This April I will be doing a mini series that goes along with my ongoing Feeding Baby series, where I will share on one topic each week related to your baby’s eating habits.
In Week 1, I will discuss why you shouldn’t feed your baby rice cereal and offer alternative “first food” options. In Week 2, I will share a general list of foods to avoid before one year. Week 3 will cover fish safety and basic ways to prepare fish for your baby and the final week will discuss the importance of protein and fat in your baby's diet
I am so passionate about educating others on healthy choices and nutrition, and I think a large majority of parents are simply uninformed when it comes to these topics, especially if this is your first child or you don’t have any history in nutrition or medicine like I do. Everything I include is my personal opinion, based on 6+ years of college education, personal and professional experience and significant research. I am an RN (BSN) by degree and work closely with RDs; I believe healthy eating habits begin with your baby and I hope this is a series that gives insight and information to all you mamas out there.
Bland and tasteless yet full of sugar, rice cereal is white flour with iron added back after all nutrients have been stripped from it. Regardless of your baby’s age or overall health, rice cereal should be avoided in your baby's diet. Though often recommended as a “first food” by pediatricians, there are many reasons that babies should not be given baby cereal or rice cereal.
How Rice Cereal is Made:
The box of rice cereal says it’s fortified with a dozen vitamins and minerals and it won’t expire for two years. To make rice cereal, the whole grain rice is stripped of its nutritious and fiber-dense shell and processed. Synthetic vitamins and minerals are added because during the process they removed the only pieces that were integral and nutritious.
The most common reasons to avoid rice cereal are listed below.
(1) Because a baby’s body is not made to digest grains until age 1 (at the earliest), rice is actually hard on your baby’s tummy. The claims that it is “easy to digest” are actually more of a myth than truth.
(2)Rice cereal is highly refined – meaning it is over-processed and striped of all nutrients. Even when a package says “fortified,” it is fortified with synthetic vitamins. These are less bioavailable to baby than the vitamins that naturally occur in foods.
(3)It may cause deficiencies – often, when solids are introduced to a baby, the amount of breastmilk a baby is receiving decreases; if this decrease of milk is being made up with healthy vegetables, protein and healthy fat, no problem. If it is being replaced with empty calories, that is an issue.
(4)The sugar content is so high in rice cereal that it is basically like feeding your baby a spoonful of sugar. Does your baby seem to like rice cereal when you feed him or her? Of course – because it is pure sugar and tastes sweet. Refined carbohydrates are bad for even adults, but especially hard on your baby.
Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician at Stanford University’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital -- who launched the “White Out” campaign in 2010 to inform both parents and medical professionals about the dangers of rice cereal -- states, “ Rice cereal is a nutritional disaster. It’s as processed as anything in the food supply and the nutritional equivalent of table sugar” (Szabo, 1).
(5)There have been many studies that discuss the high rates of arsenic in rice/rice cereal.
(6)Rice cereal can be very constipating for many babies. From birth, a baby’s digestive tract is used to processing breast milk. Because the healthy fiber is stripped from rice cereal, it may cause pain and difficulty passing stool.
Alternative Healthy First Food Options
Some of the best & most nutritionally dense foods to offer when you introduce solids include:
>> High in monounsaturated fat, this is one of the best foods you can give your baby as their first food <<
>> Packed with Vitamin V, C, and folate as well as high in potassium, magnesium and calcium, sweet potatoes are a delicious first food for babies and pair well with so many others; by far, Olivia’s favorite food <<
>> We started Olivia with green beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower <<
Wild caught fish, pureed with vegetables
>> Two of V’s all-time favorite foods are wild-caught Alaskan cod and wild caught sockeye salmon, especially when mixed with roasted sweet potatoes <<
Stay tuned for next week's post on foods to avoid before your baby is one year. If you have any questions about the information I am presenting or anything related to feeding your baby, I would love to discuss them further. Please leave a comment or send me an email!