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.
Are you another Anu wanting to know whether oats is good for your toddler? Are you worried whether your child can digest oats? Will it lead to obesity in your toddler? If you're plagued by such doubts, then this article is for you.
You will agree that the toddler age group is characterised by constant activity. It is a stage when a child requires 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 values of a diet by providing the required dose of fibre, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. The Council also recommends oats as the number one food for breakfast in terms of ‘feeling satisfied and full’. Looking for more reasons to include oats in your child’s diet? Read on…
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 has antioxidant properties. It is an excellent source of fibre. It has wound healing properties and enhances gut health. Oats is also proven to decrease the risk of asthma in children.
Introducing oats to your toddler
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 a nourishing meal all the way to toddlerhood.
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 it. Fibre improves gut his health by allowing him 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 is a good remedy to reduce these symptoms.
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 child, 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.
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 child is able to digest oats, start adding fruits, vegetables, yogurt or meats. 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 child’s brain health and heart-healthy antioxidants
- 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
200 g oats
100 g 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.
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. For healthy ways to cook whole grains and tips on buying them, check out this ClipBook.