Nurturing life Your reference in perinatal nutrition, from pregnancy to childhood

Should meat and alternatives or iron-fortified cereals be the first solid foods given to young children?

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By : Nurturing Life's Nutrition Team | Montreal Diet Dispensary

The latest Health Canada recommendations concerning the introduction of solid foods are as follows:  Meat and alternatives as well as iron-fortified cereals should be given first.

Health Canada recommends introducing complementary foods towards the age of 6 months in healthy and full-term babies.

In general, a baby’s iron stores last until the age of 6 months. Afterwards, iron reserves are almost depleted and it becomes important to introduce sources of iron in the diet because the child is at higher risk of developing anemia.

Therefore, the first solid foods to offer a baby should be iron-rich foods, such as meat and alternatives and iron-fortified cereals.

Recommended Order for the Introduction of Solid Foods  Previously  Effective since 2013
1st Iron-fortified cereals Meat and alternatives
2nd Vegetables Iron-fortified cereals
3rd Fruits Vegetables
4th Meat and alternatives Fruits


Since the iron that is found in meat, chicken and fish is better absorbed than that found in iron-fortified cereals, the former reduces the risk of anemia more quickly. Meat and alternatives should therefore be offered first when introducing solid foods.

From 6 months to 2 years of age, the child should eat iron-rich foods at least twice a day. From the age of 2 and onwards, the child should consume them three times a day.

Foods that are rich in vitamin C, such as fruits and vegetables, increase the absorption of iron in the body. Eating vitamin C-rich foods in combination with iron-rich foods, particularly iron-fortified cereals, is a clever and tasty method of effectively preventing iron deficiency in children.

When introducing solid foods to babies’ diets, meat and alternatives should be given first, followed by iron-fortified cereals in order to prevent iron deficiency.