Starting solids: Do babies need meat?

How important is it for my infant to eat meat when he begins solid food? My husband is a vegetarian, and I rarely cook meat. My older son, age three, and I will sometimes eat meat outside of the house. I assumed that as long as he gets protein in other forms, it's fine. Does a baby need meat?

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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

There is no need for your baby to eat meat, even when he reaches the age where it would be appropriate to introduce it to him. Meat is just one of the choices from the 'protein' group. As the mother in a primarily vegetarian family, you probably already know that there are many ways of meeting your protein needs.

Red meat is a wonderful source of high-quality iron that is readily absorbed. If you never serve red meat, you'll want to be conscientious in serving other good sources of iron or, at least, in providing an iron supplement. You need iron because the blood loss of menstruation lowers your iron, and the baby needs iron for growth and proper brain development. Iron is the mineral shown to be most inadequate in the diet of many preschoolers, so your toddler probably should be getting an iron supplement, too.

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