It may come as no surprise to learn that chicken is THE most popular form of poultry eaten across the world. But what you may not realize is that – properly prepared – chicken is very nutritious and may be a healthier choice than red meat in later life.
Traditionally, parents have been advised to introduce poultry and other types of meat after veggies and fruits – typically, at around 7 months of age. However, new research has suggested that there may be advantages in introducing meat to baby earlier than this – perhaps even as a first food.
Read more in our article – When to Introduce Meat to Baby.
Chicken is an excellent source of protein. In adulthood, just 4 oz of chicken provides a whopping 67.6% of your daily protein requirement.
It is also a very good source of niacin and phosphorus (which help release the energy from protein, fats and carbohydrates during the process of metabolism), vitamin B6 and selenium, a powerful anti-oxidant.
But what sets chicken apart from other meats is the the fact that it contains less fat. In addition, the fat it DOES contain is less saturated (and, as we know, saturated fats are the UNhealthy fats that should be limited in the diet as much as possible).
Sadly, the lower-fat benefits of chicken are lost if you serve it with the skin on. Yummy though it may be, chicken with its skin has twice as much fat as the skinless variety. Whilst occasionally serving your little one chicken with its skin may be acceptable, in the long term it’s best to encourage your baby to enjoy skinless chicken (which can still be delicious if prepared with care!).
When introducing chicken to baby, many parents choose to cook the breast – it is the leanest part of the bird and certainly the healthiest choice. However, there is no denying that the darker meat on the drumsticks, legs and thighs has a richer flavour. These also tend to be the juicier parts – and that’s because they have a higher fat content which melts during the cooking process, keeping the meat tender. Our little ones have always preferred the darker meat to the breast!
We strongly recommend buying organic, free range chicken for use in your baby food recipes, if at all possible.
Free range chickens are allowed to roam outside and are raised without hormones or antibiotics. In addition, their feed is organically grown. Aside from the obvious benefits of feeding your child poultry that is hormone and antibiotic free, organic chicken has a MUCH better flavour than factory-reared poultry.
Chicken is very versatile and can be cooked in a variety of ways. Simple methods of cooking chicken for your baby food beginner are included here.
Here’s a great recipe on our blog for melt-in-the-mouth Chicken Rissoles – they’re super tender and make a great chicken finger food (and a good alternative to chicken nuggets!).
We also have some wonderful baby food recipes with chicken sent in by our readers!
And there’s no need for waste… the chicken carcass can be put to good use, too!
(so much healthier than commercial stocks and cubes). And on this page we show you how to harness the curative properties of the gelatin in chicken bones, to make a broth that will help your baby on the road to recovery if he has a cold.
Avoid giving your baby chicken from the barbecue/grill.
Many experts believe that carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds are produced when meat is charred. The avoidance of charred meat is not just prudent throughout childhood, but throughout adulthood too.
Something that concerns many parents when it comes to serving chicken to their babies is the risk of food poisoning. And this is a valid concern – the improper handling and storage of chicken is one of the most common causes of food poisoning. This is because of the presence of bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter in the intestines of the birds and – thus – in the raw or undercooked flesh.
The following Chicken Safety Checklist will help you ensure that the food you prepare for your little one will be nutritious AND safe.