Rice Cereal For Babies : Health Benefits And Nutritional Value

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Many mothers reach for a bowl of rice cereal when it is time for their baby to start solids. Rice has several advantages but should you be giving it to babies? If yes, what is the right age for it? Here is a MomJunction post with all the essential information about feeding rice cereal to a baby.

When Can Babies Have Rice Cereal?

Infants can have rice cereal after they are six months old, which is also the recommended age for starting solid foods (1). Rice cereals are excellent first food for the baby as it is less likely to trigger an allergic reaction when compared to other grains (2). There are some health advantages of starting the baby’s solid food diet with rice cereal.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Rice Cereal?

A baby can reap the following benefits from rice:

  1. Replenishes the body’s energy: 100g of rice cereal contains about 83g of carbohydrates. A bowl of rice cereal can provide your baby with the much-needed energy to stay very active.
  1. Can be good for bones: Rice is a good source of calcium and magnesium – both essential for healthy bones (3). Regular servings of rice cereal, in addition to breast milk, can be an additional source of calcium for the baby.
  1. Good for the overall health of the body: Rice contains small quantities of micronutrients including zinc, copper, and selenium. These micronutrients play an essential role in keeping several functions of the body going smoothly (4).

Next, we list down the nutrients and the overall nutritional value of a bowl of rice cereal.

Nutritional Value Of 100 g Of Fortified Dry Rice Cereal For Babies:

Energy: 390kcal
Protein: 6.65g
Fat: 2.19g
Calcium: 860mg
Iron: 53mg
Magnesium: 37mg
Phosphorus: 273mg
Potassium: 281mg
Sodium: 32mg
Selenium: 5µg
Zinc: 10.92mg
Vitamin C: 2.4mg
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): 1.195mg
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): 1.459mg
Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 23mg
Vitamin B6: 0.885mg
Vitamin B9 (Folate): 230µg
Vitamin B12: 4.6µg
Vitamin D: 8.5µg
Vitamin E: 5mg
Vitamin K: 0.5µg

Source: United States Department of Agriculture (5)

How To Make Rice Cereal For Baby?

It is easy to prepare infant rice cereal at home. But before you do, you must know how to select the right type of rice cereal. Read on to know how to choose and prepare the right kind of rice cereal for the baby.

  1. Select only fortified versions: Always choose iron-fortified rice cereal for your babies. Most infant rice cereals are fortified with iron and other nutrients, but you can look for plain rice cereal with no fortification if you are sure the baby is getting enough iron from other food sources.
  1. Check other ingredients: Some infant rice cereal makers may add a small quantity of soy lecithin as a food additive. Avoid these versions if your baby is just beginning solids. It is best to start with one type of grain at a time when you introduce solid foods to the baby.
  1. Mix with formula or breast milk: You will only need a tablespoon of rice cereal to start. Mix a tablespoon of cereal with three to four tablespoons of formula or breast milk. It is best to use freshly pumped breast milk or freshly prepared formula. If you are using frozen breast milk or formula, then let it reach room temperature before using.

Once the cereal and milk are thoroughly mixed, you can feed it to the baby. However, rice cereal is bland and may not be liked by the baby immediately. So how do you get the baby to eat it?

How To Introduce Rice Cereal To The Baby?

Here are a few tricks to get the baby used to the taste of rice cereal.

  1. Mix fruits and vegetables: You can add a tablespoon of pureed vegetables or fruits to the rice cereal. Adding your baby’s favorite vegetable or fruit puree to the rice cereal can make them like it sooner.
  1. Explore food ideas for toddlers: If you introduced rice cereal late and in toddlerhood, then you have several options available. You can consider adding honey and cow’s milk to the rice cereal for taste. Rice cereal can be a dessert option too. Do note that honey and cow’s milk should not be given to children below the age of 12 months.

As your baby grows older, you can also increase the number of tablespoons of rice cereal you serve them.

Rice cereal has several benefits for infants and toddlers. But parents could still have thoughts lurking in their mind about any possible risks.

Can Babies Be Allergic To Rice Cereal?

Yes. Just like any other food, rice cereal has the potential to trigger an allergy. An example is food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES), which is a rare food allergy affecting the gastrointestinal tract (6). Rice is among the common triggers for the condition. Below are the symptoms of FPIES:

  • Vomiting that happens a couple of hours after eating rice
  • Diarrhea that usually occurs after vomiting
  • Fever
  • Lethargy and irritation
  • Dehydration, due to continuous diarrhea and vomiting

Eliminating rice from the baby’s diet brings down the symptoms of rice-induced food allergy. If your baby is severely dehydrated, then consult a doctor.

Overall, the chances of rice allergy are less due to the absence of gluten in it. The incidence of rice allergy also varies by the region, with fewer cases in Europe and the Americas than in Asia (7).

Rice can be safely eaten by infants with a wheat allergy and immune disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, such as celiac disease (8). It is still best to consult a doctor before feeding rice cereal in case the baby has other allergies.

In the next section, we answer some commonly asked questions about rice cereal for babies.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does rice cereal cause constipation?

No. Rice cereal in itself does not cause constipation. But the iron content in fortified cereals can increase the iron levels in the body and make the baby a little constipated, especially if your baby gets iron from other dietary sources. To avoid constipation, give your baby plain, non-fortified cereal when they are getting enough iron from other food sources (9).

2. Does rice cereal contain arsenic?

Rice naturally contains arsenic, a compound that is commonly found in soil and water. The rice plant has a natural tendency to absorb more arsenic than other grains. Experts state that maintaining a balance of rice cereal and other grains in the baby’s diet prevents the infant from receiving excessive arsenic (10). Choosing good quality rice cereal from a trusted brand could mitigate the risk of excessive arsenic exposure to some extent.

3. Is it okay to feed rice cereal in a bottle?

No. You must ideally use a spoon to feed rice cereal and other solids to a baby. A bottle is used to feed liquid foods such as breast milk or formula. Adding rice cereal to a bottle of baby formula or milk can lead to excessive weight gain and also act as a choking hazard (11).

There are several attributes about rice cereal that make it the first choice of solid food for a little one. The rice grain does not contain gluten and is readily accepted by the baby’s digestive system, which is new to solid food. Remember to strike a balance between rice and other grains. Making rice cereal a part of the baby’s balanced solid food diet is the best way to reap its maximum benefit.

How did you introduce rice cereal to your baby? Share with us your experience in the comment section below.

References:

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