|Henry tackles a slice of grilled turkey.|
|Henry munching on a piece of pork.|
In my last post, I wrote about Henry’s first experience with a pork chop. He was a huge fan, but I’ve heard concerns about whether babies his age are ready for meat. I dug into a bit of the research, and it turns out that meat is an excellent starter food for babies. It is a good source of iron, zinc and protein. In general, vegetables and meats are great options for babies because they provide more nutritional benefits than grains and fruits.
Research suggests that breastfed babies and those who had low birth weight (below 6 ½ pounds) may need additional zinc and iron after they reach six months of age. Henry was just over four pounds when he was born, so he can probably use the extra boost. The longer his diet does not include additional sources of these nutrients, the greater his risk for being low in iron and zinc. Providing meat as part of a balanced diet to babies older than six months can make up for this deficiency.
Why are zinc and iron important? Along with other benefits, zinc supports a healthy immune system and helps with baby’s growth and brain development. A lack of iron can lead to anemia, fatigue and developmental delays.
Another study found that when children under one eat meat, there is a positive association with their weight gain. Children also benefit from improved fine and gross motor skills at 22 months. These advantages are likely due to the increased amount of protein that meat provides to young children.
While you can raise a vegetarian child, it is important to be aware of providing enough zinc and iron and protein in your child’s diet. Besides meat, good sources of zinc include wheat germ, peas, beans, hummus, yogurt, asparagus, garlic, basil and thyme. High-iron foods include sweet potatoes, prunes, mushroom, leafy greens and egg yolk.
There are a few guidelines for feeding meat to babies.
- Remember to remove bones and gristle.
- Be sure that meat is cooked thoroughly.
- Allow meat to cool before offering it to baby.
- Smoked meats, sausages, ham and bacon can be high in salt. It may be a good idea to limit these foods to once a day for baby.