It’s no wonder grapes are such a popular snack with people of all ages: They’re packed with flavor, fiber, water, and antioxidants, which means they don’t just taste great, they’re also great at helping us feel fuller longer (buh-bye, overeating!), stay hydrated, and keep our bodies strong and healthy. There are so many ways to enjoy them — from minced or mashed to frozen or fresh out of the fridge — but cutting grapes is arguably the most important preparation method when you want to make sure to avoid choking in babies and older adults.
How to Cut Grapes to Prevent Choking
Babies choking on bite-sized foods is (understandably) a major concern for parents. The good news? You can cross one of those choking hazards off your long list of parenting worries by cutting grapes in half. Cutting grapes for babies requires slicing the grape into small sections in order to prevent choking. Sounds simple enough, right?
Experts say there is a certain way of cutting grapes to avoid choking. “Babies need grapes cut for them the long way because they have a very small airway and are not very adept at chewing, sometimes swallowing pieces that are too large,” explains pediatric nutrition expert Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, RD, CDN, CDE.
If grapes are cut the long way (lengthwise), they can slide down the esophagus without obstructing the airway. Pediatrician Rachel Prete, DO, says your best bet to decrease the likelihood of your child choking is to cut the grapes into quarters.
Cutting grapes in half widthwise can still pose a choking hazard to babies if the halves are swallowed without being chewed enough because the pieces are still wide enough to block a baby’s air supply, which can turn into an emergency situation within seconds.
But don’t let the thought of cutting grapes one by one make you dread snack time — or, even worse, skip the joy that is eating grapes altogether! There’s no need to worry, because we’ve got a few different hacks for cutting grapes that’ll make your life simpler and safer.
When it comes to the best type of cutting utensil to slice grapes, Lara Field, RD, recommends kitchen shears over a knife because the special scissors can cut through food in a breeze. This method slices grapes into perfect bite-size portions in no time.
When cutting grapes for babies, Vanessa Rissetto, RD, recommends using plates to dice through several grapes at once. For this method, sandwich the grapes between two plates on a stable surface. Use one hand to hold the top plate steady. With the other, pass a large serrated knife through the middle of the plates to dice the fruits lengthwise. (Watch the video above to see how quickly this simple, mess-freee method works.) Cutting grapes this way will also reduce the risk of adults choking on grapes.
Two-plate technique not working for you? There are a few variations you can try. The first involves using plastic lids instead of plates. Followers of this method swear by plastic lids from storage containers or store-bought items (yogurt, whipped cream, etc.) – just make sure the top and bottom lids are the same size. The second method for minimizing a grapes choking hazard involves the same technique, but uses a cutting board and a round plastic lid instead of plates.
At what age can you stop cutting grapes for babies?
Moving from breast milk or formula to solid foods is a major milestone for babies. Not only do they get to exert some independence (like throwing food they don’t like on the floor), they also get to experiment with new flavors and textures.
If your baby is eating solid foods, there’s a good chance grapes are part of the menu. But unlike other foods, you can’t just take whole grapes out of the fridge and plop them down on a plate. Grapes need to be cut up a certain way before they’re served to a baby.
Most pediatricians recommend cutting grapes, hot dogs, and other cylindrical food items until children are at least five years old. Additionally, Malkoff-Cohen gives these guidelines to help prevent choking:
- Cut any food that is a choking risk until you feel comfortable with your child's chewing abilities.
- Always have your child sit down at the table to eat without distractions.
- Don’t let your child run on the playground while they’re eating.
- Don’t let your child eat foods that have a high choking risk while they’re strapped in the car.
Can adults choke on grapes?
The short answer? Yes, adults choking on grapes is a possibility because adults can choke on pretty much any type of food. In fact, choking on food was the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States in 2017, according to the National Safety Council, and nearly half of those deaths were adults over the age of 74.
Just as with babies, grapes are the perfect size to block the windpipe of an adult. Because of their cylindrical shape, grapes present a choking hazard for adults because they can block the airway if not chewed thoroughly.
In order to minimize the risk of adults choking on grapes, Malkoff-Cohen says to cut grapes lengthwise as you would for a baby. Additionally, she recommends adults drink enough water/fluids to help "wash things down" and move them along.
This post was written by Sara Lindberg.