From being a ‘poor people’s crop’ to being touted as a nutraceutical Ragi or finger millet has come a long way. Because of its multitudinous effects on human health ragi is the new millet on the block which has been awarded the status of a nutraceutical- ‘a food that provides medical, health benefits, including prevention and treatment of disease’. Hence Ragi cereal for baby is a must-have in the regular diet.
Some lesser known nutritional and health benefits of Ragi
Most of us know ragi benefits like it has three times more calcium than milk and thirty times more calcium than rice or wheat which is necessary for healthy bones and teeth. It is one of the least allergenic foods and easy to digest. But here are some lesser known facts about ragi. Millet network of India in their study confirmed that as compared to its more popular peers rice and wheat, ragi “is an exceptionally rich source of calcium, chromium, zinc, copper and magnesium essential for good health”. Ragi reduces the severity of asthma because of high magnesium content. It possesses antimicrobial properties and fermented ragi is known to inhibit the growth of Salmonella typhimurium bacteria that causes typhoid and Escherichia coli bacteria that causes diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever. It is also a good source of essential amino acids like arginine, lysine, methionine, lecithin and performs important functions in the body like improves immune function, decreases healing time of wounds, increases muscle mass and blood circulation and stimulates the release of the growth hormone.
Ragi cereal for baby
Keeping the above ragi benefits in mind, it’s a no brainer that ragi is well suited for growing babies. While mothers are becoming increasingly aware of the nutritional benefits of ragi a common question that most mothers often pose is, “How can I cook ragi cereal for baby?”. This millet is so versatile that a variety of ragi cereal for baby can be made in a number of ways as follows. Each recipe is a balanced wholesome meal to ensure your baby gets the maximum nutrition.
- Ragi Porridge for babies: This deliciously creamy, chocolate brown gruel can be made in different ways. For younger infants around 6 months of age the ragi porridge is made using water while for older infants, milk is added to the porridge.
- Ragi Porridge with water and ragi powder: Take a cup full of ragi and roast it till the aroma wafts out. Allow to cool and then grind into a fine flour. Take a spoonful of ragi powder in a pan, roast it with a dollop of ghee or fat, add water and stir to the required consistency, adding powdered jaggery or dates.
- Ragi Porridge with milk and ragi powder: When you want to make ragi porridge with milk proceed as above taking a spoonful of ragi powder and roasting it with a blob of butter and then adding water, stirring till a thick mixture. Then remove from flame and add breastmilk or formula milk and continue stirring to a gruel like consistency. It is now ready to serve your baby one spoon at a time. By adding milk, the protein quantity and quality of the porridge have improved.
- Ragi Porridge with Ragi Malt: Ragi malt powder (germinated ragi) can be used to make ragi porridge instead of ragi powder following the same procedure as above. The ragi malt has greater nutritious benefits as compared to ragi powder and it is preferable to make ragi porridge with it.
- Ragi Porridge with fruit: Want to make ragi porridge delicious with different flavors? What better than adding some mashed fruit puree like banana, chikoo, mango, pear, apple to the porridge after removing from the flame and before feeding the baby. If the baby is prone to constipation, then adding pears to porridge makes baby have softer stools. Adding fruits increases the fiber and vitamin content of the porridge.
- Ragi Porridge with almonds and dates: By adding grounded dates and powdered almonds to the ragi porridge the energy density increases. The dates will provide antioxidants, iron, fiber as well as add natural sweetness to the porridge. Almonds will provide protein, vitamin E and fiber.
- Ragi Jowar and Date porridge: A combination of two humble millets ragi and jowar makes this low on cost but high on nutrition with the added sweetness of dates. Take 1 ½ teaspoon of each of the millets and two deseeded dates. Wash and drain the ragi and jowar. In a pressure cooker add all the three ingredients with ½ cup of water and pressure cook for three whistles. Remove from the cooker and after cooling put the mixture in a grinder with ½ cup of water and grind until of uniform smooth consistency. Put the ground mixture in a pan and continue stirring on a medium flame for a couple of minutes. Your ragi jowar and date porridge is ready to be served.
- Ragi Barley and Sweet Potato cereal: Barley contains manganese, which is necessary for healthy bones, selenium an antioxidant which prevents cell damage and of course fiber that prevents constipation. Sweet potato provides additional calories, vitamin A for healthy vision and skin. By adding these to ragi the porridge gets a boost of nutrition. Sprouted ragi and barley are preferred since they are high in nutrition. Take ragi and barley in equal proportion (1:1) wash, soak overnight in water separately. Next morning drain the water and allow to germinate. After germination put in a pan and roast. Cool and grind in a grinder. The powder can be stored in an airtight container. To make a cereal take a tablespoon of the cereal mix in a pan. Add ½ cup of milk or water and cook into a porridge like consistency stirring consistency. A tablespoon of boiled and mashed sweet potato can be added. You can add a pinch of cinnamon for flavor.
