This week the Canadian government changed its stance on the right first foods for babies. They took their time, but they are also far ahead of the pack.
Whilst many people have long questioned the conventional iron-fortified rice cereal as the best option for a first food, the governments and health bodies of Australia, Canada and the United States have stood firm on old advice.
This week Canada suggested meat and eggs might be better. And a collective sigh of relief from educated people all over the world was heard. Finally some sense!
So let’s talk about baby’s first foods. Below I will tell you why I think meat and eggs are a great choice, and why I am leaving rice cereal behind forever.
To start this conversation we need to talk about iron. It is well understood that after 6 months of age, the iron stores babies receive from the mother before birth start to wane. Breastfed babies are therefore in need of iron, and formula fed babies receive some through their formula, but generally not enough that is easily used by the body.
The answer has always been to start babies on iron-fortified rice cereal. The problem is, rice cereal really has very little nutritional value. Grains are difficult for babies to digest as the enzyme profile that they have within their gut is more suited to breast milk than grains until around 12 months of age. The iron is added to the cereal, which is not consumed alongside vitamins that help with iron absorption. Basically the idea is great, but the digestion does not live up to the hype.
So what then? How do we ensure our babies are getting the iron they need?
Well this is where the meat and egg bit comes in.
Meat is naturally rich in haem iron and well digested by the gut. It is simple to prepare as either a puree or baby-led weaning style meal, depending on your style. Either cook and puree with some liquid, or just grill a cutlet and let them loose. Either way they will get the iron they need, complete with other nutrients.
What about egg? Egg is rich in iron, as well as choline and omega 3’s. If you want to talk about superfoods, then the humble egg just has to be on your plate. Omega 3’s are essential for cognitive function, brain development and eye health, all things that develop rapidly in the first 12 months of life. Egg is equally as easy to prepare in a myriad of ways to entice your little one.
But before we finish talking about egg we need to talk allergies. Egg is fast growing into the most common allergen for Aussie kids. There is some speculation that years of being told to delay children eating eggs until after they are 1 year old may have somehow contributed to this. Whatever the cause, the latest research says that introducing foods earlier may be better.
In children with family history of food allergies, it is suggested the earlier the better, but never before 17 weeks old for any solid food. (If you or your family have a history of food allergies, please consult your healthcare professional before starting solid food to get their best advice. Or chat to me one-on-one to discuss your unique personal situation in detail.)
So, throw out convention and Mum’s advice people. And give the humble meat and eggs a go as a first food for your baby. Nutritionally complete and easy to prepare, they beat the old rice cereal hands down, as a great way to kick of the wondrous world of solid food for your child.