Meat for 18 month old

I have an 18 month old son. Up to now, I've fed him junior foods meat entrees. I feel he's too old to keep feeding him these foods, but am not sure what type of meat to feed him. He doesn't like ground beef, hot dogs contain a lot of filler and I'm not sure what to give him. My family is vegetarian, but I eat some meat. Should I encourage him to be vegetarian? If so, what do I feed him? Any suggestions?

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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

Dear Debbie,

Meat is usually the least favorite food of toddlers, not because of the flavor, but because it tends to be too dry and too tough for them to chew. It may be awhile before your son is ready to eat too much meat. This is fine, because they don't need much protein anyway. The protein they get from two cups of milk and a 1 ounce serving of meat or equivalent is enough to provide their daily protein requirement. Rather than plain meat, try serving a moister version, such a meat loaf made with added eggs, bread crumbs, and tomato sauce and seasoning, or make some small meatballs out of ground turkey, and steam them in some chicken broth so they stay moist. Casseroles, hearty soups, eggs, peanut butter and fish are good alternatives. Fish is especially easy to eat because it flakes well and is not fibrous like meat can be. Just watch out for the bones. You are wise to avoid the hot dogs and lunch meats. Some of them are loaded with fillers and additives.

Some meat and non-meat ideas for you: chopped hard cooked egg, scrambled egg, tiny meat balls made from ground turkey, chicken or beef, meat loaf 'fingers', tuna noddle casserole, mild chili, chicken noddle soup, quiche, cheese sauce on top of vegetables and baked potatoes, grilled cheese sandwich squares, shredded cheese pressed together into little balls easy to pick, peanut butter on just about anything (bread, muffins, apple slices, banana slices), cooked mashed legumes mixed with a little tahini or yogurt and used as a spread or for dipping. Your imagination is the limit.

If it is easier for you to raise your son as a vegetarian, than by all means, go ahead. Children can thrive on a vegetarian diet that includes eggs and dairy products. If it doesn't include any animal product, than you need to be much more careful in planning it. Let me know if this is the case and I will be happy to get back to you with more information.

Thank you for writing.

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