Tofu For Babies: When To Introduce, Health Benefits And Recipes

Baby Tips

Tofu For Babies

Image: iStock

IN THIS ARTICLE

Tofu (or soybean curd) is a soy product that is soft to eat, easy to digest, and rich in nutrients. These qualities make parents look forward to adding it to their baby’s weaning diet. However, you need to know the right age to introduce tofu for babies due to its allergenic nature.

In this MomJunction post, we tell you about the right age to introduce tofu to babies, its benefits, and possible side effects.

Is It Safe For Babies To Eat Tofu?

Yes, it is safe for babies and toddlers to eat tofu. However, you need to check for possible allergic reactions. Tofu is made from coagulated soy milk, which is one of the common food allergens. If a family member or baby’s sibling is allergic to soy, then consult a pediatrician before introducing tofu.

Once you get a go-ahead from the doctor, then introduce tofu in an age-appropriate way. For example, consider giving cooked and mashed or pureed tofu to younger babies, who cannot chew.  You may consider giving uncooked tofu chunks or tofu sticks to older babies, who can chew.

When Can Babies Have Tofu?

You may consider introducing tofu to your baby once they are about eight months old. Tofu is generally easy to digest but may cause gastrointestinal issues in babies younger than eight months. If you wish to introduce tofu early, then consult a pediatrician first.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding two servings of protein sources, such as tofu, to toddlers (1). Thus, besides other sources like meat, fish, and poultry, you can add one serving of tofu at least twice a week along with breast milk.

If you are a vegan or vegetarian mother, then consult a pediatric nutritionist to know the right amount of tofu that your baby can eat safely on a regular basis.

Nutritive Value Of Tofu

Tofu is considered a healthy alternative to meat for vegan babies since it is rich in protein and other micronutrients.

There are three forms of tofu available commercially, –firm, soft, and silken. Firm tofu is relatively dense and has higher amounts of protein, fat, and calcium than other forms.

A quarter block (81g) of raw, firm tofu prepared with calcium sulfate provides the following nutrients to your baby with reference to the per-day requirement of these nutrients (2) (3) (4).

Name Amount RDA
Water 56.6g
Energy 117Kcal
Protein 14g
Total lipid (fat) 7.06g
Carbohydrate, by difference 2.25g
Fiber, total dietary 1.86g
Calcium, Ca 553mg 270mg (7-12 months)
Iron, Fe 2.16mg 8.5mg
Magnesium, Mg 47mg 75mg (7-12 months)
Phosphorus, P 154mg 275mg (7-12 months)
Potassium, K 192mg 700mg (7-12 months)
Sodium, Na 11.3mg 200mg (7-12 months)
Zinc, Zn 1.27mg 5.6mg
Copper, Cu 0.306mg 0.6-0.7mg (7-12month)
Manganese, Mn 0.957mg 0.6mg
Selenium, Se 14.1µg 12µg
Folate, total 23.5µg 32µg (7-12 months)
Vitamin A, IU 134IU 1166IU

Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture, World Health Organization, and National Institutes of Health 

Potential Health Benefits Of Tofu For Babies

Consuming tofu in moderate amounts can be beneficial to your baby in the following ways:

  1. Healthy fats: Tofu is low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). It contains omega-3 fatty acids, such as alpha-linoleic (AL) and alpha-linolenic (ALA) fatty acids in good amounts (5). Both these fatty acids are crucial for growing babies.
  1. High-quality protein: Tofu contains all the nine essential amino acids, thus making it one of the best plant sources of high-quality protein (6). This protein can help with your baby’s growth and development.
  1. Antioxidants: Tofu contains compounds such as carotenoids, vitamins C, E, phenolic, and thiols that possess antioxidant properties. These compounds, in the long run, could mitigate the free radical damage (7).
  1. Bioactive compounds: A variety of bioactive compounds, such as saponins, protease inhibitors, phytic acid, and isoflavones (6), support heart health, bone health, and improve metabolism in the long run (8).

