For years, parents have been told that rice cereal is the perfect first food for your little bundle of joy. But as society has begun to gradually move away from processed goods and towards more whole foods, modern moms are now questioning that common recommendation. Many are asking, "can I skip feeding my baby rice cereal altogether?" And you want to know the answer.
Family Nutritionist and self-described "Picky Eating Coach" Sarah Bester says absolutely. In an interview with Romper, Bester explains, "The reason that rice cereal is often recommended by doctors and other parents as a good first food for babies is because they will easily accept it. Of course they will — rice cereal is bland and tasteless. No wonder a lot of kids are growing up to only like bland and tasteless foods like white bread, pasta, and French fries."
She has a point, but she's not done yet. "If we want our kids to grow up to be healthy eaters who enjoy a wide variety of food, they need to be exposed to that wide variety of real food as early as possible," Bester continues. "Most baby rice cereals are made from highly processed white rice — hardly real food at all and not much nutritional value either."
Not that you have to be obsessively calculating your infant's nutritional intake via solids. Bester says that during the ages of 6 months to one year, breast milk and/or formula should definitely still be a baby's primary source of nutrition. At this point, solid foods are all about exposing them to a variety of texture and flavor and getting them used to the process of eating. So while you want the foods you choose to pack a nutritional punch, you're not relying on them to meet your baby's foundational needs.
Bottom line? Bester recommends skipping the rice cereal altogether and instead focusing on foods with strong natural flavors, like vegetables and fruit. Then, she says, when parents do decide to introduce grains, they should look for them in whole, unprocessed form — steel-cut oats, brown rice, quinoa, and millet are great choices.
When it comes to introducing solids, think about the kind of foods you want little Johnny to be eating in 20 years. Do you hope he's loading up his college lunch tray with flavorful veggies, or reaching for something that comes in a box? Besides, pureéd carrots look way cuter on your kid's face than rice cereal.