If meat is regularly consumed in your household then it’s probably something you’re either thinking about giving to your baby or have already started serving them.
So you may be wondering how frequently you should give it to your little one.
Experts recommend that babies and toddlers, just like the rest of the household, should only eat meat 2-3 times per week.
How Often Should Babies Eat Meat?
Meat is an excellent source of iron, zinc and protein, all of which are essential for your baby’s growth.
However, there are adverse health effects to eating too much of the stuff (especially red meat), which include a higher risk of developing asthma and obesity.
So for babies – as well as older children and adults – the recommendation is to eat meat no more than 2-3 times per week.
When Can Babies Eat Meat?
If you’ve decided you want to introduce meat into your infant diet, the obvious question is when is it safe to do so.
Once your baby starts eating solids, which is usually around 6 months, you should be fine serving them meat as well as fish like salmon, provided it’s tender, easy to digest and unprocessed (more on all this below).
How Should I Serve Meat To My Baby?
Clearly a baby that’s only 6 months old isn’t going to be able to eat something the same way it’s served and presented to adults.
So while your little one isn’t ready to tackle a whole New York Strip or beef jerky just yet, they will be able to eat pureed meat or meat that is cut into thin small pieces that don’t pose a choking risk.
Can Babies Digest Meat?
Many parents are understandably concerned about how easily their baby can digest meat.
The good news is that your little one can safely and easily digest meat, provided you serve them tender, lean pieces that have been pureed or cut into thin, small pieces.
Should Babies Eat Meat Every Day?
As we’ve seen, there are adverse health effects to eating too much meat, and for this reason babies should not eat it more than 2-3 times per week.
While meat provides a valuable source of iron and protein, there are plenty of plant-based foods which offer the same nutritious benefits.
Related: Your Must Have Baby & Toddler Feeding Guide
When Can Babies Eat Pork, Beef, Chicken or Lamb?
Once a baby starts eating solids, which is around 6 months of age, you can serve them most types of meat including beef, pork, chicken and lamb.
Do Babies Need Meat?
Whether or not you’re a vegetarian you might be wondering if your baby actually needs to eat meat.
While meat provides many nutritious benefits, there’s nothing there that cannot be obtained from other food sources, so you should never feel like you have to give your child meat unless you want to.
If you choose not to, you’ll want to ensure they regularly get enough iron, zinc and protein from other sources.
Benefits of Eating Meat
Apart from the enjoyable taste, many parents give their children meat because of the benefits it provides for their growing bodies. These include:
High In Iron
Iron is very important for a baby’s brain development, which explains why many pregnant women often crave foods that are high in iron and why you may have wanted to eat steak while pregnant.
Interestingly, babies are born with an iron reserve which naturally depletes after 6 months, which is fortunately when they move on to solids.
So eating meat is an excellent way to get that vital iron back into a baby’s system.
Good Source Of Protein
Meat is an excellent source of protein, which is important to a child’s development because it helps repair tissue in their bodies, and assists in the growth of their bones and muscles.
High In Zinc
Meat also contains a lot of zinc, which is vital for developing babies as it supports growth and healing.
Studies have shown that humans absorb zinc much more easily when it’s from animal protein compared to plant-based sources, and this is yet another key benefit of giving meat to your baby or toddler.
Tips For Serving Children Meat
- Avoid Unprocessed Meats: Bacon, hot dogs, salami and other cured or smoked meat (often found on pizzas) might all taste delicious, but avoid giving these to your little one as they’re high in saturated fat and salt, and may contain added chemicals and nitrates.
- Ensure It Is Fully Cooked: Young children have a higher risk of catching food poisoning, so ensue whatever you serve is fully cooked, the juices run clear and never serve anything rare or medium-rare to a young child.
- Puree or Cut Into Thin Small Pieces: Remember that you are introducing something new and relatively chewy to your baby, so don’t expect them to eat it unless it’s pureed or cut into easy to eat pieces.
- Avoid Serving Chewy Bits: Softer, tender and less fatty cuts are easier to eat and digest, so give your baby the best quality cuts possible.
- No Salt: A baby’s developing kidneys don’t have the ability to process salt, so make sure there’s no salt in the seasoning.