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Toddler Meals, Annabel Karmel

Are eggs good for my child?

Yes indeed! Eggs are a rich source of high quality protein which contributes to children’s growth and bone development. Eggs are also a source of vitamin A, folate and phosphorus and a rich source of vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12, biotin, iodine and selenium[1]. Vitamin D is particularly important as it is needed for normal growth and development of bone, as well as normal immune function[2].

 

What’s the official advice on eating runny eggs, are they safe?

In October this year, the Food Standards Agency reported that runny eggs, as long as they carry the British Lion mark, were now safe for everyone, including babies and pregnant women. In fact, even raw eggs are safe if they carry the Lion mark. The only exception is people with compromised immune function, for example patients receiving chemotherapy.

This is great news for those of us who love dipping soldiers into runny boiled eggs, or having a soft poached egg on salad. Babies and children can also benefit from this advice as fully cooked eggs can sometimes end up a little rubbery making them harder to swallow – lightly cooked scrambled egg or a soft-boiled egg are often enjoyed much more.

 

Why has the advice changed?

The government’s specialist safety committee, the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food produced an extensive report on UK eggs which said that the very low risk posed meant that UK eggs produced under the British Lion Code of Practice can be served raw or lightly cooked to all groups in society, including those that are more vulnerable to infection, in domestic and non-domestic settings, including care homes and hospitals.

This landmark report was endorsed by the Food Standards Agency which decided to change its previous cautionary advice on eggs and enable most people to enjoy runny or raw eggs if they wish, as long as they carry the British Lion mark.

 

How do I know which are best to buy?

An important point is that the new advice only applies to British eggs that have the Lion mark on the shell. This is because the Lion scheme is very robust, with more than 700 points within its Code of Practice designed to produce the safest eggs in the world. This involves hen flock vaccination against salmonella, as well as strict hygiene rules from farm to supermarket.

Eggs from other countries, or domestic eggs without the Lion mark, are still not recommended to be eaten raw or runny by vulnerable groups in case they contain salmonella or other types of bacteria.

When buying fresh eggs, check for the British Lion mark. More than 90% of UK eggs are Lion marked, including eggs from major supermarkets. When eating out, ask whether Lion eggs have been used in sandwiches, quiches and baked products. Some restaurants and smaller convenience stores unfortunately buy cheaper imported eggs which are not as safe as British Lion eggs.

 

When should I introduce eggs to my child?

Eggs are a healthy, nutritious food for babies to eat from six months of age when weaning has been established. There is no reason to wait to introduce eggs if your little one is happily eating lumpy foods.

Eggs have particular benefits for growing babies and children including protein, vitamin D, B vitamins and iodine. The nutrients in eggs have been proven to contribute to children’s growth and bone development, as well as normal immune function.

 

What about egg allergy?

Mothers may be able to help prevent egg allergy in their babies by eating eggs during pregnancy and introducing them early in weaning (after six months). Thankfully, food allergies are rare – affecting only 2-4% of the population[3]. Egg allergy is also one that tends to be outgrown by the time your child reaches school-age.

If you are worried, check with your GP or health professional about the best way to introduce eggs to your baby, especially if you have a strong family history of food allergy.

There is no advantage to avoiding eggs, or delaying their introduction, as there is no evidence that this prevents allergy – in fact trying eggs early in weaning may help to prevent egg allergy.

 

What’s the best way to cook eggs?

My children have always enjoyed omelette, and it is a very quick meal. Remember not to add salt, however cheese, slices of tomato or little pieces of ham are a great way to ring the changes. I cook with butter as it produces a lovely rich flavour.

Other options are French toast (you can use wholemeal or 50/50 to add in some fibre), or pancakes made with whole milk. Again, avoid adding salt to your child’s food.

For older children, kedgeree is a delicious meal. It can be as simple as mixing chopped boiled egg, rice, peas and smoked fish, or you can boost the flavour with cumin, lemon juice, and fresh chopped coriander.

 

My child is a fussy eater and rejects eggs, any suggestions for making them acceptable?

French toast or pancakes can be a good way to introduce eggs. You could also try chopping omelette into squares and making tiny sandwiches with crustless bread.

Many children go through a period of fussiness or food refusal. This is normal and can be resolved if you keep offering foods in a positive way, eat them with enjoyment yourself, and even jazz them up with special plates, cutlery or food faces using fruit and vegetables.

Young children can respond very well to buffet style meals where they get to choose what to put on their plates. Praise them for trying something new and remember to stay calm and relaxed. Most children grow out of faddy eating.

 

 

[1] Ruxton CHS (2013) Value of eggs during pregnancy and early childhood. Nursing Standard 27, 41-50.

[2] Authorised EU health claims

[3] Ruxton CHS (2013) Value of eggs during pregnancy and early childhood. Nursing Standard 27, 41-50.

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