Meat and alternatives are rich in iron. They are among the first foods you should introduce to your baby.
This food group is made up of foods that are rich in proteins: meat, poultry, fish, and alternatives such as legumes, tofu, and eggs. Because they are rich in iron, they are among the first foods you should introduce to your baby.
Meat and poultry
Meat (beef, pork, veal, lamb, etc.) and poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.) provide protein. They also provide vitamins and certain minerals, especially iron and zinc.
How to prepare meat and poultry
All meat and poultry must be well cooked. To begin, serve meat purées, then gradually modify the texture as your baby learns to chew. For example, you can serve finely chopped meat or tender and juicy bite-sized pieces.
How to get started
Start by giving your baby 3 to 5 ml (½ to 1 teaspoon) of meat or poultry. During the meal or at subsequent meals, gradually increase the quantity, taking into account your child’s appetite and preferences.
You can also serve game meat, though it’s preferable to serve game killed with lead-free ammunition. Lead can negatively affect children’s development.
Do not give your child organ meats (e.g., liver, heart) from game animals, as they are often contaminated.
It’s best to avoid deli meats (e.g., ham, sausage, pâtés, salami, bologna, mock chicken, bacon) because they contain nitrates, and nitrites that can be harmful to your child’s health. If you decide to serve deli meats to your family and to your child when he is older, choose those that are the leanest and contain the least amount of salt and spices.
Don’t give raw or smoked fish to your child, since young children are more sensitive to the parasites they sometimes contain.
Fish is a source of protein, iron, vitamin D, and good fat.
In the past, parents were recommended to wait until babies reached a certain age before introducing fish. We now know that this does not prevent allergies.
Don’t hesitate to make fish a regular part of your baby’s diet
You can serve your baby many of the types of fish available at the supermarket and in fish markets (See What’s on the menu? Fish!).
Canned fish is usually very salty. However, you can occasionally serve unsalted canned fish like salmon or light tuna (but not white tuna).
Legumes and tofu
Legumes and tofu are a nutritious and inexpensive. They are a good source of vegetable protein and iron. Legumes are also rich in fibre.
There are many kinds of legumes, including lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, white beans, etc. Serve them in purées, mashed with a fork, or in soups.
Opt for regular tofu (firm, semi firm, or extra firm) rather than soft tofu. Soft tofu contains more water, and therefore has less protein and iron.
Tofu can easily be mashed with a fork or crumbled and mixed with vegetables.
Are you concerned about allergies? Read A word about food allergies.
Eggs are nutritious, convenient, and inexpensive.
In the past, parents were recommended to wait until their babies had reached a certain age before introducing egg whites. We now know that this does not prevent allergies.
You can give your child whole eggs (the yolk and the white). Serve eggs hardboiled, poached, scrambled, or in an omelette. Make sure the egg is well cooked, and never raw or runny.
Peanut and nut butters are convenient and nutritious.
In the past, parents were recommended to wait until their babies had reached a certain age before introducing these foods. We now know that this does not prevent allergies.
You can serve your child smooth nut butters, spread thinly on warm toast.
Crunchy nut butters, peanuts, and nuts should not be given to children under age 4 because they present a choking hazard. It is not safe to give your child nut butter by the spoonful either.