Best Protein for Baby Led Weaning

Best Protein for Baby Led Weaning

Proteins provide energy to your little one and help in feeling full. They make an essential part of the balanced diet for babies as they are crucial for the proper growth and development of the baby and work in several bodily functions including maintenance of the tissues, muscles, blood vessels, and organs along with the production of body’s necessary enzymes and hormones to help the baby grow well and become strong.  

Depending on your baby’s age and size, the amount of protein needed can vary slightly but on average, you must give 11 grams of protein to your 6-12 months old baby which is about one-half cup of Greek yogurt or a half cup of tofu.

It may seem easy to you to offer fruit, veggie, or toast slices or strips to your baby-led weaner but remember, giving protein-rich solid foods is also equally important. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by researchers of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus found that the intake of protein through solid foods has a major impact on a baby’s growth during the first year. The study involved 64 babies who were grouped and given either some dairy protein source or meat protein source solid food each in addition to milk. The measurements after seven months showed that the meat group had more length-for-age increase whereas the dairy group had more weight-for-length increase so it becomes evident that multiple protein sources are needed in a baby’s diet for optimal growth as some foods help with length and some with weight. 

To make your work easy, here we will explore some best protein-rich foods that you can give to your baby-led weaner.

CHICKEN OR TURKEY: shredded poached, roasted or baked thigh or breast piece. It must be soft-cooked and cut in strip form or small chunks or else shreds of thinly sliced pieces can work too and your little one will easily gum.  

FISH: salmon, cod, mackerel, trout, or sea bass in baked and flaked form is a good source of protein and health-friendly omega-3 fatty acids. Wild salmon especially is a great choice that helps keep the baby healthy and happy. Keep in mind to avoid high-mercury fish and remove the tiny bones of fish before serving.

MEAT: slow-cooked or pressure-cooked mutton or beef in small pieces or preferably make meatballs and break into small pieces. Beef also has good iron and zinc content and makes great food for baby-led weaners. Just keep in mind that chicken, fish, mutton, or beef, whatever you are using, should be thoroughly cooked and served in small pieces with bones removed.

LIVER: small pieces of the liver which are pan-fried with a splash of ghee, onion powder, and sea salt make an excellent high-quality protein source that will be loved by babies. 

EGGS: hard-boiled in long quarters or scrambled in small pieces, both work well. You can also give omelet strips but it must be with very less spices.

BEANS OR CHICKPEAS: smush soft cooked beans to make them easy and safe for chewing by the baby. If you are using canned ones, make sure you have a low-sodium version. Rinse them well, drain and smush before serving. 

TOFU: present it in small cube shapes. It is a convenient, super soft, and inexpensive plant protein to be added to a baby’s diet. You can also cut it into triangles and bake it till firm. It will also make great finger food. 

CHEESE: you can give mozzarella, cheddar, ricotta, or cottage cheese in shredded form, or simply small pieces or sliced or striped. Make sure that cheese has no sodium or is low-sodium. 

HUMMUS OR NUT BUTTER: have a toast strip or fruit slice and spread it lightly with almond butter, peanut butter, or hummus. Never give nut butter directly to your baby as it poses a choking hazard. You can also use cheese like cream cheese or ricotta on the toast strip. Introducing nut butter early often helps in preventing allergies in babies. 

LENTILS: make a soup and give it in a cup or you can give them smashed with some olive oil and spread it on toast.

QUINOA: it is a great protein source but may be hard for baby-led weaners to pick it up so you can make quinoa cake and cut it into strips or slices or make quinoa cookies and your baby will enjoy the benefits. 

PEAS: it also makes a superb option for babies to fulfill their protein needs. 

GREEK YOGURT: you can dip fruit or vegetable slices in it or spread it lightly on a toast strip. Have a sugar-free plain greek yogurt variety to avoid added sugars. 

All these mentioned foods are appropriate for a baby-led weaner and make the best protein sources. Not only this, most of these foods such as beef, eggs, lentils, liver, and tofu also have a good content of zinc and iron, and dairy products such as cheese and yogurt have beneficial healthy fats that are required for a baby’s good health.   

As per baby-led weaning rules, these foods must be of safe size and texture for the baby to prevent any hazards. The softness of the foods must be such that they can be easily mashed between your forefinger and thumb with slight pressure and melt and mush down easily in your baby’s mouth. These foods must be long enough to peep out of a little fist or you can give smaller ones like the size of chickpeas for a pincer grasp. 

Introducing all these protein foods at an early age helps as it is a time of learning, and taste training, so whatever becomes part of the diet at that time, it is a high probability that baby is continuing to have it later on in life. 

Conclusion:

Protein is a super-essential part of a baby’s diet for proper growth and development and must never be neglected. Chicken, turkey, beef, mutton, fish, cheese, hummus, nut butter, lentils, quinoa, peas, tofu, beans, and eggs all can make the best and perfectly fine protein foods for baby-led weaning. You just have to make the shape, size, and form appropriate to be handled by your baby-led weaner. 



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