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Posts Tagged ‘baby food’

Baby-led Weaning

In How on 30 October 2014 at 5:24 am

I want Ragi“What do you think of baby-led weaning?”

I was calmly chopping vegetables with Radhika, a friend and member of Ask Amma today when she asked me this question.  What is baby-led weaning?  I thought.

“What are the possible thoughts about this?”  I asked.

“I mean, should you purée the food?  What about the baby food they sell in the store?”

Hmm … As someone who never bought baby food from the store, and who did not purée food that is not normally puréed, I had to take a few steps back to answer this question. Read the rest of this entry »


Has your baby doubled her birth weight?

In How on 13 September 2014 at 1:12 pm

When do babies double their birth weight? 

I’ve heard this question so often these days, yet it was not a topic that came up regularly when I was a new mother.  When in doubt, blame the internet.  Sure, we had plenty  internet in 2003 but we didn’t have such ready means of comparing baby weights and collecting ever more factoids over which we could check our status and see how well we were or weren’t keeping up with the Joneses.

So, compared to the new mothers of today who give their babies age  in weeks and continue giving the age to the tenth decimal place,  I actually don’t know exactly when my daughter doubled her birth weight but I can say it was between the age of 7 and 8 months.

Babies on the train.  It is unclear whether they have doubled their birth weight.

Babies on the upper berth. It is unclear whether they have doubled their birth weight.  But they are enjoying the train!

Read the rest of this entry »

On the Importance of Eating the Peel

In Why on 28 August 2014 at 8:30 pm

We are trying to eat whole foods as much as possible.  My son is a year old, when is it okay to give him fruits and vegetables with the peel? 

– Appa in Jaipur

Why not now?    Without the peel those vegetables and fruits aren’t whole foods anymore, are they?  The only reason to avoid eating peels is the presence of pesticide which unfortunately is very prevalent.  As far as possible, get fruits and vegetables grown without toxic pesticides and fertilizers.  Better yet, grow them yourself.  There is growing awareness of low-input sustainable farming as well as kitchen-gardening and terrace-gardening and you should probably be able to find a support group or farmer’s market near you.  If not, comment below and we will try to connect you.

Riyaan takes a bite out of an apple.

Riyaan takes a bite out of an apple.

As with any food, remember that you don’t need to persuade children to eat. Read the rest of this entry »

Animal milk for children?

In Yes / No on 19 September 2013 at 4:00 pm

Is animal milk (cow or buffalo) essential for a child’s growth?

– Mamma of 2-year old from Hyderabad

Well, of course it depends on whose child it is!  I am sure the zebra, elephant, deer and cow below would each tell you with full confidence that her milk was essential for her child’s growth!

Read the rest of this entry »

Trying New Foods

In How on 10 May 2013 at 8:00 pm

How many times a day should I offer solids to my baby?  How do I encourage him to try new foods?

– mother of a 1 year-old in Delhi

Rather than timing and offering foods, if you think of ways to create an environment where appropriate food is available, your baby can be the one to figure out how much and how often to eat, if at all.  Freedom is a delightful form of encouragement.

If you are still timing your own meals to coincide with baby’s naps, then probably you can try offering once a day.   He will let you know if he wants it more often.  If he doesn’t want it, that is fine too.   Be glad and accept that he made a choice – whether he chose to eat or not.

Sooner rather than later, you should welcome baby to family mealtime and see that there is something available that he can also eat.   Baby may not yet be able to chew a chapati, but you could prepare some ragi porridge, soup, soft-boiled vegetables, or chunks of soft fruit.  Place it on the table along with the rest of the dishes for the family and let baby have some if he wants.   A baby who is new to the family table might find the array of foods dazzling, but will soon get used to the setting, Read the rest of this entry »

Ragi Porridge (not just for babies!)

In How, Recipes on 18 December 2012 at 3:51 am

Ragi Porridge (not just for babies!)

I haven’t used ragi ever …and till now I thought it was something like other grains – just buy it and cook it. All this sprouting thing is confusing me. Can anyone please explain how its done? Or how can I introduce ragi to my daughter? Do I need to sprout it?

– Krishna, mama of a 14 month old in Delhi

You can cook whole ragi directly, in upma and other preparations, but as a baby food, it is typically ground into flour and made into porridge.

You can eat it without sprouting, but sprouting improves its nutritional value.   Some (like me) also prefer the taste of sprouted ragi flour.

Yummy!  Ragi in a Cup

Yummy! Ragi in a Cup

In rural households, sprouting ragi at home is part of the routine work in the kitchen, just like cutting vegetables or making yougurt – even though one can buy ready-made yougurt or pre-cut vegetables in the urban supermarkets.  You will retain more nutrients and flavour if you buy your ragi whole and process it at home.  When my sister bought a flour grinder, I could easily taste the difference between bread baked with flour ground on the same day as compared to week-old flour.  Renewed interest in slow food has inspired urbanites to learn from their rural cousins.  Here is a beautiful site explaining how to sprout the ragi at home.

