March 26th, 2009 by ariana
I don’t know how much you remember my “GI Jasper” posts (anything that references his allergies, bowel habits, reflux or GI system in general) but the short story is that he was a once a day pooper before solids. That isn’t all that often for an exclusively breast fed baby and he’s never been exactly …”prolific” in that department.
A large part of that I believe is due to him being first on zantac and now on Prevacid. Think about it: stomach acid digests food, reflux meds reduce stomache acid = slower digestion. In fact, nearly all the parents on infantreflux.org have their prevacid kids on miralax too.
So you can understand my reluctance to give Jasper rice cereal, the universal but “binding” first baby food.
When I spoke to our amazingly awesome pediatrician Dr. Zatz about it, he told me that his kids ate Quinoa cereal by the barrel full.
I am all too familiar with Quinoa (pronounced Keen wa in case you were wondering!) thanks to Jasper’s former intolerance to gluten, it was a grain I cooked often. But I hadn’t thought about it for baby cereal.. maybe because it doesn’t come packaged that way!
But really, it’s a fantastic alternative to rice because it has so much more nutritive value, including protein. It even has naturally occurring (and more readily digestable) iron rather than the added iron that rice cereal has.
Here is what Vegetarian Paradise says about Quinoa:
Called a supergrain, quinoa is highly nutritious and can supply us with all of the body’s requirements: carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
The germ of each quinoa grain is larger than that of any other grain and encircles the outer surface, explaining its exceptionally high protein content. “If I had to choose one food to survive on, quinoa would be the best,” said Dr. Duane Johnson, New Crops Agronomist at Colorado State University.
Quinoa is gluten free and considered an ideal food for those prone to food allergies. Common allergens include grains from the grass family such as corn and wheat. Quinoa, a leafy grain, is not in the grass family, making it beneficial for people who cannot tolerate common grains like wheat, corn, rye, barley, and oats.
Nutritional data on quinoa can vary from one variety to another, from one method of saponin removal to another, and from variations in growing conditions. Therefore, the data offers a wide spread in its figures. For instance, its protein content can range from 7.5% to 22.1%. Compared to common wheat at 14%, rye at 12%, and brown rice at 7.5%, quinoa’s figures are impressive.
Most grains are deficient in the amino acid, lysine. Because quinoa has an adequate quantity of lysine, it is considered to contain all the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. According to the Alternative Field Crops Manual of the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension, “Quinoa is a highly nutritious food. The nutritional quality of this crop has been compared to that of dried whole milk by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. The protein quality and quantity in quinoa seed is often superior to those of more common cereal grains. Quinoa is higher in lysine than wheat, and the amino acid content of quinoa seed is considered well-balanced for human and animal nutrition, similar to that of casein [milk protein].”
Quinoa possesses larger quantities of calcium, fat, iron, phosphorus, and B vitamins than many other grains. One-half cup of cooked quinoa contains 15.5 mg of calcium, compared to 8.5 mg in the same quantity of cooked whole-wheat cereal. The protein content is a whopping 4.1g for that one-half cup of cooked quinoa. Potassium is impressively high with 159 mg. as is zinc with 1 mg. Other impressive figures include 1.38 mg of iron, and 59 mg. magnesium. In the category of fiber quinoa rates top scores with 2.6 grams for one-half cup cooked grain.
Ok, so now that I have lost peaked your interest, how does one turn this into baby cereal?
I did an internet search for Quinoa Baby Cereal Recipe and came up with the entry at Wholesome Baby Food that talks about Quinoa’s Nutrition value and tells you how much water/ powder to use, but they leave off a few key points about preparing Quinoa baby cereal.
So for the benefit of you readers and future generations of internet searchers, I am going to give you my step by step preparation guide to baby Quinoa cereal:
1) Rinse 1/4 cup of Organic Quinoa (available at your local health food store or health food section of supermarket) very well. Do not skip this step otherwise your cereal will be bitter and it will end up all over your face when you try to feed it to your baby!
2) Over low/medium heat dry roast it in a pan until it turns a deeper yellow/golden brown and is just starting to “pop” like popcorn (about 3-5 minutes?) According to Dr. Zatz this makes the cereal more easy to digest for baby.
3) After it has cooled for a minute or two, put in dedicated coffee or spice grinder and grind into a fine powder. I guess if you clean your existing coffee grinder really really well you can use that too.. I just make this cereal so often I bought a little grinder just to use for this. I didn’t want to chance Jasper bouncing off any walls!
You will notice that once roasted and ground, Quninoa smells a lot like peanut butter. Yum.
4) Bring two cups of water to a boil and add in Quinoa powder. Whisk! You don’t want lumps. Turn down heat to lowest setting and let cook uncovered for about 10 minutes. Stir fairly often to avoid lumps. I whisk aggressively about 5 times during that 10 minutes. You can add more water if you think it’s getting too thick, this will depend on what consistency your baby likes.
Thats it! Let cool and combine with your baby’s favorite fruit or veggie and know that you are not only saving your wallet a bit, but also providing your child superior non binding nutrition!
Edited to add: If your baby is sensitive to texture and you find that you didn’t whisk enough to get rid of all the lumps as a final step you may want to mash it through a strainer with the back of a tablespoon. That should satisfy even the pickiest of eaters and is also probably a good idea if you are trying this as baby’s first food.
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