Top Protein-Packed Foods for Babies and How to Serve Them

When your little one is starting solids make sure she's getting plenty of protein-rich baby food. Here are some smart, easy-prep choices. 

5 Tips for Introducing Protein to Your Baby

Rice cereal, applesauce, and squash puree often come to mind when we think of baby food. But babies need protein too, so don't wait to introduce meat, poultry, or other plant-based sources of this body-building nutrient.

1. Beans and lentils

A great source of plant-based protein, beans and lentils are easy to serve. Choose a can with low or no sodium, then rinse and drain the beans. Mash until smooth with a fork or in a food processor and thin with a little breast milk or formula. Or, mix with a fruit or veggie puree. Older babies can experiment with soft cooked beans as a finger food. Lightly smash them and place a few on her high chair.

2. Beef

High in iron, zinc, and protein, beef is a terrific first food for babies. Start with ground beef and cook on the stove-top until completely browned. Puree and serve as is or mixed with veggie puree such as sweet potato, cauliflower, or broccoli.

3. Chicken and turkey 

Tender turkey meatballs broken into small pieces make an excellent finger food, as does soft, roasted chicken torn into small pieces. Or, puree cooked poultry and serve stirred into apple or pear sauce.

4. Tofu

So convenient and inexpensive, tofu is a smart addition to any baby's diet, whether she is vegetarian or not. Blend silken tofu with fruit puree for a sweet meal or bake tofu triangles until firm and serve as a finger food.

5. Fish

Full of brain-building Omega-3's, along with protein, fish is incredibly healthy for babies. Stay away from species high in mercury and opt instead for varieties like salmon, cod, trout, mackeral, and sea bass. Cook and puree, or cook and flake for a soft finger food.

6. Peanut butter

Pediatricians now recommend serving peanut products to babies early and often to potentially ward off peanut allergies. Simply spread a little peanut butter on toast strips, or stir some peanut butter into a puree. Never offer your baby whole nuts or nut butter on a spoon—as both are choking hazards.

7. Yogurt

While babies shouldn't drink cow's milk until they're a year old, it's perfectly fine to introduce yogurt. Stick with Greek yogurt for more protein and make sure to buy a plain variety to avoid added sugars. Stir it into a fruit puree for a creamy treat.

Talk to your pediatrician if you have any questions about what, how, or when to introduce solids to your baby.