A hale and hearty baby is what each mother wishes her little one to be. What better than giving oats which among other nutritious benefits is also good for your baby’s heart health. Oats, when consumed regularly, is known to decrease blood cholesterol levels in adults. Not only is it good for adults but also for babies due to its numerous health and nutritious benefits which you will soon learn about.
The first year of life is crucial for your baby’s growth and development. Your baby which until six months relied on breastmilk, will now need increased nutrients which breastmilk alone cannot supply. If complementary foods are not provided at this time, your baby will not show adequate weight gain and if this continues, then there may even be a delay in achieving important milestones. Which is why WHO recommends that at six months of age, in addition to breast milk, complementary foods be given to babies. Complementary foods should be easily digestible, nutrient dense as well as easy to make.
Traditionally cereals and millets like rice, ragi, bajra and others have been given in various Indian states as complementary foods and Oats for babies in India was not so common. But in addition to all the other grains, even oats can be used to make complementary foods for your babies. Oats or Jaei as it’s known in Hindi or Avena sativa to give it its scientific name is a whole grain food which can be made in different recipes and given to the baby. But before we tell you how to make recipes using oats for babies, let us first understand what the different types of oats are.
Types of Oats
Oats are available in different forms depending upon the amount of processing involved. The following is a list from least processed to most processed.
- Oat groats or whole oats: Only the outer husk is removed, and the bran, endosperm and germ of the whole grain are intact.
- Steel cut oats: These are essentially oat groats cut into 2-3 smaller pieces using sharp stainless-steel knives/blades.
- Oatmeal: In this case, oat groats are stone-ground to a meal or flour. Like how wheat is ground to make whole wheat flour. (aata not maida)
- Rolled Oats: The oat groats are steamed, rolled and flattened into flakes and then dried to make the rolled oats. Like how rice is rolled to make poha.
- Instant Oats: Here the oat groats are steamed for a longer time and rolled into thinner pieces so that they can easily absorb the moisture and get cooked quickly which is why they are called ‘instant’.
- Baby Oats: Baby Oats are oat flakes rolled into smaller flakes for a speedy preparation.
Remember, the greater the processing the more it is stripped of nutrients that are sensitive to heat and moisture like B vitamins. Conversely, the greater the processing the lesser the cooking time needed. Which then brings us to the question, “Which is the best type of oats?” Steel cut oats have the advantage of both ease of cooking as well as intact nutrition. So given a choice it is best that steel cut oats are selected to explore different recipes using oats for babies.
Health Benefits of Oats
Here are why oats are good for your babies:
- High fibre content: Fibre as we know prevents constipation. The fibre absorbs water, like a sponge, and increase the weight and water content of stool. The baby can thus pass stools easily without any pain or crying.
- Better gut health: The beta-glucan, a type of soluble fibre, found in oats is responsible for lowering cholesterol and thus is heart healthy. Also, the breakdown and fermentation of beta-glucan has shown improvement in gut microflora diversity.
- Healthy bones: Oats are a good source of manganese as well as phosphorus both of which are important for healthy and strong bones of your baby.
- Protein: They are a fairly good source of protein compared to other cereals like rice and wheat. Protein is needed for healthy muscles and for wound healing.
- Gluten free: Some varieties of oats are gluten free. However, oats are frequently contaminated with wheat and barley, so it is important that labels be read carefully before use.
Introducing Oats as a Complementary Food
At six months, oats in the form of porridge can be given to your baby. Oats are known to be the least allergic to babies. Start by giving one teaspoon at a time initially and then increase the quantity if no signs of allergy like a rash, breathing difficulties or diarrhea are seen. Always keep a gap of three days before introducing any new food in the baby’s diet.
Oats Recipes for Babies
Oats are versatile and an array of dishes can be made using oats for babies which not only bring about healthy weight gain but also provide necessary nutrients. These recipes using oats are easy to make and digest too.
- Oats Porridge: This soft, mushy gruel is what is most frequently introduced at six months before other oats dishes are given. Take two tablespoons of rolled oats flour or even better steel-cut oats flour in a pan and add one cup of boiling water stirring continuously so that no lumps are formed. After cooling, add some milk and continue mixing. For older infants, use milk to make the porridge instead of water.
- Oats and Fruit Porridge: Initially plain steel-cut oats porridge is introduced and as the baby grows, add fruit purees of banana, pears, apple or mango to the porridge. This way instead of using sugar, fruits provide necessary sweetness as well as variety and taste to the porridge. Add a dash of cinnamon which not only has some great medicinal benefits but also introduces your baby to the world of new flavors.
- Oats and Vegetable Khichdi: When your baby is ready to advance to the next array of foods, oats mixed with lentils and vegetables makes a delicious khichdi. Add Cumin powder (jeera), Carom seeds powder (ajwain) or asafoetida (hing) to khichdi to aid better digestion and provide greater nutrition to babies.
- Oats and Nuts Porridge: Once the world of fruits and vegetables is explored, introduce nuts and seeds in your baby’s porridge. Almonds, Cashews, Pistachios, Pumpkin Seeds & Flax seeds are some of them. But be careful about the choking hazards. Powder the nuts and use a spoonful of this dry-fruits powder in your baby’s oats porridge. Oats flour with a mixed fruits puree and a dry-fruit powder mix is a delicious nutritious porridge for your little munchkin.
- Oats Idli: In a bowl mix one cup of oats flour, half cup of semolina/rava, a pich of salt and half cup of curd. Add water as needed to make a batter like consistency. Add a pinch of baking soda and allow to rise for a few minutes. Pour a ladleful of batter in an idli mould and steam. After 10 minutes remove the idlis from mould and they are ready to serve.
- Oats Dosa: The traditional dosa or Indian crispy pancakes with oats are an equally delicious snack. Take two tablespoons each of oats flour, rice flour (brown rice flour is even better) and curd. Mix in a bowl and add half to one cup of water and a pinch of salt. Mix well till a thick dosa batter is formed. You can then proceed to make dosa on a flat pan, as always, with a little oil or ghee.
Oats are not just good for the baby but even for mom’s health. If you want to be slim and trim, have a healthy heart and manage your blood sugar levels well then oats is what you should be including in your diet too, dear mom. Oats is the secret to your baby and your good health. Why not try some recipes using oats today?
Check out some interesting oats porridge mixes here for a quick preparation with wholesome nutrition.