no meat kid

Picky eaters ... It takes skill to eat just the spaghetti and leave the meat, but some meat-dodgers manage it!

If there are certain major food groups your child won't eat, there's a risk she will miss out on particular nutrients. However babies often go through phases with their eating habits - loving cheese or bananas for weeks, then going off them completely for a while. But if your baby does go off particular foods, there are plenty of tactics you can try to help her get as balanced as a diet as possible. The tips below should help if your little one has decided not to eat meat.

1. If your baby doesn’t like pieces of meat and seems to find them hard to chew, then give meat dishes made with minced meat, such as cottage pie or spaghetti bolognaise. You can also get minced turkey and use that to make a casserole or pasta sauce.

Your baby still needs a variety of protein-rich foods to ensure she gets essential amino acids and other nutrients 

2. Babies who don’t like bits of meat in a mixed dish will sometimes eat it as finger food. A chicken leg can be good as it’s easy to hold and your baby can suck and chew or gum the meat more slowly.  

3. Try different kinds of meat – red meat has a stronger flavour than chicken, and a different texture.

4. Give your baby fish. All fish provides protein and iron, just like meat, and it has the added advantage of containing less saturated fat. By choosing oily fish you’ll also be giving your baby long-chain omega 3 fatty acids.

5. Use meat substitutes such as Quorn mince or soya mice to make dishes such as bolognaise, or pieces of tofu instead of chicken when you’re cooking a stir fry.

6. Give alternatives to meat such as chickpeas, beans and lentils more often. These provide many of the same nutrients as meat.

7. Make some new meat dishes. If you usually give particular dishes, such as a beef in bolognaise sauce or chicken in a casserole, perhaps it’s the overall flavour of the dish your baby doesn’t like, rather than the particular meat itself.

8. Make a meat pâté by puréeing leftover meat dishes, such as mince, and putting it on toast.

9. Your baby still needs a variety of protein-rich foods to ensure she gets essential amino acids and other nutrients. Try giving these in the form of:

  • well cooked eggs
  • full-fat milk, cheeses and yoghurt
  • beans, including kidney, cannellini and haricot
  • chickpeas, including hummus and falafel
  • lentils
  • seeds (these are best ground, for example in tahini)
  • wheat protein – as well as being found in wheat products such as bread, this is sometimes used in vegetarian products like veggie sausages
  • cereals, such as corn, wheat and rice – these also supply protein.

10. Remember that a vegetarian diet can be just as healthy as one containing meat, so try not to worry!

Published with permission from Weaning Made Easy: All you need to know about spoon-feeding and baby-led weaning, by Dr Rana Conway (Finch Publishing, $26.99).

Got questions about weaning or what to feed your baby? Chat to other parents in the Essential Baby forum.