Baby rice has been recommended as the first food for babies around 6 months for a long time. However, there are better alternatives to start weaning your baby. In this article, our In-house Paediatrician explains why baby rice is low in nutrients and what healthier alternatives you can choose.
Baby rice is low in nutrients:
Plain baby rice is quite low in healthy carbohydrates, fat and protein. Most importantly, it has a very low fibre content. Your baby’s gut needs some fibre to establish a happy and healthy gut flora. Given the low nutritional value, almost all baby rice products are fortified with synthetic Vitamin B, C and iron. But why give a fortified meal when there is plenty of choice of foods packed with natural vitamins and micronutrients?
There are recurrent concerns about the arsenic content in baby rice:
Arsenic is naturally found in soil and water. As rice is cultivated in water fields, it is prone to absorb the arsenic found there. Even organically grown rice often shows higher concentrations of arsenic due to the environment it is cultivated in. High concentrations of arsenic in our bloodstream may lead to neurological problems and this is the reason why there are strict regulations about the minimal allowed amount of arsenic in baby food. Unfortunately, it is difficult to reinforce these regulations and arsenic keeps being found in samples of baby rice.
Baby rice is highly refined:
In order to make it dissolve easily in water or milk, baby rice is highly processed into small flakes. This sets sugars free and takes away the little nutritional value the rice had before processing it.
Baby rice has a bland flavour:
Babies get used to different flavours when they are fed with breast milk. This is one of the reasons why we don’t have to start with bland flavours but can dive right into intense and interesting flavours, such as vegetables and fruits.
With all this information, you will probably wonder if you might harm your baby when you feed baby rice. The answer is: NO! Baby rice is a safe option to get babies used to a new texture, it’s just important to know that there are healthier options.
Here are some healthy alternatives to baby rice:
Vegetables: Especially the dark green and bitter ones, as they are relatively rich in iron. Steamed broccoli florets as finger food or pureed kale are a great option to start and get our little one used to interesting new flavours and textures.
Oats or Millet flakes: Oats are also a good source of natural iron. For babies under 6 months, it would be best to start with millet - as it’s gluten-free and therefore easier to digest. Combine them with some fruit to increase the iron absorption. The good thing is: You can simply share your own breakfast porridge with your little one.
Author: Dr Sophie Niedermaier In-house Pediatrician & Co-Founder of Little Tummy