Baby oatmeal is nutritious and a wonderful way to start baby’s day! Here we look at how to cook oatmeal – or porridge – for your little one!
These days, however, there are HEAPS of different oat products to choose from – so let’s look at what’s available and the benefits of including oats in your baby’s diet.
Oats – usually known as oatmeal or porridge once prepared – are one of the most nutritious grain cereals you can buy.
Unlike many other grains, which undergo extensive and damaging processing before they reach store shelves, oats are always whole. This applies whether they are steel cut, rolled, quick cooking or instant.
This means they retain all the goodness contained in the germ, endosperm and bran… and that’s a lot of goodness!
It’s a good idea to get your children to enjoy oats from an early age, as they play a very important role in good health throughout adulthood too.
Regularly eating oats…
Oats are one of the least allergenic foods.
Whilst it’s important to remember that ANY food has the potential to cause an allergic reaction, oats are among the safest to introduce to your baby as a first food.
Due to their high fibre content, they do not cause constipation in the way that rice cereal often does.
Read more here about The Best First Food For Baby and why rice cereal may not be the most suitable choice for your little one).
Of course, you should always discuss the introduction of any new foods with your child’s doctor – particularly if you plan to include them before your baby is 6 months old.
Before 6 months of age, babies should not be given foods containing gluten, as this is believed to raise the risk of their developing Coeliac (Celiac) disease (more information here).
But whether or not oats are considered a ‘gluten containing’ grain is the subject of some speculation.
Oats do contain a little of the glutenin and gliadin that make up gluten and which are associated with the potential development of Celiac disease.
There is also an issue of cross-contamination, where oats may be contaminated by other gluten-containing grains with which they are grown, harvested, processed or stored.
However, most people with Celiac disease seem to tolerate oats very well.
Indeed, pure oat products in certain parts of the world, particularly Scandinavian countries, are marketed as being an acceptable part of a gluten-free diet.
Nevertheless, it is still wise to consult your doctor if you plan to introduce oats to a child with a family history of gluten intolerance.
When oats are harvested, they have a tough, inedible hull which has to be removed before cooking. Once the hull is removed, you are left with the delightfully named oat groats.
Oat groats take a LONG time to cook (around 50 mins) and need to be cooked in more water than ‘regular’ oats (three parts water to one part groats). They have a lovely chewy texture… but probably a little too much texture for your baby to enjoy!
When the groats are cut into 2 or 3 pieces, they are known as steel cut oats.
Steel cut oats come in various thicknesses and generally have a hearty texture. They take longer to cook than ‘regular’ oats – around 30 mins – but generally require less water in preparation than oat groats (only 2 parts water to 1 part steel cut oats).
Sometimes, oat groats are steamed then passed through rollers, giving you rolled oats or old-fashioned oats.
Rolled oats vary in size and thickness and are sometimes flaked before rolling. Regular rolled oats take around 15 mins to cook, whereas thinner flakes or ‘Quick Oats’ may cook in as little as five.
Rolled oats generally require 1 part oats to 2 parts water in preparation (although instructions are usually provided on the packaging).
Instant oats are cut fine and rolled extremely thinly. They simply require the addition of boiling water – but, although still a whole grain product, tend to be less nutritious because they have usually had sugar, salt or other flavourings added to them.
Whenever you buy any oat products for your baby, you need to make sure that the only ingredients listed on the label are oats, or rolled oats.
Oats tend to go rancid more quickly than other grains – so buying them in very large quantities is not a good idea.
You should store your oats in an airtight container, in a dark, cool place for around 2 months in order to maintain their freshness.
It’s very easy to grind your own oats to make baby oatmeal (porridge) with the smooth texture he enjoys (special, commercially produced baby oatmeal or infant oatmeal is not essential!).Oats may be ground in a coffee grinder or even a regular food processor (this Spice and Coffee Grinder is great as it’s relatively inexpensive and will efficiently grind grains, spices and coffee).
Another option is to prepare oatmeal in the usual way, then puree it afterwards!
Visit our blog to find out What To Do With Leftover Oatmeal!