Guidelines for starting meat, dairy or citrus

Hi, my son is 8 months old and has his two bottom teeth. What is the best age to introduce meats and dairy (cheese, etc.) and how do I prepare them on my own? Is there a suggested waiting time for citrus type fruits (OJ, etc.). I'm in no hurry to push foods, but not sure of the recommended quidelines.

Thanks a bunch!
Nick's mom.


Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Hi Nick's Mom,

I'll try to answer the questions you had regarding introduction of meats, dairy and citrus as well as recommendations for preparing food yourself.

Meat and Dairy

Nick is probably ready for meats and dairy now. Dairy should be introduced in small amounts as part of a solid food, such as yogurt and fruit, or macaroni and cheese. He is not ready to be switching from formula or breast milk to cow's milk. That is because the protein content is different, and Nick's kidneys still need to develop a little more before he can handle it. Also, he still needs the nutrients supplied by formula and breast milk.

However, dairy products as part of his solids diet provide a great source of protein and calcium as well as vitamin D. Also, the later you introduce cow's milk, the less apt he is to be allergic to it. About one year of age is a great time to begin the transition to cow's milk in a cup.

Meats are fine to be introducing now, but only if they are finely ground and easy to gum. Meats tend to be tough, and so often are one of the last solids to introduce. The meat in baby food has been broken down enough that Nick will do fine with it. In a couple of months you may want to serve fine flaked fish. That is much easier to chew than meat. Also, at that time, you can begin to serve small pieces of ground meat. Try gumming it yourself first just to be sure.

Preparation Tips and Recipe Idea

There is really no trick to preparing meats and dairy yourself. Use your food processor or blender to break down cooked meat. Take advantage of ground beef and turkey available at the grocery store. A good way to prepare it is to make a mini meat loaf. Use:

  • 4 oz ground beef or turkey
  • Mix with 1/2 cup finely grated or chopped vegetable
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs; and
  • a tablespoon of milk.

Shape into a 2 inch thick loaf and cook at 350 until completely done, or microwave for about three minutes. To serve, break it up into bite sized pieces.

Appropriate dairy products are already "ready-to-eat" such as cottage cheese and yogurt. Nick will also soon be ready for small piece of soft cheese that he can gum, such as Muenster cheese or yogurt cheese mixed with a favorite fruit puree.

Citrus Fruit

Now for the OJ......It is not unusual for a baby to react to OJ. Often the acidity of it will bother them, and also, it is high on the list of common allergens. The later you wait to introduce it to him the better chance he'll have of outgrowing the allergy. Wait until he is one and try again. If he reacts, wait a couple of months or so and try introducing it again in small amounts to see if he has a reaction. In the meantime, it shouldn't be a nutritional problem that he cannot include it in his diet. Baby juices such as pear and apple are fortified with vitamin C and are lower in acid. Let Nick drink those juices to get his daily supply of vitamin C. Also, the beta-carotene that it would be supplying can come from some other source such as winter squash or sweet potatoes.

Do not hesitate to write if you have any further questions.

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