton, Brownwood, Texas
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