Tofu has long been thought of as a healthy food option, but how healthy is it really, and should you be giving your baby soy-based foods at all? There are many arguments and case studies supporting both the dangers and benefits of tofu and soy.
Can I Give My Baby Tofu? Answer: 8 months
Tofu can be introduced when you begin introducing other protein source such as meats. Tofu is a protein food that may be difficult for your baby’s immature digestive tract to process, so it should only be introduced when more complex proteins are offered. Most pediatricians recommend tofu to an infant 8 months or older.
What is Tofu?
Tofu is a soybean curd; it is un-fermented soy made from soybeans, water and a coagulant. A coagulant is a curdling agent. Tofu has been a staple ingredient in many Asian cultures for a long time, and has more recently become popular in Western vegetarian cooking. Soy products including tofu have become almost synonymous with vegetarian cooking as an alternative source of protein. Tofu has become so popular in western culture that there is even a tofu festival held in LA.
Tofu and soy products continue to be surrounded in controversy, and we highly recommend researching whether tofu is right for you and your baby. There are links at the bottom of the page to assist you in starting your research.
Different Types Of Tofu
There are three types of tofu: Silken, Soft and Firm. Although there is a type of tofu labelled ‘firm’ it is rather misleading as its texture is not particularly firm at all.
Tofu can appear odd to us when we first see or eat it. It is spongy and white, looking like nothing much more than a glob. As unappealing as it may sound, tofu is versatile in cooking as it readily absorbs the flavors of the other ingredients in the meal.
Nutritional Value of Tofu
Tofu is a great source of iron, protein and calcium. Firm tofu has the highest levels of iron and protein and the second highest calcium when compared to its soft and silken counterparts.
Tofu contains no cholesterol, has almost no fiber and contains between 2 to 6 grams of fat per 4 ounce serve. Silken tofu can have almost 30 milligrams of sodium in a four ounce serve, however firm and soft tofu’s have much lower levels.
Allergies and Tofu
Tofu is a soy product, and as such you should not give it to an infant who has, or could potentially have, any allergy to soy. As always, please consult your pediatrician about specific foods to feed your baby, especially those that may pose an allergy risk. Because of its potential as an allergen, be sure to introduce it away from any other new foods, and to monitor how your baby handles it over the next several hours after feeding it to them.
How To Serve Tofu
Tofu is very versatile. It may be served raw, baked or sauteed. It can be included into soups or broths. Tofu can easily be added to many dishes for both adults as well as babies. Typically, tofu is used as a substitute for meats and is popular with vegetarians.
- raw chunks
- blend with fruit or vegetables
- add silken tofu to fruit juice and yogurt – blend to make a smoothie
- pan fry in olive oil and season
Some other ideas to serve tofu include cutting firm tofu into chunks and giving to your baby raw. They help the baby to practice the pincer grip when picking them up. Blend tofu with any type of fruit you are pureeing. It will add texture and help the blend stick to the spoon when your little one is learning to self-feed. Place cubes of tofu into a broth. Fry tofu in olive oil and season to your baby’s tastes. Mash tofu with avocado or cottage cheese. Add silken tofu to fruit juice and yogurt to blend into a smoothie.
Because tofu takes on the flavors of the food it is prepared with, it tends to add texture and protein to a meal rather than enhance flavor on its own. This makes it very versatile in blending and adding to baby meals.
Where To Buy Tofu?
Look for tofu in the produce section of your regular grocery store. If you are seeking organic tofu you may find it in your health food store.
How To Store Tofu
Tofu will come in a package surrounded by liquid. If you are not going to use all the tofu immediately, reserve the liquid when you drain it. When you open the package, drain the water away and blot the tofu dry with a paper towel. Slice the tofu according to how you will use it (diced, cubes, slices etc).
Tofu will remain in the fridge for up to seven days. You should store the left over raw tofu in a water and airtight container in liquid. The water should be replaced daily.
You can freeze tofu, but the texture and color will change. You can freeze tofu in a freezer bag or simply put the tofu in its original unopened packaging straight into the freezer. To thaw tofu simply let it thaw on the counter – do not microwave.
The Soy & Tofu Controversy
Tofu and soy products are surrounded with controversy, and as a parent it is your responsibility to decide if you will give your baby tofu and soy products. We have included a few resources to help you start your research, including both for and against in the soy argument. Not only is tofu a potential allergen, there are more genetically modified soy crops planted now than non-modified crops. There are arguments and case studies which support both the benefits and harmful side effects of soy and we wish you success in making your decision.
GMO Compass – A website on Genetically Modified Crops
American Soybean Association – Soy growers of America website
USDA – The United States Department of Agriculture on Soy
The Dark Side of Soy – A review on the history and modern day use of soy
Weston A Price – A discussion on the dangers of soy