Just in from Health Canada: “The common practice in North America has been to introduce infant cereal, vegetables, and fruit as first complementary foods. However, the daily or frequent consumption of heme iron foods (meat, poultry, and fish) can contribute considerably to meeting infant iron requirements. Infants should be offered iron containing foods two or more times each day. They should be served meat, fish, poultry, or meat alternatives daily.”
These are the new infant feeding guidelines, i.e., what you should feed your baby at six months old, launched by Health Canada this past week.
Surprised? The news to introduce meat first is in stark contrast to publicly held beliefs and practices, at least here in Canada. According to Health Canada, the most common first food in our country is iron-fortified infant cereal. This approach, at least anecdotally, seems deeply engrained in our psyche, and has certainly been common practice for some time. I know even as a registered dietitian, I get gasps of shock when I recommend feeding beef as soon as baby is ready to start solids!
To further quote Health Canada: “Iron is a critical nutrient in brain development. Deficiencies during infancy and childhood may have serious and irreversible effects”. In other words, this is no matter to take lightly!
The true mystery here (at least to me) is: why is this news? Nature has provided us with an abundance of nutritious whole foods, which, if eaten in balance and moderation, have allowed us to develop and thrive from cradle to grave through the ages. Let’s face it; some couple of hundred years ago there was no conveniently boxed up rice or wheat powders artificially fortified with iron just so baby would meet their iron requirements. Why serve these when nature has provided delicious, iron-rich foods perfectly compatible with the way humans absorb iron – that is to say very efficiently, when it is from an animal source. Ask your grandmother what people use to serve to babies as first foods in generations gone by. I bet the answer will be meat!
A very interesting perspective on baby feeding practices was published in the Globe and mail a few years back. The piece is an essay written by a Canadian mom who gave birth to her son while in Rome and compares how we feed our babies here to how it’s done in Italy. I loved this article so much and have shared it with many. If you have a few spare minutes of reading time, and want to be inspired, I suggest you check it out!
While you’re reading other articles, check out this one from today’s Toronto Star.
In the meantime, consider this news another reason to celebrate beef! After all, beef is a nutrient dense, iron-rich (the well-absorbed iron sort), delicious food that now the whole family can benefit from together. Beef has forever anchored a healthy meal for the family and now baby can (and should) take part in that very same family meal. What a great habit to form!
Once again, I say ‘thank you mother nature’. At the same time, “apologies for taking so long for us modern humans to clue in”!
Beef for Babes: Joyce’s tips for feeding baby beef
Basic Roast Beef:
½ cup cooked roast beef (from the family roast beef dinner – trimmed of seasoned outside edges) (from medium (160F/71C) to well-done (170F/77C or more))
¼ cup (50 mL) water or milk
Prepare beef in food processor or blender, combine beef and liquid for 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth. Serve right away or freeze portions in ice cube tray. Allow 1 to 2 tablespoons per meal.
Simple Simmered Supper:
Cook up some comfort with a meat ‘n’ potatoes meal that’s way less work than making a stew. Cook the family meal and meal for baby at the same time. Season the family portion of beef before cooking while keeping the portion for baby plain-Jane.
1 boneless Pot Roast or large Simmering Steak (Cross Rib or Blade), cut into 2 equal pieces
Sodium –reduced broth
Root vegetables cut into ½-inch chunks: peeled potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, carrot, and/or parsnip
Trim meat; season the family portion with salt and pepper (as you normally would). Place each piece of beef in a heavy saucepan; add enough broth to come 1/3 of the way up the meat for the roast, or just to the top of the simmering steak. Bring both portions to a simmer on the stove top. Cover both with tight fitting lid and simmer in a 325F oven for 1 hour. Add a handful of veggies to both; cover and continue to cook in oven for 1 hour for Simmering Steak or 2 hours or until fork-tender for the Pot Roast. For Babe’s beef, place the unseasoned cooked beef with the cooked veggies in a food processor or blender container; process with enough of the cooking liquid to make a smooth mixture. Serve right away or freeze portions in ice cube tray. Allow 1 to 2 tablespoons per meal.
In nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes, breaking into small chunks with back of spoon while cooking. Cook until browned and completely cooked. Drain. Add to food processor or blender container and process with enough milk or sodium-reduced broth to make a smooth/semi-smooth mixture. Serve stirred into mashed potato or sweet potato along with some, lightly mashed rice or avocado for added texture if you wish.
Allow 1 to 2 tablespoons per beef per meal.
If the smooth texture of the beef is off-putting for babe, try making it a bit chunkier (e.g. finely shredded instead of pureed) or try mixing it in with cooked mashed potato, carrot, squash or sweet potato, thinning down with a bit of water or low-sodium broth as needed.
Once frozen, pop meat ice cubes into zipper-type freezer bag.
This post was co-authored by Karine & Joyce. Two moms who loved feeding beef to their babes:)
Karine is a Registered Dietitian with Canada Beef Inc, passionate foodie and world traveler. Beef, of course, is a favourite food in her home – providing nourishing and nurturing meals for her hubby, growing 7 year old and the friends and other family they often entertain. There are not many conversations, either at work or at home, that don’t weave their way back somehow to food, recipes, nutrition, or beef. “Is “beef” all you talk about at work?”, Karine’s son recently asked. Karine proudly responded “yes”…
Raised on a cat and cattle farm, Joyce Parslow (Canada Beef’s Consumer Culinary Manager for over 10 years) has what she thinks is the best career in the world, combining her love for food and agriculture. As a busy working mom, with 2 kids under-roof, and a nomadic spouse, Joyce is often wrestling with that age-old problem of how to get a wholesome affordable meal on the table (or at least in the bellies) and get out the door in time to make 2 soccer games in 2 different cities. It is this and other mom-type cooking conundrums that fuels Joyce with new ideas for Canadian beef. Her approach: “problems are really just solutions in disguise”.