Along with wheat, rice is one of the staple grains of our country, and is popular across all states. Most of us can’t resist a hot, steaming plate of biryani or pulao! Rice is also comfort food, with dal-rice, curd rice and khichdi being common choices. Due to its versatility, ease of cooking and easy digestibility, rice is also a preferred food for weaning babies. However, once the time comes to introduce rice in a baby’s diet, most Moms are left confused with one question – what rice can I give my baby?
What Rice can I give my Baby?
Wikipedia states that there are a whopping 74 varieties of rice in India. Many reports suggest that there are probably many more, with each state having their own local varieties. Investigating all these varieties before making a choice is exhausting to say the least!
So what is a worried Mom supposed to do? The easy answer is this – feed your baby whatever rice your family is having. Some studies suggest that your baby develops taste preferences while in-utero, which means she may already be used to the taste of the rice you eat! Besides, most of our traditional diets are in keeping with our body constitutions and the weather of the place we live in, so your regular rice will be what suits your baby best.
Our family uses Ponni boiled rice at home and I went ahead with the same to make this rice soup when it was time to introduce my daughter to solids. Follow the same pattern, and once your baby is used to the rice of the family you can introduce her to other varieties of rice. Here is a brief look at some of the common varieties of rice available in India.
Common Rice Varieties available in India
Raw White Rice
This is the most common kind of rice these days, which is actually something our elders are unfamiliar with! This is the easiest rice to prepare, and often the first rice introduced to babies due to its easy digestibility. This rice is versatile and can be mixed with purees of practically anything – fruit, vegetables, dal, chicken or fish.
Par boiled White Rice
Contrary to what some people believe, parboiled rice isn’t precooked rice. It is regular rice that goes through a process of heating just before the hull is removed. This ensures that the rice retains its nutrients like calcium, potassium and vitamin B6 better than regular white rice. Parboiled rice also has better fiber and makes a good choice for khichdi, pongal and curd rice.
Brown rice is the unpolished version of white rice, and has about 67% more nutrients, fiber and fatty acids than polished white rice. It is also rich in essential vitamins B1, B3 and B6, along with trace elements like magnesium, selenium and manganese. Brown rice takes longer to cook, but tends to keep babies fuller for longer. Most dishes that use white rice can also be made with brown rice, although the taste isn’t as neutral as white rice.
This is also called Kerala red rice in some places and the grain has a distinct reddish brown color. Red rice is rich in iron and antioxidants that reduce inflammation and allergies. It is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, selenium and zinc. Red rice takes longer to cook than other varieties of rice and will need pressure cooking and is a good choice for kanji or khichdi. Some babies might have trouble digesting it compared to white rice, so it’s recommended for older babies (8 months and above).
Jeerakasala/Seeraga Samba Rice
This rice can be identified by its small grains, similar to jeera or cumin, from where it gets its name. This is an aromatic rice and is commonly used in certain South Indian biryani dishes. The nutritional benefits are similar to plain white rice and it cooks just as fast. The rice can be used for khichdi or pongal and is excellent for kanji that is flavored with a little coconut milk.
Basmati is probably the most popular Indian rice outside India. Known for its long grain and aroma, basmati is generally used on festive occasions and for special dishes like biryani or pulao. Basmati rice is rich in dietary fiber, with about 20% more than other varieties. Basmati cooks fast, but it doesn’t become mushy, which may make it more suitable for older babies. The aroma may make some babies prefer this rice, while others will be put off. The aroma also makes this great for sweet dishes like kheer.
Black rice isn’t a common Indian household staple, but it is available in specialty food stores. Black rice is rich in iron, vitamin E, dietary fiber and antioxidants. The best way to feed black rice to babies is by making a sweet dish by soaking the rice overnight, pressure cooking and then stirring with ghee and a fruit puree for sweetness. This is also recommended for older babies who’ve already tried other varieties of rice without any issues.
Rice Recipes to try for Babies
Here are some easy rice recipes to try for your baby. Please avoid sugar, salt, honey and cow’s milk for babies under one year of age.
- Rice Soup
- Rice Cereal
- Brown Rice Cereal
- Ghee Rice
- Curd Rice
- Apple Khichdi
- Plain Khichdi
- Tomato Khichdi
- Masala Khichdi
- Vegetable Khichdi
- Carrot Khichdi
- Spinach Khichdi
Besides these, you can stock up on some convenient options that you can use in a hurry, like Organic Rice Cereal, Organic Brown Rice Cereal, Instant Rice Khichdi with Toor Dal, Soya Rice Porridge Powder and Instant Rice Khichdi with Moong Dal.