High-Risk Choking Foods and Tips for Food Safety

It’s one of those situations I hope to never find myself in as a parent. One that I try to avoid at all costs, even if that means spending extra time on a task. My anxiety spikes instantly whenever I hear a sound that even slightly resembles my kiddo choking on food.

After some research, I realized my overly cautious approach isn’t as crazy as it may seem.

More than 75 percent of the more than 12,000 emergency visits for choking episodes happen to children under the age of three. 

Foods with the Greatest Risk

There are some foods that pose a higher choking risk than others. While researching these risky foods, some were obvious while others were surprising and had me reconsidering future grocery purchases. Below are some the most dangerous high-risk choking foods:

  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Chips
  • Dried cranberries
  • Grapes
  • Gum and hard candy
  • Hot dogs
  • Marshmallows
  • Nut butter
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olives
  • Peanut butter
  • Pears
  • Peas
  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Raisins
  • Snack puffs

How to Prepare High-Risks Foods

Remember, the reason why certain foods are a choking hazard is because children under age four lack the ability to properly grind food before swallowing, and they aren’t strong enough to forcefully cough if something gets stuck in their throat. It can seem overwhelming — the list of foods that pose the highest choking risk — but there are ways to prepare these foods to reduce the risk. 

Avoid offering small hard foods or candy. This includes nuts, seeds, raisins, dried cranberries, celery, popcorn, chips, pretzels, snack puffs, hard candy, chewing gum, lollipops, and marshmallows.

Shred or cook to mushy consistency. This method works on carrots, apples, pears, and peas.

Cut into small, manageable pieces. Cut grapes, cherries, olives, and cherry tomatoes into quarters. Hot dogs should be sliced lengthwise first and then into smaller pieces.

Serve in thin layers. Peanut butter and other nut butters should be spread in thin layers to avoid sticking 

Be aware of foods that are a choking risk

Other Tips to Reduce the Risk of Choking on Food

  • Adult supervision when your child is eating.
  • Eating while in the seated position.
  • Discourage eating in the car or stroller.
  • Serve developmentally appropriate foods.
  • Encourage your child to chew, chew, chew.
  • Educate yourself on other potential choking hazards, food or otherwise.
  • Educate yourself on infant CPR and choking rescue.

How to prepare food for babies so they don't choke.

Choking can be scary for everyone involved. I remember choking on a grape when I was young and my dad having to help me. As a young adult I choked on a bite of apple and again needed assistance.

Children are at a high risk for choking, but there are ways we can reduce that risk. By knowing what foods are developmentally appropriate for our child and knowing how to properly serve foods, we can take action to making mealtime a fun experience for everyone.

As I sing to my young toddler all the time, “Chew, chew, chew your food. Chew it all the way through. Keep on chewing, chewing, chewing. Did you chew, did you?”

Be kind. Be safe. Be you. 

Joining Janie on the pursuit of life’s adventures while laughing along the way are Janie’s husband, Jared who is a flight school director and pilot, their angel baby, Jackson (2016) who passed away shortly after birth, and newest crew member, Jensen (2018). With an undergraduate degree in communication from UTA and a master’s in health communication from the University of Illinois, writing has been a creative outlet for Janie. Working full-time in healthcare, being involved at her local church, and volunteering with the Junior League of Fort Worth, Janie is passionate about serving people and holds a special place in her heart for women and children. When they are not headed to their next adventure, you can find Janie and her family creating their own adventure as proud Fort Worth residents.


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