- Ragi and Urad dal Porridge mix: For mothers on the movethis mix is a blessing. Take ragi and urad dal in the proportion of 2:1. Dry roast separately both ragi and urad dal in a pan. Allow to cool. Next, grind the roasted ragi into a powder after cooling. Do the same with the urad dal. Mix the two powders with a pinch of cardamom powder and store in an airtight container. A spoonful or two can be used to make a savory porridge when needed. The millet pulse combination increases the biological value of the protein by improving the amino acid profiles.
- Ragi and Mung dal Cereal mix: This millet dal mix is high in protein and can also be made in advance, stored and used to make a savory cereal as and when needed. Proceed as the above ragi and urad dal porridge mix simply substituting urad dal with mung dal which is easier to digest. Nutmeg powder can be added instead of cardamom powder.
- Ragi Wheat and Mung Cereal Mix: A combination of three whole grains are used to make this cereal mix. Wash each of the three types of grains separately. Dry on a muslin cloth overnight. Next day take each of the three types of grain separately and turn by turn roast in a pan till dry. After cooling, take equal proportions of the three different types of grain (1:1:1) and grind into a fine flour. Take a tablespoon and proceed to make the cereal as always. The combination of grains improves the protein quality of the porridge. However, if the baby is sensitive to gluten present in wheat then it needs to be avoided.
- Multi grain ragi malt mix: For mothers on the run this mix is a big savior and can be made in bulk and stored in an air-tight container. Leading pediatrician R.K. Anand has suggested this ready- to-use infant feeding mix. Three tablespoons of ragi to be soaked, germinated, dried, roasted and ground the same way as indicted in Ragi malt recipe. One and a half tablespoon of green gram/mung dal to be roasted and ground into a powder. Three fourth tablespoon of groundnut will be roasted and ground into a powder. One tablespoon of decorticated sesame/till seeds to be roasted and ground. Mix all the above powders along with two tablespoons of sugar and store in an airtight container. This mix is high in protein because of the use of mung and groundnuts and calcium because of the addition of ragi and til. It and can be used creatively to make several recipes.
- Ragi Dal Khichadi: Traditionally rice and assorted dals are used to make khichdi. However, seeing the nutritious benefits of ragi compared to rice it makes sense to make khichdi which is a meal in a dish for the baby. The combination of ragi and dal improves the biological value of the dish giving your baby better quality and quantity of protein. Take two spoons of ragi and two spoons of moong dal. Wash and soak overnight. Next morning drain the water that was used for soaking. In a pressure cooker add the soaked ragi and dal, enough water to cover the ragi dal mix and pressure cook for 2-3 whistles. Open the pressure cooker after releasing the pressure and mix with a ladle till of soft consistency. A blob of butter or ghee can be added. For variation boiled and pureed veggies like can be added to the khichdi. By adding yellow orange vegetables like pumpkin, tomato, carrot or dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, amaranth or methi leaves to the khichdi the vitamin A and C and fiber content increases. You may want to flavor the khichdi by tempering it with cumin and ajwain which aid in digestion.
- Ragi Sheera- Traditionally rava/semolina or whole wheat flour has been used to make sheera. Children who are gluten sensitive can however not tolerate wheat so using ragi as a substitute is a good option. Either ragi powder or malt can be used instead of wheat to make this sheera. Take a blob of ghee in a pan and add two spoons full of ragi malt or powder and roast till the aroma is given off. Next, add water and continue stirring till a thick consistency is obtained. By adding milk instead of water, the protein content of the sheera can be increased. It’s a good idea to not add sugar or jaggery to the sheera as children then get accustomed to eating sweet things. It would be better to add a spoonful of pureed fruit like banana, chikoo, mango or any other seasonal fruit. Powdered dates are another option that can naturally sweeten the sheera.
- Ragi Kanji- Take a spoonful ragi malt/flour in a pan. Add water and continue stirring so that no lumps are formed. For the sweet version add milk, jaggery, cardamom powder and stir till kanji consistency. For the savory version add butter milk, a pinch of salt (optional) and temper with mustard seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves.
Start with one teaspoon initially at six months and then gradually increase the quantity. It is important to follow the three-day rule when introducing ragi cereal recipes to babies. Once they show no signs of rash or allergy you can introduce another dish. Now that you know the different ways to cook ragi cereal for baby, go ahead and plan the next meal for your baby with ragi. Tell us how you went about cooking ragi cereal for your baby.