My ‘Baby’s Best Bites’ series focuses on nutritious, whole ingredients that every parent should know about. These are foods that do a baby good and are easy to incorporate into the whole family’s diet. Check out the other Baby’s Best spotlights: yogurt, avocado, and eggs.
It’s finally time—baby is ready for solid food! You may have heard that it’s best to begin with rice cereal. While there’s nothing wrong with that exactly, common wisdom these days is that it’s actually best to begin your child’s eating adventure with more, well, adventure!
There are so many wonderful first foods that are safe and way more delicious and nutritious than plain rice, especially over processed commercial rice cereal). Plus, when it’s time to serve grain—whether as a first bite or following avocado, sweet potato, or some other tasty first good—you should ideally serve up a whole grain. (Renowned “green” pediatrician Dr. Greene has a ton of information on this as part of his White Out campaign.)
Whole oats are a great whole food alternative to processed rice cereals. That’s a no brainer, but choosing the right oats and figuring out how best to turn them into a baby cereal that isn’t gloppy isn’t. Let’s break down the options.
Rolled vs. Steel Cut
Although there isn’t a drastic nutritional difference, steel cut oats are slightly less processed. All oatmeal comes from oat groats, which are hulled and toasted oat grains. Steel cut are chopped into finer pieces, while rolled oats are steamed and rolled thin to make for quicker cooking. While both are great options (so long as you opt for regular rolled oats and not the quick-cook kind), steel cut have slightly more complete nutrition. That’s the upside. The downside? They take more than slightly longer to cook. I love steel cut oats for when I’m making a big batch that I can freeze for baby. Otherwise, it’s rolled oats in my house.
What about instant?
Instant oatmeal is much more processed in order to enable instant cooking. Not only are instant oats pre-cooked and dehydrated, there is also, more often than not, added sugar and salt. Instant oatmeal simply doesn’t measure up nutritionally, especially for an early baby food.
What is glycemic index and why should we care?
Glycemic Index is an interesting factor to take into consideration. Foods with a low glycemic index take longer to break down in your body, making you feel full longer. Both rolled oats and steel cut have low GI levels, which is great. Instant oatmeal, on the other hand, has a considerably higher GI level, once again, making it a lesser option.
Cooking oats for baby
All in all, rolled oats and steel cut are both great options for baby—and for you, too! They provide long-lasting satisfaction and a whole grain nutrition boost. Whichever type you choose, I recommend that you use your Baby Bullet to grid the oats before cooking them (keep in mind that this will cut down cooking time by quite a bit; in fact, depending on your oats, you may be able to just add hot water to your oat “powder”). Pureed cooked oatmeal tends to get gummy, though it can be watered down into a nice texture with breast milk, formula and/or a thin fruit or veggie puree.
Oatmeal can be such a wonderful first food for baby, high in fiber and antioxidants and low in sugar. And, bonus: Plain oatmeal is a great base that can be combined with all kind of yummy options. Check out this blackberry ginger oatmeal to get you started. The possibilities are endless… and much better for baby than rice.