When to introduce meat into complementary foods?
Meat (under “meat” for the purposes of this article, we will also understand poultry) is considered a rather heavy product, and therefore it is usually introduced to a healthy toddler no earlier than 8-9 months, when it matures to the desired level of the digestive tract, and some chewing skills. An earlier introduction of meat is often recommended only if there is a lack of iron and / or B vitamins.
At the same time, the World Health Organization (WHO), in its Guidelines for the WHO European Region, with a particular focus on the republics of the former Soviet Union, says that when complementary foods are introduced at about the age of 6 months, it is important that the diet includes, inter alia, meat and fish. In this case, it is absolutely not necessary to wait for the development of anemia. These products are recommended to be included in the diet of all babies to prevent iron deficiency anemia.
There is evidence that the digestibility of meat puree is the same as that of baby rice porridge, so it may well be, if not the first complementary food product, then among the first.
By the way, there is an assumption that meat in ancient times among hunter-gatherers could well have been the first complementary food. It is assumed that the mother chewed a piece of meat and offered it to the grown up baby.
How to choose meat
Usually, low-fat hypoallergenic varieties are recommended for the first meat complementary foods: rabbit, turkey. Then you can enter horse meat, lamb, veal, lean pork. Finally, it is recommended to leave beef and chicken, since negative reactions are most often manifested on them.
However, preference should be given to those types of meat that are accepted in this particular family. That meat, micro doses of which the baby has already received through the placenta and breast milk of the mother.
When choosing meat for complementary foods, you should pay attention to its color: it should be uniform and even. Good fresh meat cannot be green, black, and also does not show off with gasoline stains. Fresh veal and pork should be pink, beef should be red, lamb should be slightly darker than beef. The veins should be white, not yellow, as yellow fat is a sign of an old animal. If you touch a piece with a napkin, no dye should remain on it. The smell of a fresh quality product should be pleasant. It is better to take fresh chilled meat with a minimum of fat, since it will still have to be removed to prepare complementary foods.
When choosing a turkey or chicken, preference should be given to breast, as it contains less fat and is better absorbed, moreover, it contains fewer harmful substances. When it comes to beef or pork, you should pay attention to the tenderloin, as it contains less fat. For rabbit puree, it is best to use the back of the carcass, as the meat there is softer and more tender.
How to cook meat for feeding babies
For the first feeding, a very small piece is required. After the meat has been washed, bones, fat and veins removed, it should be steamed or boiled in water.
If it is decided to cook the meat in water, then the “first” broth must be drained after 15-20 minutes of cooking, the meat should be washed again and cooked until tender (from 40 minutes to 1.5 hours – depending on the type of meat and the size of the piece).
After the meat is cooked, it should be chopped with a blender to a homogeneous consistency with the addition of vegetable broth or puree. It is the vegetable broth that is used, since when vegetables are cooked, part of the vitamins passes into it. But meat broth is not used in the nutrition of babies due to the fact that it contains harmful substances boiled from meat. Ready-made meat and vegetable puree is stored in the refrigerator for no more than 24 hours. If necessary, it can be frozen in the same way as regular vegetable puree.
At the age of 8-10 months, in order to develop chewing skills, the child can be offered meatballs, mashed with a fork or crush. To prepare the meatballs, the meat must be passed through a meat grinder 2-3 times, and then from the resulting minced meat (into which you can add a little water to make the finished dish more tender), mold balls the size of a large cherry. They are also steamed or boiled in water, but in time they are much faster than a whole piece of meat.
It is convenient to make such balls in reserve: divide them into portions, wrap them with cling film and place them in the freezer with marking (you can store them for 1-2 months). It is not necessary to defrost the meatballs before cooking, but the processing time of the frozen product will increase slightly.
Depending on the number of teeth and the degree of development of chewing skills, from 10 months, meatballs can be given whole, and after a year, you can offer steamed cutlets.
If there is a desire to give the baby meat from the common table, you can offer, for example, the core of a cutlet, leaving yourself the fried part. In this case, it makes sense to cook such cutlets without salt, and use sauces for taste.
How much meat to give to babies?
In accordance with our National Program, home-produced meat should be given in an amount of 3-15 g at the age of 6 months; 20-30 g – at 7 months; 30-35 g – at 8 months; 40-50 g – at 9-12 months. I would be guided by these norms as a maximum rather than a goal.
There is also, for example, a recommendation according to which until 8-9 months you should not give meat puree more often than 1-2 times a week, no more than 20 g, since this is still a heavy product for an immature gastrointestinal tract, besides, it gives stress on the kidneys. At 9-10 months (depending on the readiness of the body), meat consumption increases to daily (before the introduction of fish) in the amount of up to 50 g.
When and how to introduce fish to babies?
In accordance with our National Program, the introduction of fish is recommended at the age of 8 months, 2 times a week (as a meat substitute), in the amount of 5-30 g at 8 months and 30-60 g at 9-12 months. These volumes should also be taken as maximum rather than as a goal. The main thing is to look at the child’s desire and appetite.
However, as mentioned above, WHO allows the introduction of fish with the beginning of the introduction of complementary foods, especially if the family does not eat meat.
According to the latest data, highly allergenic foods (which include fish) are recommended to be introduced into the diet of a baby up to one year old. Thus, there is no consensus on the optimal age for fish introduction. This may be the very beginning of the introduction of complementary foods, if it is an essential part of the family diet, and the age is closer to one year, but preferably up to one year.
Preference should be given to sea fish. For the first acquaintance, low-fat varieties are suitable – cod, hake, pollock. From oily fish, mackerel or commercial pink salmon are suitable.
Steamed fish fillet is prepared or cooked in a small amount of boiled water over low heat for 15-20 minutes. If necessary, it can be chopped in a blender or minced.
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