when to start meat

Jessica Penner, RDUncategorized2 Comments

Up until recently, dietitians advised starting your baby with rice cereal, followed by fruits and vegetables, then meats.  Now, according to expertsmeat is the priority food for babies.  It’s been bumped to the front of the line, and red meats are preferred as one of your baby’s first foods!

Seriously? Red Meat?

You might be thinking, doesn’t that fly in the face of what we know about how unhealthy red meat can be for us? Well, the answer is yes and no (generalizations don’t work very well in nutrition). One reason red meat has a bad reputation is because of its high iron content.  Too much iron increases the risk of colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and premature death.  When we eat too much iron, it isn’t absorbed by the small intestine, and continues down to the colon where it feeds bad bacteria and acts as a pro-oxidant. When red meat causes health problems, it’s because people eat too much of it and get too much iron.  

At about 6 months of age, though, babies start needing iron.  A lot of it.  They are born with full stores of iron which get topped up by breastmilk, but their bodies demand so much iron at 6 months that breastmilk can no longer keep up. By the time babies are 7 months old, they require more iron than an adult male.  

This is why we introduce solid foods a month earlier, to provide all the extra iron they suddenly need. Since babies don’t eat large quantities of food, they need a food that is high in iron.  Being so high in iron, red meat gives them a lot of bang for each bite.  Adults, who just need maintenance doses of iron, would do best to avoid over-consuming iron-rich foods.

 Think about it this way: when the average North American man sits down for dinner, he’s probably eating about 6 ounces of meat.  I don’t see many babies eating that much meat!  By comparison, if this man feeds his child a baby-sized portion of red meat (1 oz), the man has now consumed 500% more iron than his baby did, when the baby needed more iron than him in the first place! Healthy is relative…. it all depends on what your body needs at a particular point in time.

Need iron? Eat meat!

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2 Comments on “when to start meat”

    1. Hi! There are several options. If you want to do baby led weaning you can cook meat so that it’s tender in either a slow cooker or pressure cooker and shred or give in adult pinky size pieces for them to pick up. Or you can puree in a blender or food processor with some breastmilk, formula, or water. Just remember not to add salt! Spices and other flavourings are fine 🙂

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