A recent study published in the New England Journal Of Medicine pointed out that India has the second most obese children in the world. At the same time, other studies show that iron deficiency anemia among young children is on the rise. What we have today is an increasing population of overweight and obese kids who suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies. In this scenario bringing back, ancient grains like millets for babies could be the starting point to reversing this trend.
With busier lives, we are increasingly depending on processed foods as quick meals. More and more families these days rely on easily accessible and ready to eat foods containing processed flours like noodles, bread, ready meals, and bakery items.
These foods are not only devoid of nutrients but also loaded with saturated fats, trans fats, sugars, and other chemical additives.
Today iron deficiency is a major public health problem in developing countries and affects up to 50% of infants, children, and women of childbearing age.
As parents, we need to be aware of the nutritional needs of our children. The use of nutrient-dense foods helps avoid nutritional deficiencies and at the same time aid in healthy weight gain.
Yes, I understand, with busy lives not everyone has time to cook every meal from scratch, but these days there are companies like Slurrp Farm that make a range of products that are suited to the busy lifestyle. Slurrp Farm makes sure their products are low on added sugar, devoid of preservatives, artificial colors, and trans fats. At the same time, they are bringing millets back on the plate.
In this post, let’s look at some interesting facts and research about the use of millets for babies.
MILLETS FOR BABIES: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
What are millets?
Millets are tiny seeded grasses that are largely grown in Africa and Asia.
Types of millets
Sorghum (jowar), finger millet (ragi), foxtail millet, pearl millet (bajra), kodo millet, barnyard millet, proso millet to name a few.
Health benefits of millets for babies?
- Millets have a high nutrient value. Providing energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals in good amounts per serving.
- They contain antioxidants that put them in the superfood criteria helping protect against cardiovascular ailments, diabetes, cancers and nutrient deficit problems. In my previous post on superfoods for kids, I mentioned some of the superfood benefits of millets.
- Millets are also easily digestible and gluten free making them suited as first foods for babies.
Key nutrients in millets
[Source: Info provided by Slurrp Farm]
Barnyard millets – 6.20 gm protein, 65.55 gm carbohydrates, 13.6 gm fiber, 18.6mg iron, and 27.6 mg calcium
Finger millet (ragi) – 7.16 gm protein, 66.82 gm carbohydrates, 11.18gm fiber, 4.62 mg iron and 384 mg calcium
Foxtail millet (navane) -11.2gm protein, 63.2 gm carbohydrate, 6.7 gm fiber, 2.8 mg iron and 31 mg calcium
Kodo millet – 8.92 gm protein, 66.19 gm carbohydrate, 6.39 gm dietary fiber, 2.34 mg iron and 15.27 mg calcium
Pearl millet (bajra) -10.96 gm protein, 61.78 gm carbohydrate, 11.49 gm dietary fiber, 6.42 iron and 27.35 mg calcium.
Proso millet (barre) -12.5 gm protein, 70.4 gm carbohydrate, 5.20 gm dietary fiber, 2.9 mg iron, 8 mg calcium
Sorghum (jowar) – 9.97 gm protein, 67.68 gm carbohydrate, 10.22 gm fiber, 3.95 mg iron, and 27.6 mg calcium.
Iron and calcium needs of babies and toddlers
7-12 months need: Iron – 11 mg/day
6-12 months need: Calcium 260 mg/day
1-3 years need: Iron – 7 mg/day, Calcium 700 mg/day
As seen from the nutrient profile above, millets can serve as a key source of protein, fiber, iron, and calcium in a child’s diet. All of these are essential for proper development in the growing years.
A recent study found that pearl millet that was bred to be iron-rich (biofortification) was able to reverse iron deficiency in school going Indian kids in a matter of six months.
The study followed school going kids aged 12 to 16 years, many of whom were iron-deficient, who were then given iron-rich pearl millet in the form of bhakri (a flat, unleavened bread) at mid-day and evening meals.
This kind of pearl millet biofortification helps in two ways, one as an effective strategy to beat malnutrition in Indian children and two help small farmers by providing a hardy crop able to face the vagaries of climate change.
An important point to note when using millets for babies is that they contain certain antinutrients like phytates that block absorption of iron and zinc. But soaking and cooking of millet grains have been found to reduce the phytates and enhance nutrient bioavailability and nutritional quality of millet food products.
This is the key reason to use processes like soaking, roasting, fermenting and germinating when cooking with millets.
Millets v/s Quinoa for babies, which is better?
A common question asked by mothers is; which is better? millets or quinoa?
In terms of nutrition profile, both quinoa and millets contain ample amounts of antioxidants and fiber that give them that superfood status. The only major difference is that quinoa is a complete protein. If you are not a meat eater (meat contains complete proteins) keep this point in mind when making the swap to millets.
Mix it up, and eat a variety of foods containing complete proteins alongside, like the dal and rice combination, chia seeds, and soy products.
Wondering how to cook with millets?
MILLET RECIPES FOR BABIES AND TODDLERS
Millets can be used in porridge for babies. In fact ragi porridge is a revered first food for babies in India. Other than porridge you can use millets to make idlis, dosas, pancakes, salads, upma, stews, soups and bhakris (flatbread).
Here is a simple millet recipe for babies;
An Indian baby food recipe: Millet sheera
This millet recipe can be used both for traditional weaning and baby led weaning approach. Cook to a lumpy thick texture that is easy for baby to pick up in tiny lumps using the pincer grasp.
Banana is added to the millet recipe as a natural sweeter and relieves constipation.
1 cup jowar (sorghum flour)
2 tsp ghee
1 ripe banana
½ tsp cardamom powder
1 and a half cup water
Roast the jowar flour in ghee until it turns light golden brown.
Then add 1 and a half cup water and mashed banana. Intermittently mix the porridge so that it doesn’t stick to the vessel.
Add cardamom powder for flavor.
Let this cook to a gloopy texture. Cool and serve.
Finger food recipe for toddlers: Millet paniyaram and coconut sesame chutney
The paniyarams are made using Slurrp Farm beetroot dosa mix, that contains oats, finger millet, black gram, red rice, semolina and beetroot making it an iron and protein-packed snack. Paired with coconut sesame seed chutney for healthy fats and calcium. Paniyaram is an easy finger food to pack in a school lunch box or carry for travel.
1 packet Slurrp Farm beetroot dosa mix
1 cup water
For Coconut sesame chutney
½ cup grated coconut
2-3 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
1/2 tablespoon tamarind
2 cloves garlic
¼th cup of water
- Add 1 cup of water to 1 packet of Slurrpfarm beetroot dosa. Mix until all lumps have disappeared and the batter is an even consistency. Let the batter sit for 15-20 minutes.
- Use a paniyaram pan to make the paniyaram. Paniyaram’s are soft on the inside like idli’s and crispy on the outside.
- Blend all the chutney ingredients in a mixy and add water as needed to make chutney in the consistency you prefer.
- Serve hot paniyaram with coconut sesame chutney.
To sum it up,
Use millets as a part of a balanced diet that includes different legumes, lentils, grains, nuts, and seeds.
In a well-balanced diet, millets can boost nutrient consumption in kids. Meeting most of the growing child’s protein and iron requirements and aiding steady weight gain making them a healthy addition to the plate.
Hope you found this article useful. Next time you spot a packet of millets in the supermarket aisle you know you got to grab it.
How do you incorporate millets into your child’s diet? Leave us some tips and recipes in the comments below.
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This post is sponsored by Slurrp Farm and is meant to educate parents about the use and importance of millets for kids nutrition.
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