We are sometimes asked if it’s OK for babies to eat brown rice and if brown rice is better for babies than white.
Well, the answer to both of these questions is a big YES!
Brown rice is not just the healthiest choice for your baby – it’s good for the whole family and is packed with important nutrients.
Please note: You should always discuss the introduction of new foods to your baby with his doctor. Remember that all new foods should be introduced separately, at least four days apart, to help you identify possible food allergies and digestive problems.
A grain of rice is composed of several different layers. Only the outside layer, the ‘hull’, is removed during the production of brown rice and very little goodness is lost by the grain in the process.
But during the production of white rice, the grains are milled to remove more layers – the bran and almost all of the germ. This process strips the grains of the majority of their nutrients.
In the final part of the process, another layer called ‘aleurone’ is removed and the grains are polished. But aleurone is a good source of essential fats, which play such an important role in your baby’s diet.
So what are you left with?
White rice – a refined starch that offers your little one very little in the way of nutrition.
Just look at what it contains!
Other important benefits gained from eating brown rice include a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and lower levels of cholesterol.
Yet a very large percentage of these valuable nutrients are lost during the production of white rice.
By law, white rice in some countries must be ‘enriched’ and certain nutrients must be added back in. So it should be just as good for you as brown rice, right?
Wrong – because the nutrients are not in their original form, they are far less beneficial to health. In fact, enriched white rice is STILL lacking 11 valuable nutrients that are NEVER replaced (see The World’s Healthiest Foods for more information).
Some people say that brown rice does not taste as good as white.
But these people have often grown up ONLY eating white rice, which actually has very little flavour (unsurprising, when you consider how much is removed from the grain to produce it!).
Brown rice does taste VERY different to white!
Its flavour is almost nutty and – conversely – people who regularly eat brown rice find white rice very bland and unappetizing.
That’s why it’s a good idea to get your baby accustomed to the full flavour of nutritious brown rice from an early age – you’ll probably find that he turns his nose up at starchy old white rice in the future!
Carefully check the ‘best by’ date on any packets of brown rice that you buy for your family.
Once you get it home, store it in the refrigerator. This is because, unlike white rice, the oily germ of brown rice is intact.There is the possibility that this could turn rancid if the rice is not stored at a sufficiently cool temperature.
You have to be very careful when storing cooked rice, as bacteria can multiply very quickly.
Many sources say that you can store it for up to 4 days in the refrigerator – but we prefer to err on the side of caution and suggest that you only cook rice for your baby on the day that you plan to serve it to him… and throw any leftovers away!
Alternatively, you can make up a batch of brown rice and freeze it.
Because the bacteria in rice multiply so rapidly, it is important to cool cooked rice very quickly if you plan to freeze it. The best way to do this is to spread it out in a shallow container – but never leave rice sitting for more than one hour at room temperature.
Once the rice has cooled, freeze it in individual freezer bags, so you have handy portions available for your baby’s next meal. You can store frozen rice for up to 6 months.
Brown rice is rarely responsible for allergic reactions.
But according to research discussed on the Worlds Healthiest Foods website, traces of arsenic may be present in non-organic U.S. brown rice. Although these traces are too small to cause serious short term illness, in the long term they can have negative effects on the body.
You may, therefore, prefer to offer organically grown brown rice to your baby.
The easiest way to prepare brown rice for very young babies is to first rinse it, then grind it in a food processor that’s built for the job!
Brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice…
Around twice as long, in fact.
But you can get around this by measuring out the amount of water you will need to cook it, then soaking it overnight – it really speeds up the cooking time!
Remember… don’t drain the water you soaked it in, use it to cook the rice instead. This means you don’t lose any of its precious nutrients.
Brown rice can easily be substituted for white in any recipe calling for rice – but do bear in mind that it will take longer to cook unless you have pre-soaked it. Here are some other suggestions…
The following recipes give a ‘lumpier’ texture, so you may prefer to mash or puree these dishes for your baby. If the texture is a little too thick after pureeing, then add a little stock, water or juice to achieve the desired texture!