What is the Best Rice Cereal for Babies? Which Rice Cereal is Good Stuff?
Okay, this a trick question, but it’s one we are asked a lot. The rice cereal that is best for your baby’s first food is…none.
Our readers often ask why we haven’t done a Safe Product Guide on rice cereal for babies. Most pediatricians still recommend rice cereal as the first food, because it’s gluten-free and almost never causes an allergic reaction. And readers think, surely there are brands that are Good, and also Sneaky ones that could be uncovered and then avoided?
It’s true that if you are going to start your baby on rice cereal, some brands are better than others (I would opt for this one if pressed), but more importantly, any boxed, ready-made rice cereal is highly processed and really unnecessary as a first food. Here’s why:
- Most rice cereals are made from white rice. Dr. Alan Greene, who was a guest with Maia on The Dr. Oz Show last year, says that white rice cereal is nearly the same as pure sugar, metabolically speaking.
- Many manufacturers add thickening agents like flour and starches to their rice cereals.
- Many health practitioners recommend not giving babies any grains until they are at least a year old, as grains can be hard to digest.
- There are concerns about arsenic in rice and rice cereals.
What about brown rice cereals or homemade rice cereals?
If you really want to feed your baby a boxed rice cereal, you should definitely opt for one made from brown rice. These certainly are a better bet, especially if they are made with organic brown rice. However, for the reason stated above, I always recommend skipping the boxed stuff and making your own brown rice for your baby to keep nutrients intact. There are a couple of different ways to make a rice cereal.
- You can grind your rice before cooking it, making it cook faster and yielding a great texture for a baby. A recipe for this method can be found here.
- Soak your rice instead of grinding. This is my preference because soaking rice (and other grains) limits phytic acids and increases digestibility (click that link to learn about phytic acids and why you’d want to remove them). Of course, if you soak the rice first, you will not be able to grind it, but that’s okay! Below is my recipe for homemade brown rice cereal for a baby. You can also try other whole grains for a homemade cereal—quinoa or millet both work well.
Homemade Brown Rice Baby Cereal
2. Soak grains for one to eight hours to soften, increase digestibility, and eliminate phytic acid. Drain grains and discard the soaking water.
3. Place rice with 1 ½ to 2 cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat and cover and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 45 minutes (or the suggested amount of time, depending on the grain you chose), without stirring during the cooking process.
Oatmeal can also be made by soaking and adding extra water when cooking to make it creamier and even easier to eat and digest for a young baby.
What about foods other than grains?
Some of our readers don’t eat grains at all, and naturally plan to keep their babies on grain-free diets. There are plenty of alternatives for first foods, and Dr. Greene argues that we should NOT be starting kids on grains at all, considering our obesity epidemic.
In any case, for a six-month old baby, I would start with fresh fruits and vegetables and then as they get older, move to homemade whole grains. Here are some good options:
- Pureed fresh fruits (dried fruit that’s been soaked, stewed, and mashed is also quite sweet and tasty).
- Fresh vegetables of all kinds (steamed and then mashed).
- Sweet potatoes (boiled or steamed and mashed).
- Winter squashes (butternut, buttercup, delicata).
Some moms like to feed babies simple foods like avocado and bananas, both of which require only mashing. While this is fine, keep in mind that these are tropical foods and not local for us in the Northern latitudes. I believe they are fine to eat occasionally, but I do like to eat organically, seasonally and locally as much as possible. So for this time of year, apples, pears, and maybe some frozen berries or dried fruits would be my choice.
As your baby grows and gets used to eating, you may put a small portion of your own food into a separate dish for the baby, mashed as needed.
Below are some great baby food books that I’ve consulted since becoming a grandmother!
- Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents, by Cynthia Lair
- Super Nutrition for Babies: The Right Way to Feed Your Baby for Optimal Health, by Katherine Erlich
- 201 Organic Baby Purees: The Freshest, Most Wholesome Food Your Baby Can Eat! by Tamika Gardener
- The Amazing Make-Ahead Baby Food Book: Make 3 Months of Homemade Purees in 3 Hours, by Lisa Barrianngon PhD
Suzanne, Certified Holistic Health Coach
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Great blog. My mom insists my son should eat boxed cereal and I refuse. I feed him home made oatmeal with ground flax seeds and I put in a graded apple to sweeten it.
My question is white rice bad for us? Not the cereal. I mean the rice itself? What alternatives are better?
