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Babies start eating solid foods around 4 – 6 months of age. While parents start them off from semi-solid foods and slowly progress to their more solid counterparts, many parents do not know the right time to introduce their baby to chicken. Traditionally, doctors and paediatricians have advised parents to introduce chicken and other poultry at around 7 months of age.

New research has indicated the advantages of introducing chicken earlier than 7 months. Chicken is an excellent source of protein and protein is imperative for growth and metabolism. Chicken is also a very good source of niacin and phosphorus, which help release energy from the protein; vitamin B6 and selenium, which act as powerful antioxidants.

What sets chicken apart from other meats is the fact that it contains relatively less amount of fat. The fat that it DOES contain is less saturated and hence healthy. Unsaturated fats are unhealthy and should be taken in very limited amount. However, you need to serve the chicken without the skin. The chicken skin negates lower fat benefits even though it serves your taste buds well.

The best thing would be to buy organic chicken. These chickens are allowed to roam around freely without raising them in artificial conditions and are also not introduced to hormones or antibiotics. Even their feed is organically grown. Apart from the obvious benefits of introducing your baby to organic chicken, one added benefit is the fact that the taste of organic chicken is MUCH better than factory or poultry reared chicken.

There are various recipes through which chicken can be introduced to your baby. You can look up online for recipes to make tender chicken and finger foods. Chicken soup is also an extremely healthy way to introduce your baby to chicken. The bones of chicken are rich in calcium and protein; you can use them to make a stew or gravy for your little one.

While chicken in most forms is considered healthy, avoid giving your baby chicken from the barbecue or a grill. Experts believe that carcinogenic or cancer-causing compounds are produced when chicken is charred. Therefore avoiding charred chicken or any other form of meat is prudent not only through childhood but also through adulthood.

Many parents are concerned about cases of food poisoning, especially when it comes to poultry which is improperly handled or carelessly stored. Here are a few things to take care of when buying chicken:

- Avoid buying chicken with spotted skin – the skin should be opaque.

- When buying chicken, check if there is any frozen liquid in the packaging. If there is it means that at some point, the chicken thawed and frozen again, which makes it potentially unsafe to eat.

- Place the chicken in the coldest part of your fridge (not the door). Keep this chicken in your fridge for a maximum of 2 days.

Make sure that you cook the chicken properly and no areas remain uncooked or even undercooked, there should be no ‘pink’ areas left.

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