Give Tu Bishvat fruit to children with caution

While products are nutritious, though fattening, the treats pose dangers to small children.

January 30, 2012 23:35
2 minute read.
DRIED FRUIT and nuts

DRIED FRUIT and nuts 390. (photo credit: Thinkstock)


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Consumers have already begun shopping for a multitude of varieties of fruits and nuts to hold a Tu Bishvat Seder marking the new year of trees Tuesday night and Wednesday next week.

But while the products are very nutritious, though fattening, the tasty treats pose dangers when small children get their hands on them.

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The minor holiday – on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, is one of four traditional “new years” and became the date for calculating when the agricultural cycle began and ended for the purpose of biblical tithes. It has become traditional to eat species of the Land of Israel on the holiday.

Beterem, the Israel National Council for Child Safety and Health, warns against allowing children under the age of five years to eat hard, rounded, small and smooth pieces of nuts and dried fruit. Last year, six children up to the age of three died from choking on such foods and other objects. Choking on foreign objects is responsible for 52.7 percent of deaths in children before their first birthday.

Young children, said Beterem, have undeveloped swallowing mechanisms and can easily inhale small objects into their trachea and lungs instead of swallowing them into their esophagus. In addition, their coughing reflex is not well developed and cannot easily help them remove the foreign object. Young children also lack the teeth needed to grind food properly, Beterem says.

The organization’s director, Orly Silbinger, said that as dried fruit and nuts are hard, absorb liquid and swell, are sticky and too small or too large, they can easily cause harm.

Michal Gilon, a clinical dietitian from the Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva, said older children and adults can eat Tu Bishvat treats, but shouldn’t exaggerate in their consumption because they have high caloric value. Prefer those to which sugar has not been added.

Most Tu Bishvat treats are rich in beneficial vitamins, fiber, magnesium, iron and phosphorus, but they also contain lots of natural sugar that raises blood triglyceride rates. Nuts and seeds are also fattening in significant amounts, but their oils are unsaturated and those healthful.

Olga Raz, chief clinical dietitian of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, explained that dry fruits, having lost their natural moisture, take up less space than fresh fruits, so people tend to eat a lot and gain weight. But even though they contain a lot of calories, they are less fattening than chocolates and other sweets. Twelve dates are equal to 275 calories, while five figs contain 260 calories and dried prunes 115.

Raz also advised washing dried fruits, preferably under hot water, to avoid pathogens from insects and birds.

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