You can also buy sprouted ragi flour.  Our first packet came from a company called Dharani (Bangalore) and later we got it from Ecofarms, based in Yavatmal, or Conscious Foods (Mumbai) and now from Satvika, just a hop skip and a jump from us in Chembur.   In short, sprouted ragi flour is sprouting up everywhere 🙂   As more urban folks are becoming aware of its nutritional value and also forgetting the art of sprouting at home, the price of sprouted ragi flour has steadily risen and currently in Naturally Yours, our local organic shop in Chembur, the price is Rs. 70 for 500 grams.  Whole ragi comes for Rs. 49 per kilogram.
Since ragi absorbs some water during the sprouting process, you will need to add less water when cooking sprouted ragi flour than when cooking unsprouted ragi flour.An internet search  quickly yields several recipes for ragi porridge but all of them involve additional ingredients that we do not want to include in baby’s first food.

This ragi porridge is so simple it hardly merits a recipe, but then some people won’t believe it can be done so simply unless they see it described in loving detail on an internet site, so here we go.
Khiyali demonstrates how to make ragi porridge. 

1/4 cup ragi flour or 1/3 cup sprouted ragi flour.
1 cup water
In a pot, mix the ragi flour with cold (room-temperature) water.  Stir vigorously with a fork till it is nicely dissolved and there are no lumps.
Slowly bring to a boil over medium flame, stirring continuously.   As it comes to a boil, it thickens.  Once the ragi is thick, remove from flame and let sit for 10 minutes.
Ragi Porridge in a cup

Ragi Porridge in a cup

If you prefer a thicker porridge, you may increase the ragi by a spoon or two – just play around till you have the consistency you like.  To get a thick porridge using sprouted ragi flour, I usually use 1 cup flour with 2 cups water, as demonstrated in Ragi Porridge: the video.

You can double the water if you want to have it as a drink.
For babies, this is ALL you want to use.  No salt, sugar, milk, or nuts.  Eaten fresh and warm, this is a satisfying porridge all by itself.

Why do we not add anything else?  
Here are some reasons for avoiding the following common ingredients, when preparing food for babies and young children.
Milk – Babies absorb iron from breastmilk very well, especially when no other sources of iron are in the stomach at the same time.  So don’t mix baby’s ragi with breastmilk – that will lower the absorption of iron.   Don’t mix it with cow’s milk either.  Ragi (especially sprouted ragi) is high in calcium and iron, and cow’s milk makes it more difficult to absorb iron from foods (See Iron Deficiency).  For human babies, (other) animal milk is nutritionally inferior to mother’s milk and also inferior to ragi.  Why fill baby’s stomach with an inferior food?
Nuts – In light of the rise of allergies particularly in Western countries and other parts of the world adopting Western lifestyles, a number of health specialists recommend delaying nuts till age 2, and in particular delaying peanuts till age 3.  One must be even more cautious if there is a family history of allergy.  Even nursing mothers are advised to avoid nuts until the child is old enough to have nuts.  If you aren’t living in a western lifestyle, and have no family history of allergies you may take this caution with a grain of salt, as it were.
Added salt – Give your baby a chance to taste food as it is, without added salt.  Salt has its place and there is nothing wrong with eating it but one should not depend on salt to make food tasty.  One should be able to enjoy the taste of plain vegetables or grains.  Delaying salt till at least 12 months allows the palate to grow accordingly.
Added sugar – same logic as above.  Let babies and children taste the flavours already there in foods, without depending on added sugar to render things sweet.   By delaying added sugar till age 4 or 5 years, one can get used to a variety of flavours, build healthy eating habits, and also diversify one’s repertoire for desserts and treats that use the sweetness already there in fruits and other whole foods.
Many babies eat plain ragi porridge quite happily.  Once your child is chewing you can try adding fresh or dry fruits if you think s/he would like that.  I usually saved the fruits to have as a snack at some other time of day.  After my daughter started having nuts, I would add raisins or dates and crushed almonds to the ragi porridge and she liked that too.   In fact she still does 🙂
Video: EZ Cooker is good for ragi too.  Of course even on the stove it cooks quickly, but you can shave a minute or two off the stovetop time by transferring to the EZ cooker once it starts to boil.  Once it is in the EZ cooker it cannot burn or boil over.  It will not thicken as much as it would on the stove but if you like a softer porridge this is just right.

Related Articles
Articles Cited:
D & K, “How to sprout raagi (finger millet)” in Chef in You
Duncan Graham-Rowe, “Lifestyle:  When allergies go west,” in Nature (479), 24 November 2011,  pp. S2-S4.   View on Nature site |download pdf

Introducing foods

In What on 17 October 2010 at 4:10 am

My baby is six months old. When should she start eating solids, and what should we start with?

If you can, as Michael Pollan might advise, find out what your great-grandmother, or better yet, someone of that generation living where you currently live, did. That should lead you to something that grows well in your region and climate, and that babies digest well.  And also ensure that you eat whole-grain and home-made rather than out of a box.

Before I start listing foods to offer, let me emphasize that the key word is offer.  Let the baby be the one to decide whether to eat and when to stop.  Does anyone really doubt that a six month old baby can put food in his mouth?  Hasn’t he been putting all kinds of random things in his mouth?   Babies explore with their mouths and when they are ready to explore food, they will find the way.  Your job is only to ensure that the food within reach is appropriate for baby’s age and to offer it in a pleasant, sociable environment. Read the rest of this entry »

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