Eggs: An Essential Complementary Food

By Jessica Ivey, RDN, LDN

The Egg Nutrition Center partnered with Jessica Ivey, RDN, LDN to write this blog post.

Some parents are excited to introduce their baby to solid foods, while others find the process nerve-racking. No matter where they fall on the spectrum, this is an important milestone for baby and can be a fun family experience.

Most babies are ready for complementary foods around 6 months of age. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is not enough information to suggest which foods should be introduced first and in what order, but rather, it’s best to introduce a wide variety of single ingredient foods in any order.1 Different foods contain different nutrients, so a more varied diet will be more nutritionally complete. Also, food and flavor preferences are established early, so exposing infants to many different textures and flavors from an early age can help establish lifelong healthy eating patterns.

Previously parents were told to wait to introduce allergenic foods to their infants, especially if there was a family history of food allergies. But groundbreaking research2,3 has found that early introduction of potential allergens, including eggs, to an infant around 6 months of age helps to reduce the likelihood of developing an allergy to that food.

When considering first foods, parents should choose nutrient-rich foods with essential nutrients for growth and development. Eggs are a good or excellent source of eight essential nutrients, including choline and lutein, nutrients that are important for brain development, learning, and memory. Plus, eggs have all of the nutrients that the American Academy of Pediatrics lists as key nutrients that support neurodevelopment – which are protein, zinc, iron, choline, folate, iodine, vitamins A, D, B6 and B12, and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids.4

There are several ways to incorporate eggs into an infant’s diet. Here are some ideas to consider:

If parents are having trouble getting their child to try new foods, remember that many babies and toddlers need to be exposed to the same foods multiple times before accepting them. Encourage parents to keep offering nutrient-dense foods, like eggs, and eat nutritious foods themselves! Babies and toddlers are more likely to try foods that they see their peers, siblings, and parents eating.

Resources:

  1. DiMaggio D, et al. Updates in Infant Nutrition. Pediatr Rev, 2017. 38(10): p. 456.
  2. NIAID Guildeines https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/guidelines-clinicians-and-patients-food-allergy
  3. AAP Guidelines https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2019/03/15/peds.2019-0281.full.pdf
  4. Schwarzenberg S, et al. Advocacy for Improving Nutrition in the First 1000 Days to Support Childhood Development and Adult Health. Pediatrics, 2018. 141(2)