WRITTEN BY: MARY ANN BINNE, Manager, Nutrition and Industry Relations, Canadian Pork Council
In a major departure from conventional advice, new Canadian guidelines say parents should be offering their six-month-old infants iron-rich foods like beef, pork, fish, poultry, tofu, beans and eggs two or more times a day on a daily basis.
The recommendations are ground breaking. Previously, it was advised that babies start out eating infant cereals, followed by fruits and vegetables, then meats as they transition to solid foods. However, a thorough review of the current scientific evidence netted out that introducing meat and alternatives as baby’s first solid food made good nutritional sense.
Experts from Health Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, Breastfeeding Committee for Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada state the rationale for this change in infant feeding practices is two-fold:
- Iron is critical for a baby’s growth and cognitive, neurological, motor and behaviour development.
- By about six months, a baby’s iron stores start to diminish and those solely fed breast milk will not meet their iron requirements and are in danger of becoming anemic or iron-deficient. Iron deficiency during infancy and childhood may affect proper brain development, which is irreversible.
A recent national survey* revealed 70 per cent of Canadian mothers are unaware that babies seven to 12 months need 11 mg of iron per day – that’s nearly 40 per cent more than is required of a full-grown man!
Nature has provided delicious, iron-rich beef and pork, perfectly compatible with the way humans absorb iron – very efficiently. Adding meat to a meal also helps our bodies absorb up to four times the amount of iron from other foods like green vegetables, bread and cereals. Given the small size of baby’s stomach, serving meat at each meal make good nutritional sense.
Meats are an anchor in a healthy meal for the family. Now six-month-old infants can (and should) enjoy meats as the foundation of their meals too.
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* The Infant Feeding Survey was commissioned by Canada Beef and the Canadian Pork Council on the topic of introducing meats into babies’ diets. A total of 310 mothers with an infant aged newborn up to 23 months participated between April 13-16, 2017. Research was conducted by People Talking Market Research Services using online panelists from the Angus Reid Forum. Survey respondents were selected from among those who have registered to participate in Angus Reid Forum online surveys. The data has not been weighted to reflect the demographic composition of mothers of infants. Because the sample is based on those who initially self-selected for participation in the panel rather than a probability sample, no estimates of sampling error can be calculated. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, and measurement error.