Actually, not all avocados are from far flung locations.
We have an avocado tree in our back yard (we live in Los Angeles)…
Thanks for all the good work. Just wanted to
Any thoughts on the NurturMe brand of cereal? My daughter is 9 months and has been on solids since 6 months. The only grain she’s had has been oatmeal. I keep meaning to venture out to quinoa, but then I saw this and thought it may be more convenient.
I am not familiar with it but it looks fine to me and it might be more convenient if traveling. For me, I like just having the fresh plain grain around and adding my own condiments (fruit, seeds, or dairy if wanted) but if this works better for you then sure it looks good.
Hi, my baby is almost 5 weeks old and the pediatrician is recommending I mix rice cereal with breast milk because he’s showing symptoms of reflux…arching back, crying/screaming after feeding, spitting up. I’m hesitant because I’ve read introducing any solids so early is like weaning plus giving grains this young can cause allergies later. I’m conflicted because I do think he could have some pain and I definitely don’t want him damaging his esophagus, but I was hoping to stick to breast milk for at least 6 months to a year. Keeping him inclined just isn’t solving the issue. What are your thoughts? Thank you! – Kay
I am not a doctor so I cannot say what is best for your baby, however, I agree with you that introducing solids at this young age isn’t something that I have heard of. I suggest you might seek a second opinion from another pediatrician. Also, we do have a post that you might be interested in reading about probiotics which can be helpful for digestive issues. https://gimmethegoodstuff.org/?s=probiotics
I believe that there is always a compromise for convenience. Although, we all have to decide for ourselves where we want to compromise.
I was wondering what your thoughts are on Happy Baby Organic Probiotic Baby Cereal?
Hi Kelly, I think it’s fine. I am just a little skeptical of any food that is processed and has so many ingredients. I am personally more comfortable with homemade oats or brown rice with added yogurt are fruit.
Hi, thank you for this article. I tried to do a little more research about Bio-Kinetics as a company, but it doesn’t look like they have a big online presence right now and only a few customer reviews to rely on. I still went ahead and ordered the baby cereal from their website, because I really trust the information on your blog, but I am now wondering what you base your recommendation on.
I am wondering the same! I was about to ask that question.
After reading your article 2 months ago I purchased a Beaba food maker and it’s been an adventure slowly introducing new foods to my LO! However, my husband still feels we should have a box of cereal on hand just in case……if pressed I know the article opted for the Bio Kinetics brand but since my LO has been on everything Holle I was wondering if the Holle cereals were worth a shot? In addition if I make a batch of steel cut oats will it last a month if I freeze it?
I chose not to use the pouches of food because we do not store our food in plastic, or eat/ drink out of plastic containers. I hadn’t considered different heat/ nutritional content. What is your take on the risk/ benefit of the pouches, considering they are plastic?
My pediatrician keeps recommending I start my son on cereal due to iron deficiencies in breast milk and/or formula. Is this really true? We are currently finishing up the freezer stash of breast milk (exclusively pumped for 6 months) and then will move him to Baby’s Only Organic Formula with DHA. We have introduced some solids, but he plays more than actually eats, so I wouldn’t be comfortable relying on that for a substantial nutrition source.
If I were to double or even triple your grain recipe, could I refrigerate the leftovers and serve over the next few days or would it be best to make a new batch for each feeding? If it is okay to reuse how would you recommend heating it up? Thank you in advance!
Yes, oatmeal and quinoa cereal, while still being grains are good alternatives to rice. If you are looking at already prepared oatmeal and quinoa cereals they are more convenient and again a step down in nutritional value. You can make quinoa and oatmeal from whole grains by cooking them with extra water. Technically, whole oats are the whole grain version of oats but they are not as available and require a long long cooking time. Steel cut oats are slightly less processed than rolled oats but also require more cooking time and more water. I like to cook steel cut oats in a crock pot 1 cup to 6 cups of water overnight and it makes a smooth creamy cereal in the morning, good for baby and the whole family. Rolled oats are quickly prepared by soaking overnight and then cooking in the morning. You can also just make rolled oats without soaking. Just add extra water for a baby. Certainly, if it is easier to begin with the boxed varieties until you are more comfortable cooking whole grains then that is a good choice. Just be sure to read the labels and look for organic grains.
Hi, How can we prepare the oats or quinoa to be mixed with breastmilk? Thanks in advance !
What about an oatmeal cereal or quinoa cereal?