Q&A: Grains & Cereals

Such a hot topic these days. No apologies that my response is quite lengthy; there’s a lot to consider. Here’s a question from Mpumalanga regarding the subject of cereals:

MOM:  I want to introduce solids within the next two weeks. My lo will then be 6 months old. My question now is… I am contemplating whether to start him on cereal. If not what is best veg to start with and do I give it to him in the mornings? I heard with cereal you start with in the mornings and then slowly but surely at night time, but how do I go about this with veg and maybe fruits?

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RESPONSE: When I first got this question, I thought: “Yes! I can’t wait to dive into this.”  Then I sat down at my computer and thought: “I could write a BOOK on this.” But I’m not sure everyone else is as excited to know the ins and outs of quinoa, or even how to pronounce it. So I’ll start with the easy answer first:  Avocado is (to me) the best first veggie to introduce to baby, and definitely before grains.  Not only is avo one of the healthiest foods in regards to nutrition, healthy, fats, brain development, etc.—it is one of the only foods that can be given to baby raw from day #1.  A little goes a long way, especially in the beginning.  After that, I recommend starting on veggies before fruits (butternut, pumpkin, sweet potato, baby marrow, carrots being the first ones; followed by blends of these mixed with green beans, spinach, split peas, etc.).

With regards to porridges, cereals, & grains….whoa, it’s all the buzz.  To feed or not to feed?….seems to be the question.  So do you listen to Granny’s recommendation to put rice cereal in a bottle to promote better sleep? Do you follow the newest trends and steer clear of all grains until after baby’s first year of life? Here’s a look at the pros, cons, and whys of it all—thrown in with a few recommendations.

“It’s the way we did it.”  You’ll often hear that from those promoting cereals for young babies.  True, it may have been. But after much research, it turns out that feeding baby rice cereal in a bottle before bed doesn’t really correlate to sleeping longer.  Breastfed babies often cluster-feed around bedtime to make it through the night. With this in mind, perhaps it’s wise to save the cereal for a later age.

Instant cereals—beware.  If you’ve heard me talk in person, you know I’m very passionate about instant cereal versus REAL grains.  We are a sugar-addicted society that is only growing in obesity and disease (sorry, that was a rather glum statement).  If you remember only one thing from this post, may it be this: instant cereals have little nutritional value and often come with harmful chemicals and additives, flavouring, and sugars. If you want a backup, then please try to afford an instant cereal that is organic and plain.

Real Grains—that’s the stuff.  If you’re going to introduce grains into your baby’s diet, consider using a whole grain and grinding it.  You can start introducing whole grains at 6 months, if ground.  The grinding is not done to smooth consistency, but to aid in digestion from 6-8 months.  Cook it to a 4:1 ratio with water for 10 minutes.*  While traditionally we think of rice cereal as baby’s first grain, it is actually the most difficult grain to digest. I strongly recommend Millet and Oats (organic if you can afford it) as baby’s first grain.  They’re easiest on the digestion system and offer a great variation of tastes.  When baby is 7 months, quinoa can be introduced and after 8 months, you can add brown rice.  Other grains & proteins (barley, amaranth, ground lentils, ground dried beans) can be prepared this same way—ground and cooked—and blended with fruits & veggies.  By about 10 months, grains can be cooked whole, as long as they’re thoroughly cooked with a bit of extra water.

Waiting on grains—completely. The latest trend is to wait until after the first year to introduce grains.  This too is based on baby’s digestive system and readiness of the body.  If choosing this method, be sure to introduce many types of vegetables and proteins.

At the end of the day, you must do what you feel is right for your baby and your situation.  Do some additional research and ask questions from trusted sources.  I’ll end with saying that whether you introduce early or late, do try to make sure the food you feed your baby is as REAL as possible.




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