Introducing Meat and Seafood to Toddlers

Toddler meat and seafood


Introducing Meat and Seafood to Toddlers

Infants and toddlers nutritional needs differ greatly from adults because of the amount of development and growth their bodies go through. As all mothers and fathers know, as they get older more foods are introduced into their diet. There are several good reasons to start adding meat and seafood to your toddler’s plate, but there are a lot of factors to consider before making the leap. Red meat, poultry, and seafood provide a plateful of benefits that impact your child’s health, from important bone-building minerals like iron to brain-promoting nutrients like omega-3’s. It’s crucial to consider the risks involved for each choice of animal-based protein and to follow the limitations based on your child's age.

Red Meat and Poultry

Once your child starts eating solid foods (usually around 6 months old), nutritionally dense and high fatty foods are important to fuel their rapid growth. Red meat and poultry supplies children with minerals that are often not found in plant-based foods in high concentrations, specifically iron and zinc. Good fats are also key elements for child development, to build nerve tissue and to use as fuel. For parent’s wanting to implement meat into their child’s diet but don’t know where to start, the first thing to think about is where the meat was sourced from. Of course, it’s recommended to discuss with your pediatrician before implementing meat into your child's diet, and it’s necessary to monitor for allergic reactions such as diarrhea, rashes or vomiting.

The source of the meat you choose is the most important factor when it comes to the health of your child. More often than not, the meat industry is filled with antibiotics, hormones, and toxic food additives that are poisonous to humans. Since children are in the beginning stages of development, toxins consumed can be 10x as harmful to children than adults. Among all the additives and chemicals that exist within the meat industry, nitrates (preservatives), phthalates (used to make plastic packaging), and bisphenols (used in the lining of metal cans) are the biggest concerns. These chemicals leach into meat and poultry products from their packing or processing and are absorbed into your child’s body causing detrimental health effects. The good news is there are safe and simple steps parents can take to limit their child's exposure, by simply avoiding highly processed meat-based products. Sourcing red and white meats from companies and farms that raise their animals humanely and holistically are incredibly worthwhile as well. 

Once you’ve chosen a sustainable and responsibly sourced meat or poultry item, it's crucial to introduce it gradually to give your child's digestive system time to adjust. One of the best ways of introducing meat is to combine it with root vegetables and cook it slowly so that all the flavors blend together and make the meat soft and tender. For infants, as long as meat and poultry are pureed to a smooth consistency, it’s safe to introduce into their diet. 

Fish and Seafood

Fish is low in saturated fat, high in protein, and contains an abundance of vitamin B and D. Fatty and oily fish like salmon, trout, and sardines contain a bounty of omega-3 fatty acids that boost brainpower, and help build children’s nervous systems. The good fat content is particularly essential for the development of your infants' vision and cell growth. But even with all the amazing benefits of seafood, it’s important to choose wisely and keep in mind of all the toxic contaminants found in fish and seafood. 

Heavy metals are naturally occurring compounds in the environment that become toxic in high amounts. Mercury, lead, and arsenic is three of the most common heavy metals found in seafood. Over time, heavy metals build up in children's bodies and can damage the nervous system and cause cognitive/developmental issues. Testsharing found traces of arsenic and mercury in popular fresh salmon samples, and high amounts in canned fish that exceeded safe tolerance levels for children. View the results in our app! Not only are toxins like heavy metals found in fish, but many by-product toxins of industrial processes like dioxins and PCBs are found in seafood as well.  

Like meat and poultry, the most significant factor to consider is how and where the seafood was caught and raised. It’s also important to research the pollution levels of the body of water that the fish was sourced from. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, some of the most contaminated fish include marlin, orange roughly, shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel. Some of the safest fish options with the lowest amount of contaminants include salmon, tilapia, light tuna, flounder, crawfish and shrimp. When it comes to shellfish, it’s recommended to wait to implement into their diet until 12 months, because of shellfishs’ common allergic effects in children. This will give your child's immune systems time to develop so that it can reduce the risk of a strong allergic reaction. Toddlers should not eat raw or undercooked shellfish because their digestive systems are not capable of digesting the bacteria found in these foods. Remember that when parents introduce new foods into their child's diet, it’s necessary to implement carefully and watch for signs of allergies. Discuss with your pediatrician about what’s right for your child. 

Sources: 1, 2, 3