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We know that during the first few months of a baby’s life, good nutrition is really important.
So why is tuna such a great option for your baby? In this blog, I’ll help you to decide which of the different types of tuna is best, and give you some pointers on how to serve it.
But first, let me highlight the different types of tuna (1):
Skipjack tuna – most commonly canned tuna
Albacore tuna – second most commonly canned tuna
Yellowfin tuna – most versatile
Bigeye tuna – fatty and flavourful
Bluefin tuna – rich flavour
When can babies have tuna?
Weaning is recommended from around 6 months of age. At this point, it is safe to start giving your baby tuna to eat.
We recommend a week or so of bitter vegetables for baby’s first tastes but after that, tuna is one of the next foods that is good to offer your baby.
Canned tuna is a great option, because it’s already cooked, has a long shelf life and can be stored for ages. I have a store-cupboard weaning guide if you would like to learn about other nutritious foods that keep for ages!
Is tuna healthy for babies?
All the different types of tuna are a source of the type of Omega-3 that is particularly important for brain and eye development in babies and children (2). Tuna is also protein rich, so has lots of benefits to your baby’s body at such a crucial stage of development and growth.
As it contains Omega 3, does tuna count as an oily fish?
Unfortunately not. All fish contains Omega 3 and oily fish contains a lot of it. The levels in tuna are quite low. This means that a portion of tuna will not count towards one of the portions of oily fish recommended weekly (7).
Current guidelines suggest that boys can consume up to 4 portions of oily fish per week and girls can consume up to 2 portions of oily fish per week. The amount is less for girls as the pollutants from the water they swim in, build up in oily fish, and they may have a long lasting effect on girls future reproduction (7).
When I was pregnant I had to restrict tuna. Is there a limit for my baby?
No. In the past there were restrictions but the guidelines have now changed. You only need to limit tuna to a maximum of 4 cans or 2 tuna steaks per week while you are trying for a baby or pregnant. There is no limit for breastfeeding mums or babies and children.
Are there any health risks to eating tuna?
Is it an allergen?
Fish (including tuna) is an allergen (6) and so needs to be offered to your baby before their first birthday in order for them to benefit from the protective effect.
Remember, allergies to food are uncommon but if you are worried about introducing allergens to your baby, I have a mini course for £20 which will talk you through the steps you need to take.
Could it be a choking risk?
The different types of tuna are a great first food option for weaning your baby because they are soft and can easily be broken up into smaller chunks or flaked into a sauce. So long as your baby is being supervised at all times during eating, there should be no problem with the different types of tuna being a choking risk.
There are lots of different types of tuna so which one is best?
Although there are lots of guidelines on what to choose to feed your baby, when beginning weaning, the different types of tuna you choose to offer your baby is largely a personal choice.
That being said, in terms of convenience, portion control and the fact that it is already cooked, canned tuna may be the best option at this early stage. Therefore, skipjack, albacore and yellowfin will be your most likely options.
Is sustainability an issue?
Eating different types of tuna can be sustainable if you know what you are looking for. When buying any type of tuna, look out for ‘pole and line’ or ‘handline caught’ somewhere on the label (8).
Pole-and-line and handline methods are the most environmentally sustainable and responsible ways of fishing for tuna compared to net fishing (8).
Pole-and-line and handline methods ensure that tuna stocks are protected, as it is made difficult to overfish. They also ensure the protection of vulnerable species such as sharks and dolphins (8).
Should babies have tuna canned in spring water or is oil better?
Tuna canned in oil is not an ideal option for baby as the Omega-3 fats in the tuna may be lost to the oil and therefore some of the nutritious benefits of the tuna will be lost (9).
Of the different types of tuna, tuna canned in spring water is best for your baby. This is because none of the nutritious benefits of the tuna are lost into the water which will be drained away before consuming (9).
What about tuna canned in brine?
Different types of tuna canned in brine are not a good choice for your baby. This is because brine is essentially salt water. This means that it could increase the sodium content of the tuna, making it too salty for your babies kidneys to process (9).
How do you cook tuna?
It is best to begin feeding baby tuna that is cooked. Canned tuna is cooked thoroughly during the processing stage and therefore is ready to serve straight from the can, although it can be heated if desired (10).
If you would like to give your baby fresh tuna, place it in a searing hot frying pan and cook it thoroughly (11).
3 recipes for Stage 1 weaning
Here are some of my favourite stage 1 weaning tuna recipes:
3 recipes for Stage 2 weaning
Here are some of my favourite stage 2 weaning tuna recipes:
3 recipes for Stage 3 weaning
Here are some of my favourite stage 3 weaning tuna recipes:
3 recipes for baby led weaning
Here are some of my favourite baby led weaning tuna recipes:
Special thanks to Lottie Harman for her research into this blog.