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Meat Should Be Your Baby’s First Food

October 2, 2012

Baby-Eating
(Photo by .curt.)

Health Canada recently published a statement with new guidelines on what to feed infants. Normally I wouldn’t even consider such a statement news, since I don’t purposely subject myself to hearing about the government’s dietary advice. But, this news was indeed quite shocking.

Are you ready for this? Lo and behold Health Canada is actually recommending that infants eat…. meat (and meat alternatives). What the? How did that happen? And why isn’t this breaking news? I’d expect riots out in the streets. How long before they get pressured into backtracking this statement? I’ve only seen it from a handful of news sources, some of which are more than  and some of them are all too happy to equate meat with tofu in the headlines. It’s almost like the media doesn’t want to touch this? Personally, I thought that the first article I saw was some sort of spoof until I checked the government website myself.  To my delight, here’s what I found:

“First complementary foods should be iron-rich. Recommend meat, meat alternatives, and iron-fortified cereal as an infant’s first complementary foods.”

Please ignore the “meat alternatives” and “iron-fortified cereal” for now. And focus on the fact that meat is listed first, as well as this:

“While meat and fish are traditional first foods for some Aboriginal groups, the common practice in North America has been to introduce infant cereal, vegetables, and fruit as first complementary foods.”

What?! A reference to traditional foods? And it gets better:

“However, the daily or frequent consumption of heme iron foods (meat, poultry, and fish) can contribute considerably to meeting infant iron requirements (PAHO, 2003; Krebs & Hambidge, 2007). Infants should be offered iron containing foods two or more times each day. They should be served meat, fish, poultry, or meat alternatives daily. The amount of food offered should be guided by the infant’s hunger and satiety cues (PAHO, 2003). Breastfeeding continues to provide the main source of nutrition as other foods are introduced.”

Are you as speechless as I was when I first read this? Dietary recommendations that actually make sense?

Now, considering that the government believes iron is so important for infants and their “growth and cognitive, neurological, motor, and behavioural development”, couldn’t one extrapolate that perhaps kids, teens, adults, everyone could benefit from meat as well? Okay, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here. Honestly, I’m just happy that infants nationwide will be encouraged to eat meat. And hoping that it doesn’t backfire into more infants being subjected to tofu and fortified cereals.

It’s the first time the guidelines have been updated since 1998. Previously the recommended first foods to be introduced were cereals (iron-fortified) followed by fruits and vegetables. Meat was to be introduced last. And then they realized that not only is there no reason for that recommendation, but infants need iron. Yes, they only focus on the iron aspect of meat but hey, if that’s what it takes for infants to eat meat, I’ll take it.

The guidelines also emphasize the importance of breastfeeding for a minimum of six months, and up to two years or longer with appropriate complementary feeding (starting with meat and meat alternatives). And as if this news couldn’t get any better, there’s even a media article about this that makes reference to the paleo diet.

Have you heard about these new guidelines? If you have kids, what were their first foods?

Shared with Real Food Wednesdays and Fight Back Fridays.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jolene October 2, 2012 at 1:39 PM

Go Canada!!

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[email protected] October 2, 2012 at 7:03 PM

Yeehaw! :)

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Aaron October 2, 2012 at 6:49 PM

Well now, we’ve both been floored this week :)

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[email protected] October 2, 2012 at 7:03 PM

Exactly. Bring on the good news…. (for a change)

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E. October 3, 2012 at 7:42 AM

I was thrilled to hear this, too.

My little guy is 2 years old and when he was starting solids, the advice (given in my province, anyway) was just starting to shift away from the Gerber-established sequence of cereals towards iron-rich foods like meat and egg yolk. We started with purees of meat, soft tofu, and eggs as well as lots of veggies and fruit, and while we did give cereals, it wasn’t a huge priority, and I don’t think we ever finished a box… have you tasted that stuff?? Gross!

An interesting aside is that the nutritionist whose session I attended before starting solids emphasized that the only food that shouldn’t be given before the age of 1 is honey (other than choking hazards and processed foods, of course). She went on to say that even the whole egg is fine, and that yolk is only recommended first because it has more nutrients. She also said that the current research is indicating that delaying introduction of certain foods (egg white, peanuts, strawberries, etc.) might actually be causing allergies, not preventing them.

Having a child has certainly opened my eyes to the importance and care we should take with our freshest, most vulnerable members of society… and how poorly we generally do that!

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[email protected] October 3, 2012 at 9:52 PM

Thanks for sharing your story! What that nutritionist said about introducing foods makes a lot of sense. Just a word of caution about the soy though. A lot of people aren’t aware that some people (most paleo/primal folk, as well as Weston Price eaters among others) completely avoid it.

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Kathryn October 3, 2012 at 1:29 PM

hooray for changes! I fed my 6 month old daughter bone broth that I had made myself for her first food just two weeks ago. She loved it!

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[email protected] October 3, 2012 at 9:52 PM

Awesome, sounds like your daughter is off to a great start! :)

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Anna October 14, 2012 at 2:59 PM

Just discovered your blog while googling the Canadian meat story. Having suddenly found myself diabetic during and now permanently after my pregnancy, I tuned into the low carb and Paleo way of eating and then naturally wondered what I should feed my baby. I knew about the iron requirement. I also knew that rice cereal fortified with iron was the recommended first solid food for babies. Armed with my newfound Ancestral Health knowledge, I decided that if babies needed iron, it made more sense for them to get it from meat and eggs than from some dehydrated, pulverized white rice with iron added to it. My baby is 18 months now, doing great and she absolutely loves meat!

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[email protected] October 14, 2012 at 3:49 PM

Awesome. Amazing how some of these things just require a bit of common sense eh? Not something doled out by the media, ads, etc. It’s like you have to pause and think, does this make sense? Is this natural? What would my ancestors have done?

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