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Home » GFF (Gluten-free friendly), No lactose? No problem., Nutrition myths put to the test, Real food for babies, Uncategorized

Bamba for Babies

Submitted by on July 17, 2011 – 10:52 am4 Comments

It seems that peanuts are fraught with controversy these days, especially among those with young families.

The legacy of “conventional wisdom” that advocates avoiding introducing peanuts to babies and children–even up to ages 1 through 3– continues to this day, despite the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has retracted previous endorsements of this practice due to lack of scientific evidence.  Indeed, evidence is trickling out to the contrary, suggesting that perhaps delaying introduction of peanuts beyond year one may unwittingly *increase* the risk of childhood peanut allergy.  More evidence is needed to clarify the relationship between timing of peanut introduction with risk of peanut allergy for certain, though.

And yet, among those families who choose to introduce peanuts in early childhood, the sticky issue (no pun intended) of how to do so technically remains.  Peanut butter is often considered a choking hazard for young children (though a supremely thin layer spread on an appropriate delivery mechanism can be safe for many babies in their final few month stretch toward turning one).  And peanuts themselves–whole or chopped–are also a choking hazard.

The buzz on the NYC mommy listservs is that pediatricians-in-the-know have a workaround for these issues that’s appropriate for babies ready for finger foods (~8-10 months, roughly): they’re recommending Bamba.

Bamba is a beloved Israeli snack food that’s essentially a puffed corn doodle lightly coated in peanutty powder (rather than, say, cheese powder as in a Cheez Doodle.)  Similar to ‘toddler puffs’ snacks marketed by a variety of companies, Bamba easily melts in the mouth, making it a safer delivery system for peanut protein than thick, sticky peanut butter itself.

And although it comes in a brightly-colored, crinkly bag, Bamba is surprisingly benign, nutritionally speaking.   It’s very low in sugar, relatively low in sodium (5% of the daily value) and is vitamin and iron-fortified, though I’d stop short of calling it a “healthy” food, per se.  Each 1 ounce serving has 160 calories, 4g of protein and 1g of sugar; it also has 4.5 mg of iron (25% of the daily value for adults, but 64% of the recommended intake for children aged 1-3 years and 45% of the recommended intake for kids aged 4-8).  The product is also Vitamin C fortified, which should help with the iron absorption.

Bamba is vegan, making it appropriate for kids/families who avoid dairy.  And Bamba is also gluten-free, in case any of you Celiac parents accidentally lick your fingers after serving Bamba to your little ones.

While some people are quick to point out that the incidence of peanut allergy in Israel is significantly lower than it is in the US– experts rightfully point out that the unscientific observation that Israeli babies and kids coincidentally also eat lots of  Bamba cannot be mistaken for proof that early introduction of peanut protein causes lower allergy risk.

Still, if you and your pediatrician agree that there’s no medical reason to delay peanut introduction in your young child but are concerned that your little one can’t handle the texture of peanut butter yet, Bamba may be a good solution for you.  I think we’ll probably try it out in our house as soon as Max & Stella master the pincer grasp in another month or so, though I view it as a stopgap measure until they’re ready for real peanut butter rather than a staple snack for the long haul.

Unless you live in a community with a large Israeli population, your best bet to finding Bamba would be to order it online.  Amazon sells large-sized bags of it by the case (go in with a few other families in your area; no one family needs 84 ounces of snack food laying around in the pantry just for the sake of introducing junior to peanut protein!)

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  • cc says:

    Great post, Tamara! Couldn’t agree more. I gentleman named Gideon Lack is studying the effect of early introduction of peanuts on the incidence of peanut allergy in what is called the LEAP trial.

    Hopefully, we’ll know more soon!

  • Marie says:

    Let’s not forget that you can also boil peanuts! It is much easier to find raw peanuts in the South, but I have seen canned boiled peanuts in other places. They can be mashed to reduce the risk of choking.

  • Christopher says:

    Bamba for export is not vitamin or iron fortified (i.e. 0%). I just bought two 1-oz bags at Giant in Alexandria, VA. “Ingredients: Peanuts (49%), Corn, Palm Oil, Salt.”

    It’s been over three years since your post, and in the news today: “In what could be a game changer, a new study finds that feeding peanut products to infants early may cut their risk of developing allergies.”

  • palooka says:

    Sadly, the Bamba I’ve found in US stores is technically gluten free, but it is NOT safe for people with gluten sensitivities. The label clearly states it is made in a facility that also processes wheat. 🙁