09/25/2012 05:07 EDT | Updated 11/25/2012 05:12 EST

Meat, tofu among recommended iron-rich foods for Canadian babies

TORONTO - Meat and tofu are joining the list of recommended first foods for Canadian babies.

The recommendations are part of a joint statement from the Infant Feeding Joint Working Group. The group is a collaboration among Health Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada and Breastfeeding Committee for Canada.

Health Canada recommends that babies be given breast milk only until they are six months old. Previously, Canadian guidelines recommended that only cereal be introduced after that age. But new standards also include the introduction of meat and meat alternatives like eggs, tofu and legumes to help meet nutritional needs.

A 1998 statement developed collaboratively by the Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada and Health Canada recommended "iron-containing foods such as iron-fortified cereals," as the first foods for infants, but didn't list specific suggestions for other alternatives.

"While meat and fish are traditional first foods for some Aboriginal groups, the common practice in North America has been to introduce infant cereal, vegetables, and fruit as first complementary foods," the new statement reads.

The working group writes that infants should be offered iron-containing foods two or more times each day, with meat, fish, poultry or meat alternatives served daily.

Guidance on nutrition for children from six months to two years of age will be covered in a separate statement, available in 2013-14.