Is Oats Good For Babies?
Many young parents today are confused and curious to understand how oats affects their kid's health. Should oats be included in their diet? Is it good for babies? Find out in this article!
By Shiny Lizia M • 10 min read
Anu had been to her son Rohit’s playschool to meet his teacher when she overheard some parents discussing enthusiastically about oats. While some parents were talking very positively about the health benefits of oats, others weren’t, with some even critical of it.
Anu didn’t participate in the discussion; merely listening to the debate spurred her curiosity. Now, she wanted to look at the real picture.
As soon as she returned home from school, she turned on the Internet and started searching for information on oats. Like most online searches, this one also resulted in a host of contradictory information. On the one hand, Anu read that instant oatmeal, usually consumed with a lot of sugar and milk, leads to weight gain in most children. On the other hand, certain websites recommended consuming oats for weight loss. This left Anu wondering what the right choice was. Is oats good for babies and kids?
Are you another Anu wanting to know whether oats is good for your baby? Are you worried whether your little one can digest oats? Will it lead to obesity in your child? If you're plagued by such doubts, then this article is for you.
Oats for babies
You will agree that the toddler age group is characterised by constant activity. It is a stage when babies require nutrient-dense foods to meet their increasing energy levels. Compare oats with other traditional foods like rice, barley, buckwheat and wheat, and oats wins hands down because of its impressive nutritional profile. In fact, the Whole Grains Council states that oats enhances the nutritional value of a diet by providing the required dose of fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The Council also recommends oats as the number one food for breakfast in terms of ‘feeling satisfied and full’.
Health benefits of oats for babies
Oats is a unique cereal. It consists of a large amount of total proteins, carbohydrates, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. It is a reliable source of minerals like calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for building bones; iron, which is essential for haemoglobin production; magnesium, which helps in energy generation and also plays a role in bone and dental health; potassium and sodium, which maintain the electrolyte balance in your child’s body, and zinc, which is essential for brain development. Oats also contains vitamins like thiamin, niacin and vitamin E (tocopherols), which have antioxidant properties. It is an excellent source of fibre. It has wound healing properties and enhances gut health. Oats has also proven to decrease the risk of asthma in children.
Nutritional value of oats, raw (per 100g)
- Energy 379 kcal
- Protein 13.15g
- Fat 6.52g
- Carbohydrate 66.22g
- Fibre 10.1g
- Sugars 0.99g
- Calcium, Ca 52mg
- Iron, Fe 4.25mg
- Magnesium, Mg 138mg
- Phosphorus, P 410mg
- Potassium, K 362mg
- Sodium, Na 6mg
- Zinc, Zn 3.64mg
- Copper, Cu 0.391mg
- Selenium, Se 28.9mcg
- Thiamin 0.46mg
- Riboflavin 0.155mg
- Niacin 1.125mg
Data based on USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) - National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
When can you start oats for babies?
Complementary feeding plays a crucial role in meeting the nutritional demands of your child when he is experiencing a transition in his feeding pattern. Oats is an ideal choice while introducing solid foods to your baby after six months of exclusive breastfeeding. Starting from this stage onwards, oats makes for nourishing meals, especially breakfasts, all the way to toddlerhood.
Recommended amount of oatmeal per day
The Dietary Guidelines for Indians (National Institute of Nutrition, 2010) recommends 15 g of cereal grains per day for babies (6-12 months), 30 g per meal (2 portions a day) for toddlers (1-3 years) and 30 g per meal (4 portions a day) for children (4-6 years).
Digestion of oats
Oats is high in soluble fibre which makes it easy for your baby to digest. Fibre improves gut health by allowing your baby to pass gas easily and by adding bulk to the stools, thereby preventing constipation. Toddlers who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux and colic experience significant pain and discomfort on eating. Oats can prove to be a good remedy to reduce these symptoms.
Oats allergy in babies
Generally, oatmeal makes a good first food for babies, since it has a low risk of causing an allergic reaction. However, it could cause an allergic response as a side effect, particularly if it is contaminated with wheat gluten. Hence, when you introduce oats to your baby for the first time, keep an eye out for the following symptoms: gastrointestinal complaints, hives and rashes, diarrhoea, vomiting and breathing difficulties.
Types of oats
Based on the degree of processing it undergoes, oats can be classified into: raw oats, whole oat groats, steel cut oats, Scottish oatmeal, rolled oats (old fashioned), instant rolled oats and oat flour. In India, rolled oats and oat flour are commonly available. However, processed and pre-packaged oats may be high in sodium and sugar. It may also have lost some of its vitamins and minerals due to the mechanical processing. Before buying oats for your kid, read the nutrition facts label on the packet. When you introduce oatmeal to your baby for the first time, do not add any fruit, vegetable or herb so that you can identify whether your baby is allergic to oats.
Oats porridge for babies: How to make it healthier
Oatmeal is the porridge made by cooking oats in water or milk with salt or sugar. If your toddler needs a finer, smoother texture, puree the already cooked oatmeal. When preparing oatmeal for your toddler, add sufficient quantity of water to ensure the oats is cooked well. If your kid is able to digest oats, start adding fruits, vegetables, yogurt or meat. Addition of:
- milk to oatmeal increases its protein and calcium content
- curd/yoghurt to oatmeal increases its protein, calcium content and probiotic benefits
- fresh fruits like apple or banana to oatmeal for the younger children and strawberries, chikku, mangoes to oatmeal for the older ones improves its vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre content
- adding nuts such as almonds and walnuts in powder or paste form, and dried fruits like raisins, prunes and berries to oatmeal improves its flavor, healthy fatty acid profile improving your kid’s brain health and heart-healthy antioxidants
Oats recipes for babies and kids
- for making the oatmeal sweet while retaining its goodness, replace sugar with honey or jaggery
If you’d like to try a traditional dish made by substituting rice with oats, check out this yummy idli recipe from the above list:
- 200g oats
- 100g ural dal (split black gram)
- ½ carrot, grated
- ½ tsp oil
- ¼ tsp mustard seeds
- ¼ tsp Bengal gram dal
- Salt to taste
Soak oats in water for 30 minutes. Soak urad dal separately for 30 minutes. Grind the two separately. Mix them together with the grated carrot. Add the required amount of salt. Temper mustard seeds and Bengal gram dal. Stir well. Grease the idli moulds. Pour the batter in the moulds and steam in an idli cooker till done. Allow to cool. Remove the idlis from the moulds. Serve with a chutney that your toddler likes.
For more oats recipes for kids, read:
Give your child a bowl of oats for breakfast to keep her feeling full and to provide her with energy to sail through the day happily.
With all the running around they do, most children have a healthy appetite. Include whole grains in their diet so that they feel fuller for a long time and get their dose of daily nutrition.
About the author:
Written by Shiny Lizia M on 26 July 2017; updated on 8 May 2020
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