Once your baby is familiar with cereals, vegetables, and fruits, you can introduce other foods. Try very well cooked beans and legumes, like lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans. Start with small amounts of cooked beans. If you notice that your baby develops an irritated bottom and you see bits of undigested bean in his bowel movement, wait a few weeks before reintroducing beans, and make sure they are very well cooked. Tofu is also a good choice. Many babies happily eat it in small cubes or mixed with applesauce, other pureed fruits, or vegetables.
For beans and legumes, it’s easy and economical to buy them dried. Simply soak a bowl of them overnight, then boil them until they are as soft as you want. (This takes planning, but very little effort.) If you use canned beans, put them in a strainer and rinse them well to remove some of the sodium; they’ll never be as sodium-free as the beans you boil yourself, however. Also, canned foods may contain traces of the chemical BPA, which may cause cancer or hormone problems; this is still a matter of debate, but if it’s easy and inexpensive to avoid canned foods, why not do that?
Some people rely on red meats, poultry and dairy products as protein sources. But children who become used to them during their early years may pay a price in adulthood for the saturated fat and animal protein these foods contain. Whether or not you decide to raise your child on an exclusively vegetarian diet, it makes good sense to explore vegetarian foods early, so that your children can enjoy the advantages these foods offer.
There is a special concern about meats for very small children. Poultry, beef, pork, and other meats often contain bacteria that can cause serious infections. Such illnesses have become alarmingly common in recent years, and infants are much more sensitive to them than adults. Meats must always be thoroughly cooked so that there is no pinkness at all, and any surfaces or utensils touched by raw meat must be carefully cleaned with soap and water.