In some parts of the world, lentils are an important part of the diet and are eaten daily, both by infants and adults.
In other cultures, however, lentils are less popular as a food for babies and many parents worry about the potential “gassiness” or “wind” that giving their babies lentils may cause.
Yet these little legumes are very nutritious and would make a wonderful addition to your baby’s menu. So let’s look at lentils in a little more detail!
Lentils, which are related to peas, have been providing nutrition to the human race for a very long time! In fact, there is evidence of their cultivation dating back as far as 6,000 BC! They are believed to have their origins in south west Asia and northern Syria.
Lentil seeds are contained in pods which are usually left to dry on the plant prior to harvesting. Although there are only two main groups of lentils – large seeded and small/medium seeded – there are lots of varieties within each group.
Lentils readily take on the flavour of foods they are cooked with, making them ideal as a food for your baby. Another point in their favour is that they are rarely responsible for any type of allergic reaction.
And, of course, with their high protein content, lentils make an ideal meat substitute for vegetarian babies.
(Please note – lentils and other legumes may not be suitable for babies with G6PD Deficiency – please see this page for more information).
They do not cause gas as often as brown or green lentils because they contain less fibre (approximately 11% as opposed to 31%).
They also cook to a mushier consistency, so they may appeal more to your baby than the firmer varieties.
On the other hand, older babies may enjoy well cooked Puy lentils as a finger food – although it is important to make sure your baby is developmentally ready to eat lentils in this way.
Lentils are VERY good for your baby (and for you, too) – and here’s why they are credited with being one of the world’s healthiest foods by Health Magazine…
Lentils are a good source of
Encouraging a taste for lentils at an early stage is a good idea, because the regular consumption of lentils in later life offers many benefits. Because they provide slow-burning complex carbohydrates and replenish iron stores, lentils increase energy levels. Lentils also help lower cholesterol, which means they are good for the heart.
There are many varieties of lentils, but there are three main kinds that you are likely to encounter at your local grocery store.
You may also come across other colours, including black lentils (often called Beluga lentils because they look like caviar when they’re cooked) and white lentils (which are basically skinned, split black lentils).
Unlike other legumes, lentils don’t need soaking – although you can soak them for a few hours if you prefer, which cuts the cooking time by approximately half. If you don’t soak them, you should rinse them in cold water before cooking and go through them to remove any small stones.
Lentils are very easy to cook and preparation guidelines are normally included on the packaging. They are usually simmered, covered, in 3 parts water or stock to one part lentils. The cooking time depends on the variety, but as a rough guide…
Cooked lentils freeze well, particularly the mushy variety! If you want to freeze brown or green lentils and retain their texture, you should only partially cook them before freezing.
Dried lentils, stored in a cool place, will keep for around a year.
Lentils and other legumes have a reputation for causing gas because they contain large sugar molecules that the body is unable to break down. These molecules end up in the large intestine, where they are eaten by bacteria – and gas is produced as a result.
But not everyone has a problem with legumes – indeed, different foods tend to cause gas for different people.
The best advice is to start by giving your baby small quantities of lentils, once he is already enjoying fruits and veggies (probably at around 7/8 months+, although some babies enjoy them far sooner).
As long as there are no symptoms of digestive upset, then try offering a little more.
Consider this – babies in Indian cultures, where the lentil dish dhal (or dal) is a staple food, are regularly fed lentils from the time they start solids.
This is often at 4 or 5 months – earlier than recommended in western cultures – yet they tend to do very well with them.
Some experts believe that eating lentils and other legumes on a regular basis “conditions” the body so it is able to digest them more easily.