Annabel Karmel: Introducing Meat

Babies’ and toddlers’ needs are different from an adult’s – a low-fat, high fibre diet is good for adults but not appropriate for babies or young children as they need more fat and concentrated sources of calories and nutrients to fuel their rapid growth.

It isn’t a good idea to continue giving only fruit and vegetable purees for too long. Babies also need nutrient dense foods like meat, chicken, cheese etc… They need iron which is found in red meat and essential fatty acids that are found in fish.

Iron is very important for your baby’s mental and physical development. A baby is born with a store of iron that lasts for about 6 months. After this it is important that your baby gets the iron she needs from her diet. Iron in foods of animal origin like red meat or poultry are much better absorbed than iron in foods of plant origin like green vegetables or cereal.

It’s hard to find jars of puree containing fish, however fish is a fantastic food for babies. Oily fish like salmon, trout, fresh tuna and sardines are particularly important for the development of your baby’s brain, vision and nervous system. A baby’s brain triples in size in the first year and so its important to include oily fish in your baby’s diet from 6 months. Ideally you should give your baby oily fish twice a week, but no more as there are concerns over the build up of toxins in the body.

One of the best ways to introduce red meat is to combine it with root vegtables and cook it slowly so that all the flavours blend together and the meat is very tender. When giving babies chicken choose the brown meat as well as the breast sometimes as the brown meat contains twice as much iron and zinc as the white meat. When I introduce chicken I like to combine it with sweet tasting root vegetables and fruits.

Many children grow up disliking fish which is a great shame. Fish is such a good source of protein and its so quick and easy to cook.

Here are some of my favourite ways to introduce meat chicken and fish.

TASTY FISH WITH CARROT, CHEESE AND TOMATO Suitable from 6 months • Suitable for freezing • MAKES 3 PORTIONS

Plaice is one of the best types of fish to start with as it has a lovely soft texture. If fish is overcooked it becomes dry and tasteless – one of the best ways of cooking fish is in the microwave and in this recipe it takes just one a half minutes to cook it to perfection. Many babies don’t get to eat much fish as its hard to find jars of baby food with fish and many fish recipes are bland and boring so children tend to grow up disliking fish. You could also make this using salmon instead of plaice.

  • 275g carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 150g plaice fillets, skinned
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • Generous knob of butter
  • 2 tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
  • 40g Cheddar cheese, grated
  1. Steam the carrots for about 15 minutes or until tender
  2. Meanwhile cut a cross in the base of the tomatoes using a sharpr knife plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Transfer to ice cold water, then skin, deseed and roughly chop.
  3. Melt the knob of butter in a saucepan and sauté the tomatoes for about 2 minutes until mushy. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese until melted.
  4. Put the plaice fillets into a suitable microwave safe dish, add the milk and dot with butter. Cover leaving an air vent and cook for one and a half minutes on full power.
  5. Drain the cooked fish and flake carefully to see there are no bones and add to the tomato and cheese sauce together with the cooking liquid from the fish.
  6. Add the cooked carrots and puree in a blender or mash together for older babies.

Suitable from 6 months & freezing • MAKES 4 x 400ml PORTIONS

Babies really like the combination of chicken and fruit. Both sweet potato and apricots are a good source of betacarotene which is essential for growth and fighting infection. Dried apricots are one of nature’s superfoods. The drying process increases their concentration of betacarotene, potassium and iron. Avoid buying dried apricots that have been treated with sulphur dioxide – this preserves their bright orange colour, but the substance can trigger asthma attacks in susceptible babies. It’s best to buy organic dried apricots.

  • 2 tsp light olive oil
  • Half small onion, chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 85g chicken breast
  • 150g peeled and chopped sweet potato (1 small sweet potato)
  • 3 dried apricots, chopped
  • 150 ml passata (sieved tomatoes)
  • 150 ml chicken stock or water
  1. Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onion for 3 minutes, or until softened.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
  3. Add the chicken and sauté for about 2 minutes or until sealed.
  4. Add the sweet potato, apricots, passata and stock or water.
  5. Bring to the boil and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, covering the pan halfway through. Blend to desired consistency.

Suitable from 7 months & freezing • MAKES 4 PORTIONS
One of the best ways to introduce red meat which provides the best source of iron to your baby is to cook it with sweet tasting root vegetables like sweet potato. Add some chopped apple and your baby will love it…

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 25g celery, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot (approx 60g) peeled and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 110g lean stewing steak (fat removed and cubed)
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 250g sweet potato chopped
  • 1 small apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1 and a half tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 250 ml chicken stock
  1. Preheat the oven to 160C. ] Heat the oil in a casserole and sauté the onion, celery and carrot for 5 minutes until softened. Add the crushed garlic and sauté for one minute.
  2. Stir in the chunks of meat sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until sealed. Stir in the tomato puree, chopped sweet potato and apple, add the thyme and pour over the stock.
  3. Bring to the boil, then cover and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour. Stir halfway through.
  4. After one hour, remove the lid and cook for another 15 minutes.
  5. Add more stock if necessary. Blend to desired consistency.

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