Sometimes parents continue giving their babies only fruit and vegetable purées for far too long. By the age of 7 months you should start to introduce fish, chicken and meat (or vegetarian equivalents) into your baby’s diet, as they contain lots of nutrients such as zinc, iron and essential fatty acids. Babies can’t get these from a diet of milk and fruit and vegetables alone.

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I like to introduce babies to chicken before red meat, and one of the best ways to do this is by mixing the chicken with root vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potato or butternut squash. This gives it a soft texture, so it’s easier to swallow, and a slightly sweet taste that appeals to babies’ taste buds.

These root vegetables are also rich in betacarotene, which is essential for growth and fighting infection, and for healthy skin and hair. Savoury recipes with fruit, such as chicken with sweet potato and apple, are also a good option.

Iron deficiency is one of the more common nutritional problems of early childhood. Surveys show that one in five babies aged 10 to 12 months has a daily intake of iron below the desired level. Bear in mind that the dark meat, e.g. chicken thighs, contains twice as much iron and zinc as the white, so you needn’t always give your baby chicken breast.

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For recipe ideas to introduce chicken, check out Chicken with butternut squash and grapes and Chicken and tomato casserole, in our recipes section.

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