Regular intake of tofu might also have a positive effect on immunity and gut microbiota. However, these possible benefits are still under research (9) (10).

Probable Side-Effects Of Tofu In Babies

Tofu can have the following side effects, which may lead to health problems.

  1. Antinutrients: Tofu contains small amounts of antinutrients like phytates and trypsin inhibitors. Phytates interfere with mineral absorption, whereas trypsin inhibitor blocks trypsin, an enzyme necessary for protein digestion. These antinutrients seldom cause problems. However, they might become a problem if your baby’s weaning diet is not well-balanced.
  1. Allergy: If your baby is allergic to soy, then allergic reactions can appear any time before the age of three years. However, most children outgrow the allergy during childhood. In the case of a possible allergic reaction, watch out for common signs such as vomiting, wheezing, swelling around the mouth, hives, and stomach cramps (11). In severe cases, soy allergy can lead to anaphylaxis. If your baby is allergic to soy, then you should eliminate all the soy products, such as soy sauce and tofu, from their diet.
  1. Autoimmune disease: Do not feed tofu to your baby in large quantities. An excess of soy products, like tofu, is associated with health issues such as Kawasaki disease (12). Stick to a moderate intake as part of a balanced diet.

Side effects of tofu can be managed well when you follow standard precautionary measures while introducing new food to your baby.

Precautions To Take While Giving Tofu To Babies

Below are some simple precautions that would ensure your baby’s safety.

  1. While introducing tofu for the first time, select soft or silken tofu over its firm form.
  1. Follow a three to five-day wait rule. This will help recognize signs of intolerance, sensitivity, or allergy.
  1. Avoid adding any other new food simultaneously while introducing tofu.
  1. Begin feeding age-appropriate quantities. As your infant gets comfortable, you can increase the quantity as per your nutritionist’s guidance.
  1. In the beginning, try to feed mashed tofu. You can also make tofu paste if your baby does not like it in mashed form.
  1. Consider adding some herbs and spices to enhance the flavor as tofu has umami taste that your baby may or may not like.
  1. As your baby grows older, you can consider giving tofu as healthy finger food. Cut it into thin slices or strips before serving it to your baby.
  1. Avoid giving tofu in small cubes or thick tofu chunks as they can be a potential choking hazard.

You can try feeding tofu to your baby in various ways as they get comfortable with its taste and texture.

How To Select And Store Tofu?

Follow these simple steps to select and store tofu.

Buying

  1. Prefer to buy non-GMO, organic tofu, if possible.
  1. Buy it from a reputable manufacturer to ensure quality.
  1. Check the manufacturing and expiry date on the packaging.
  1. Look for specifications such as dehydrated, freeze-dried, or canned tofu. It is important as tofu is available in various forms, shapes, and state of storage.
  1. Prefer buying fresh tofu from a farmer’s market.

Storage

  1. Open the package, drain the water inside, and wash tofu block in cold water and blot it dry with a paper towel.
  1. Cut the tofu block into slices or cubes. Take a BPA-free airtight plastic container or a glass container. Fill the container with plain water and let the slices or cubes immerse in it. Change the water every two days, at least.
  1. Fresh tofu can be stored under refrigeration for up to seven days. Frozen tofu, in its original package, can stay well for up to five months.
  1. If you wish to freeze fresh tofu, then you may do so. However, during freezing, it turns spongy and might change to a darkish caramel color.
  1. Always thaw frozen tofu at room temperature rather than microwave before use.
  1. If you are storing cooked leftover tofu, then store it in an airtight container and use it within a day or two.

Way To Include Tofu In Your Infant’s Diet

You may introduce tofu in various ways, depending on the baby’s age.

