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Meat Matters: Protein as a First Food

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Fruits and veggies might rule as first solids, but don't put off the protein. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) once recommended holding off on eggs until age 2, but new guidelines suggest introducing meat and egg yolks starting at 6 months. “There are nutrients in eggs and meat that do not occur as much in other foods,” says Dr. Keith Ayoob, the director of the Nutrition Clinic at the Children's Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Beef and other meat is loaded with zinc and iron – which your little one will need if she isn't breastfed or her iron stores begin getting low at six months. Eggs are a great source of choline, an essential nutrient for the functioning of virtually every cell – especially those involving the brain and memory development.
 
The Limit
How much should baby have? Dr. Ayood recommends offering some kind of protein at every meal. “Babies will usually take what they need and they are going to turn away if they’re full. They’re very internally driven most of the time.” Introduce one food at a time by adding it to a food your baby already likes and tolerates and don't force the spoon! “You don’t want to force feed a baby because then it will turn her off to the whole feeding experience.”
 
Boil 'Em, Mash 'Em
Karen Ansel, MS, RD, CDN and author of The Baby & Toddler Cookbook: Fresh, Homemade Foods for a Healthy Start recommends mixing meat or egg purees with a little bit of baby's favorite fruits or veggies to make them taste great. Applesauce or plum purees pair perfectly with lamb or turkey and avocados or asparagus are a great match for eggs.
 
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