Oatmeal – or Porridge – for Your Baby
Oats are very nutritious grain cereals that you can prepare as oatmeal (also called porridge) for a delicious, easy to serve meal for your baby.
Oats are not highly processed – they remain whole, with the germ, endosperm and bran all intact, so they retain all their nutritional goodness. They are an excellent source of:
- Soluble fibre
- B vitamins: thiamine, riboflavin, and B6
The high fibre content of oats means that constipation will, generally, not be a problem, and eating oats regularly may help to lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, help prevent heart disease and cancer, lower cholesterol levels, boost the body’s immune system, and reduce asthma symptoms.
Because they are one of the least allergenic foods, oats are one of the safest ‘first foods’. However, as with all new foods, your baby’s doctor should be consulted if you plan to introduce them into your baby’s diet – especially before he or she is 6 months of age, or if there is a family history of gluten intolerance.
Before 6 months of age, babies should not be given foods that contain gluten – which is thought to raise the risk of Coeliac (Celiac) disease. There is no firm agreement on the gluten content of oats, but they do contain a little glutenin and gliadin – components of gluten – and could also possibly be contaminated by other ‘gluten’ grains grown, harvested, processed, or stored alongside them.
Research from 2004, however, shows that most of those with Coeliac disease tolerate oats with no ill-effects – and some countries market pure oats as an acceptable part of a gluten-free diet.
Oats are harvested, had their tough outer hull removed, and are then made available in several forms…
- Oat Groats: left after removal of the hull, these can take 50 minutes to cook and need more water than ‘regular’ oats (3 parts water to 1 part groats). They have a chewy texture that may be too chewy for your baby.
- Steel-Cut Oat Groats: groats are cut into 2/3 pieces, and to various thicknesses. They take around 30 minutes to cook in only 2 parts water to 1 part steel-cut oats.
- Rolled Oats:steamed and rolled oat groats, these vary in size and thickness(sometimes flaked). Generally, these need 2 parts water to 1 part oats, and regular rolled oats cook in 15 minutes, flakes (‘Quick Oats’) only 5 minutes, but brands vary, so check packet instructions.
- ‘Instant’ Oats: groats are cut fine and rolled extremely thinly -just add boiling water. While still a whole grain product,these maybe less nutritious, as sugar, salt or flavouring’s are sometimes added.
Always check the packaging on oat products that you buy to be sure that they only list ‘oats’, or ‘rolled oats’ as ingredients. Store oats in a cool, dark place, in an airtight container, for no more than 2 months – they can become rancid, so it is not advisable to buy in large quantities.
Giving oats to your baby is easy…
You don’t need to buy commercially produced baby oatmeal – grind your own to your baby’s preferred texture in a coffee grinder or food processor, or prepare oatmeal in the usual way, and then puree it.
Some other ways to give your baby nourishing oats…
- Use oats to thicken soups, thin purees, or sauces.
- Mix raw, finely ground oats into smoothies or purees.
- Add oats for texture and goodness to your muffins and other baking recipes (instant oats are not suitable for this).
- Use half milk/half water – or all milk – for extra creaminess, and goodness.
- Give your baby raw rolled oats as a finger food for a healthy (and entertaining) snack. Use caution though – be sure that your baby is old enough to eat them properly, to avoid choking.
- Save time by cooking oats the night before and warming them for breakfast time.
- Cook for several days at one time, and store in portions in the refrigerator or freezer – reheating as required.
- Soak your oats to speed up cooking time (this also has other health benefits).
This information presented to you acts as a guide which contains researched information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.
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