3 (Meatless!) High Protein Foods to Add to Your Baby’s Diet

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I’m not trying to raise a vegetarian or vegan baby. My husband loves meat and I (unfortunately) feel the need to incorporate some organic meat in my own diet, although it is definitely not a priority for every meal we make at home. Cheese is also good for my soul. It just is. 

I looked into meatless protein options for two reasons:

First of all, I’m not a huge fan of blending meat. I find it a little gross… I prefer to purée fruits and veggies. I’m also not 100% comfortable with baby led weaning and jumping ahead too quickly when it comes to feeding Liam small food pieces. We’re gradually getting chunkier and chunkier,  with foods such as cottage cheese and alphabet veggie pasta. We’ve tried eggs, which were okay, but Liam wasn’t obsessed with the scrambled eggs texture (he likes big mouthfuls of food and kept getting frustrated with the little pieces!)

Secondly, it isn’t easy (or budget friendly) to incorporate meat into every single one of Liam’s meals now that he is demanding 3 solid meals a day. I like to prepare his food every morning to keep it nice and fresh (although we do have emergency freezer trays), and time-wise,  I can’t always cook turkey or chicken at 8am.

You guys… this discovery was life changing: I found three incredible sources of protein that do not come from meat.

Bonus? They’re super easy to mix with veggies and fruits.

Here is a breakdown of our experience with each one of them:

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Liam loves the texture and enjoys it with both veggie and fruit purees. I simply make a puree and blend in some cottage cheese before serving. It was a hit with butternut squash/apple/cinnamon. I buy the brand Horizon (4% fat)

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Liam also loves the creaminess of greek yogurt (and I can sneak in some protein that way!) It works with literally every fruit and veggie as well, without losing its delicious consistency. I splurged on Siggi’s, a high quality, whole milk yogurt.

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This one was a surprising find… who knew chick peas had so much protein? I bought them canned from Whole Foods  (the brand Eden Organic products have BPA free linings!). Liam loved them blended with blueberries and apple, or simply pear and cinammon. Aside from the protein, chick peas add some “chunk” and consistency to purées. The great thing about buying them canned is that all you have to do is drain, strain, and blend them. Doesn’t get any easier than that!

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Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.16.36 AM I suggest avoiding soy (tofu, soy milk, etc) in your baby’s or toddler’s diet. Trypsin inhibitors, proteins found in abundance in soybeans, inhibit digestion and absorption of nutrients. Phytic acid, also present, blocks the absorption of critical minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and particularly zinc. However, Phytoestrogens (isoflavones) represent the most serious problem with soy and infants: these estrogen-like compounds can disrupt your baby’s hormonal system for life. According to the Weston A. Price foundation:

 Toxicologists estimate that an infant exclusively fed soy formula receives the estrogenic equivalent of at least five birth control pills per day. By contrast, almost no phytoestrogens have been detected in dairy-based infant formula or in human milk, even when the mother consumes soy products. A recent study found that babies fed soy-based formula had 13,000 to 22,0000 times more isoflavones in their blood than babies fed milk-based formula.

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.16.36 AM Although the diagram above and my last recipe post emphasize the benefits of chia seeds, I don’t think they’re appropriate or necessary in a baby’s diet. Your baby doesn’t need anything like chia seeds, and they won’t process them the same way that adults do, so they won’t be getting all of the benefits. If you’re breastfeeding, go ahead and indulge – it will fortify your breastmilk and be healthier for baby once filtered through you.

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.16.36 AM Although the diagram above shows broccoli and spinach, they may not necessarily be the best first foods for baby. Broccoli is difficult to digest for babies and may cause gas. I would avoid the food before 8-10 months. Along with broccoli and other collared greens, spinach is high in nitrates and may be harmful to babies under 4 months old (risk of “blue baby disease”.)

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.16.36 AM I suggest always buying antibiotic free / hormone free / organic dairy products. Like everything, make sure it complements a healthy diet and is given in moderation.

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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