  1. Serve tofu mashed, pureed, or as a paste when introducing it. You can mix these tofu forms with different fruits and vegetable purees once your baby gets used to tofu taste.
  1. You may also try adding mashed tofu to homemade cerelac or other porridges. It will make a healthy tofu baby food that is rich in protein and other vital nutrients.
  1. Stir fry tofu strips in olive oil and herbs to make interesting finger food for your baby. Add some veggie shreds to make the recipe more wholesome and visually appealing.
  1. As your baby begins to chew, try adding bite-sized cubes or tofu nuggets into soups and salad. You can also mix tofu cubes with crushed cheerios or crushed graham crackers to make a healthy evening snack.
  1. Enhance the nutritional value of a smoothie by adding tofu. You may also make tofu shake with soy milk and a variety of seasonal fruits for a toddler.
  1. Make vegetable salad more appealing to your toddler by dressing it with a tofu dip. You can use the same dip with some added seasoning to make a sandwich spread, too.
  1. Prepare a tofu burger with loads of veggies for your toddler. It is a fun and tasty way to keep your child’s protein intake high.

Besides these, there are several other ways to include tofu in your little one’s diet. All you need to do is experiment.

Tofu Recipes For Babies

These are some age-appropriate wholesome tofu recipes that can be comfortably added to your baby’s regular diet.

1. Tofu and mango puree

Tofu and mango puree,

Image: Shutterstock

You can serve this recipe to your baby or toddler as a midday snack.

You will need:

  • ½ cup plain soft tofu
  • 1 cup mango pulp (diced) 

How to:

  1. Chop the tofu into small chunks.
  2. Blend tofu and diced mango until you get a smooth mixture or puree-like consistency.
  3. Pour out the mixture into a bowl and serve.

Tip: You can add half a cup of Greek yogurt and one tablespoon of nuts and seeds powder to this recipe. It will intensify the nutritional value of the recipe.

2. Tofu scramble

Tofu scramble

Image: iStock

Serve it with baked sweet potato, pitta bread, whole grain bread, or steamed rice for breakfast or dinner. Add chunks of seasonal vegetables to enhance the overall nutritional value of the recipe.

You will need:

  • 8oz regular or firm tofu
  • ½ cup red onion (finely sliced)
  • ½ cup green bell peppers (finely chopped)
  • ½ cup corn kernels
  • 2tbsp virgin olive oil
  • Salt, to taste

How to: 

  1. Take a few tofu slabs of medium thickness. Pat them dry and keep them aside for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, take a thick bottom frying pan and pour two tablespoons of olive oil in it.
  3. As the oil gets heated, put sliced onions to it and sauté until they turn golden brown.
  4. Now add green pepper and corn kernels and cook them until they turn crisp.
  5. Add a pinch of salt and stir. Cook until all the veggies get softened.
  6. Meanwhile, take a fork and scramble the tofu slabs.
  7. Once done, add the scrambled tofu into the pan. Sauté the mixture for two to three minutes. Stir constantly and cook the mixture for an additional five minutes or until the tofu is slightly browned.
  8. Serve immediately with baked potatoes, toast, or steamed rice.

Tip: You may add some safe herbs like oregano to this recipe. You may also add some homemade tomato sauce and cottage cheese to make the recipe versatile.

3. Banana and tofu smoothie

Banana and tofu smoothie

Image: iStock

One glass of this smoothie can provide more than 250 calories and thus is a healthy choice to meet your child’s growing nutritional needs.

You will need:

  • 1 cup silken tofu
  • 1 banana (sliced)
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (or plain yogurt or flavored yogurt)
  • 1tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1tbsp dried fruit powder
  • 1 cup water

How to:

  1. Take a blender and add all the ingredients in it.
  2. Blend tofu with all the ingredients until you get a smooth consistency drink. Ensure there are no lumps.
  3. Serve it immediately or refrigerate it before serving.

Tip: You may top the drink with finely chopped nuts. However, ensure that the nuts are thinly sliced to avoid choking.

Tofu is a healthy food that can be added to wholesome baby food. You may include it in baby cereal or porridge, or try making tofu soup and smoothie. However, use it only in moderate amounts in an age-appropriate manner.

References:

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