When Can Babies Eat Meat?
By Serenity Carr of Serenity Kids Baby Food
As co-owner of a Paleo, meat-based baby food company, people ask me all the time when they can start feeding their baby meat. The question makes sense. It would take days to eat a steak if you didn’t have teeth. I often get puzzled looks when I say meat is an ideal first food.
From an ancestral health perspective, how can meat be an ideal first food for infants who can’t actually chew it?
I found that answer a few years ago in Robb’s blog post Feeding Kids Paleo, and the answer is pre-chewed food. As in, parents pre-chew food for their kids. Yeah, it sounds gross, but it makes sense. Every kid knows that mama birds feed their babies partially digested food, right?!? If you aren’t up for baby birding food to your baby, a blender gets the job done! Without the spit.
We’ve debunked the how, so let’s get down to the why. What are the benefits of feeding babies meat during their introduction to solids?
Why I’m Writing This Blog Post
While I was gestating in my mom’s womb, she was a vegetarian because she wanted to give me the best start in life. We didn’t know then that my body doesn’t tolerate wheat or dairy, which she ate plenty of. I got my first ear infection and round of antibiotics at two weeks old. My parents used to love reminding me that I cried and puked constantly for the first 6 months. Then I graduated to a lifetime of digestive issues, weak immunity, anxiety, and insomnia.
Then, at age 33 I read Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution and it changed everything! I completely cured myself with food by switching to the paleo diet. My husband, Joe, is autistic, and also had many health and social problems as a kid. At my suggestion, he tried eating paleo, which drastically reduced his anxiety and improved his focus and digestion.
When we began planning to have a baby, we looked for paleo-friendly baby foods and found nothing! I was confused. Maybe rice cereal really was the best first food? I launched into the study of all-things-infant-nutrition and learned just how much fat babies need. It’s massive! About half the calories of breast milk come from fat, and most of the rest from carbs. Even the conservative USDA says that a 15-pound baby needs at least 30g of fat per day, which would be like a 150-pound adult eating 300g of fat / day. I checked out fat content of commercial baby foods and was surprised to find very little.
Then I got angry.
Most parents assume that the baby food in the grocery store is what they should feed their little one. But almost all baby food on the aisle is fruit puree and high in sugar. If parents are relying on these packaged foods to feed their kids and not supplementing with much homemade, they’re likely getting way too much sugar and way too little fat. Not cool, food companies!
Joe and I had both been sick kids due to poor diet so we’re now on a mission to teach parents the truth about infant nutrition. As new parents ourselves, we want to make it more convenient to feed kids nutrient-dense foods, so we started Serenity Kids. Our low-sugar, high-fat baby foods contain meat from animals raised on pasture on small regenerative family farms, and high-quality organic vegetables, conveniently packaged in a shelf stable squeeze pouch.
Now, back to the benefits of meat for infants.
Most Nutrition Per Bite
Feeding a baby isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. When more food ends up on the floor than in their mouth, it’s a good idea to pack more nutrition into each bite that makes it into the belly! Ounce for ounce, fatty cuts of well-sourced meats contain far more nutrients than grains, legumes and fruits. Their protein, fat, and iron are also more bioavailable, so your child’s body can use the nutrients more effectively.
In case you’re not convinced, think of it this way: breast milk is animal fat and protein, therefore other animal fats and proteins are ideal first solid foods.
Even the USDA’s Infant Nutrition and Feeding Guide says meat is an ideal first food and warns against a vegetarian diet for babies. ‘Nuff said.
Prevents Sugar Addiction
Introducing infants to a wide range of flavors before 12 months of age sets them up for a lifetime of more varied eating. The opposite is also true. If your baby only eats sweet foods like fruit purees, they will tend to dislike sour, salty, bitter or umami flavors. Sugar is highly addictive. Duh. And kids who only like sweet flavors have a higher likelihood of becoming sugar addicts, obese or diabetic. Regularly incorporating tastes of savory foods like meat and veggies can expand the palate and help prevent childhood disease.
Which Cuts To Choose?
Infants don’t need tons of protein – so the fattier, the better! In Serenity Kids baby foods, we use:
- 85% ground beef
- Chicken thighs
- 80% ground pork
- Uncured bacon (yes, bacon!)
- Wild caught salmon
Does Meat Source Matter?
Yes! While any meat is generally better than no meat (except for pink slime & other such processed abominations), not all meat is created equal. Meats from grass fed and pasture raised animals contain substantially more nutrition than grain fed. They have a more favorable ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, more iron, and more vitamin E.
It makes sense that if animals eat the diet nature intended for them, their meat will have the nutrition nature intended for us.
Finding grass fed and pasture raised meats for Serenity Kids baby food wasn’t easy, but we found some farmers with our high standards. If you have trouble finding fresh or frozen pasture raised meats locally, you can order online from Thrive Market and Butcher Box.
How To Feed Meat To Your Baby
While Serenity Kids pouches contain the best meat you can find, they are no substitute for home-cooked meals! To make homemade meat baby food puree:
- Cook meat well-done on medium-low heat, avoid burning
- Steam vegetables of choice
- Add a pinch of high-quality salt, like Himalayan
- Add water, bone broth, or breast milk for consistency
- Puree in a blender until smooth, adding more liquid to thin
To avoid the blender, try soft meats like flaky fish and pâtés. Make sure to offer very small bites to avoid choking. Or you can courageously copy your paleo ancestors and pre-chew tougher meats from your plate.
Learn more about optimal infant nutrition on the ‘Nutrition’ tab of the Serenity Kids website.