Iron and protein-rich foods for babies

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When your baby moves on to solids, it’s common to stress over whether they are getting enough nutrients in their diet. You can send yourself mad analysing how much they actually got in their mouth as opposed to what ends up on their clothes and on the floor. 

In the early months of starting solids, it’s really more about getting your baby used to the process of eating and trying flavours and textures. They will still get the majority of their nutrients from breast milk or formula at this stage. However, as they get older they will need to start getting these from their diet.

It’s important not to stress – as long as you are offering your baby a variety of healthy, nutritious meals, chances are they will be getting what they need. But it can also be helpful to have a list of nutrient-dense foods in your arsenal to plan their meals around. 

Iron and protein are two of the most important nutrients and you will hear people talking a lot about them. But what foods are actually high in these? 

Red meat

Beef, lamb and pork are high in iron and protein and can be easily adaptable into any foods you’re eating yourself. Mashed or shredded meat is easier for your baby to chew and swallow in those early months. Add a little bit of water or even add pureed meat to mashed sweet potato or pumpkin to ease your baby into eating it. Buy lean cuts of meat – fatty cuts are not recommended for babies. 

Poultry and fish

Chicken, turkey and fish are also great for your baby’s growth; they provide nutrients and proteins that are critical to your child’s development. Make sure they are cooked without salt or soy sauce (or any added preservatives). Boiled, softened or shredded chicken is ideal. Fish is also a great option but be careful to remove any bones as a swallowed bone can cause a perforation in the stomach. 

Eggs

Eggs are high in both iron and protein, making them a perfect snack or meal for your baby.

Beans

Beans, lentils and other types of legumes are great plant-based alternatives to meat. They’re all rich in iron and protein and can be added to meat for more nutrients. Make sure they’re mashed, soft and easy to chew. Be aware of choking and always monitor your baby when it’s mealtime. 

Leafy green vegetables 

Leafy green vegetables (e.g. spinach and kale) are also really good for their diet as they’re rich in fibre and iron. 

Cereals

High-fibre cereals with no added preservatives, sugar or extras are ideal for your baby – rice cereals or single-grain cereals are great starters. If your baby is less than a year old, add water to create a porridge consistency which is easier for them to swallow. 

Fruit

Pairing iron-rich foods with fruits that are high in vitamin C, such as tomatoes, oranges or kiwi fruit, helps to absorb the iron making it a double dose of goodness!

Yogurt 

Plain Greek yogurt is great for your baby and will give them something light after a meal. Make sure you opt for the plain variety without any sugar. You can always add fruit for flavour and sweetness. 

Peanut and other nut butters

It’s now recommended to introduce babies to peanut butter early if they are not considered a high allergy risk. So providing there are no allergy concerns, peanut and other nut butters are a great way of getting protein into your baby. And the great thing is, babies usually love them!

Just make sure you’re opting for a low-sugar, low-sodium variety. Spreading on a piece of softened toast or a small amount on some fruit is perfect. But make sure you don’t give your baby whole nuts as this can be a choking hazard.   

Your baby will benefit from a balanced diet; implementing these foods will provide them with more iron and protein, which is vital for their growth and development. Remember to have fun with food and don’t stress too much as your baby will pick up on that and be stressed too! 

*Foods should always be prepared and served in accordance with your baby’s age and developmental stage.

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