Before You Give Your Baby Turkey This Thanksgiving, Here's What You Need To Know

There's so much to love about Thanksgiving. It's the most sacred time of the year where you get to be with family and friends, watch football, and prepare for holiday shopping. But there’s no question as to who the real star is on Thanksgiving day — the turkey. Its juicy goodness can have the whole party’s mouth watering. But if you have a little one, you may wonder, is turkey safe for babies to eat? They should be able to gobble up on the Thanksgiving action, right?

In an interview with Romper, Pennsylvania pediatrician Dr. Jarret Patton says that Thanksgiving turkey is a fine treat for a baby, as long as it is made to the proper consistency. “For babies just starting on solid foods,” suggests Patton, “around 4 to 6 months of age, the turkey should be puréed.” He adds that depending on your baby’s age, the consistency of the turkey you feed them should be the same as the stage of baby food they are eating.

Turkey is actually a great source of nutrition for your baby, too. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), turkey, along with chicken and beef, is an ideal food when you begin introducing solids into your baby’s diet. The organization explained that meats like turkey have more nutritional value than foods like cereals, vegetables, and fruits, because they contain great sources of zinc, iron, and high quality protein.

So turkey is actually pretty good for a baby — just make sure it is cooked properly before you proceed to purée it. Food safety expert and microbiologist, Irrem Jamal M.Sc, tells Romper that the first thing to remember is when thawing your turkey, you must do it safely in the refrigerator or under cold water. “When meat like turkey is left in the temperature danger zone, between 40 degrees and 140 degrees,” explains Jamal, “it can allow harmful bacteria to grow.” When cooking your turkey, she suggests using a thermometer to make sure the turkey is cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees, and the same temperature applies for reheating leftovers. Following these guidelines will ensure that turkey is not only safe for your baby, but for your whole family to consume.

Now that your turkey is cooked properly, you can go on to the puréeing. All you need is a blender and your cooked turkey meat. Baby Center suggested using the darker meats of the turkey so that your purée stays moist, and the article recommended adding either water, formula, or breast milk to make it to the consistency you need. You can store the leftover purée in the refrigerator for three days in an airtight container, or freeze it for up to three months.

But who says turkey purée has to be boring? You can actually get a little creative. This recipe from Wholesome Baby Food includes turkey, squash, sweet potatoes, and cranberries. But the website warned that if your baby is younger than 6 to 8 months, you should avoid cranberries due to their high acid content and also avoid adding gravy because of the high amounts of fat. Both of these things can irritate your baby’s stomach, so you should wait until they are older to introduce them.

But hopefully, you won’t have to purée their Thanksgiving turkey next year. When your baby is older, is eating foods with a more solid consistency, and actually has teeth to chew, you should be able to give them turkey without puréeing it. Dr. Patton says that by the time your baby is a toddler, they should be able to feed themselves small pieces of turkey and join in on the family dinner and fun.

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