Ragi porridge is one of the most recommended and nutritious meals you can give your baby. Feeding your child healthy meals right at the beginning ensures optimal development as well as good eating habits.
Also known as finger millet, ragi is the staple food in many parts of South India. Ragi is rich in protein, iron, calcium, and amino acids such as phenylalanine, leucine, isoleucine, and methionine.
Ragi is considered one of the most nutritious cereals there is, with a nutritive value as follows: Ragi contains 65-75% carbohydrates, 5-8% protein, 15-20% dietary fibers, and 2.5-3.5% minerals.
Of all cereals and millets, Ragi has the highest amount of calcium and potassium.
Why is Ragi preferred for babies?
Ragi is rich in nutrients and fiber, which makes it the chosen food for weaning babies by all mothers. For those wondering if ragi for babies is good, here are the various benefits of ragi for babies:
- Calcium strengthens bones and teeth. Ragi is a good source of non-dairy calcium. This helps in the optimal growth and development of babies.
- Helps in digestion. Ragi is rich in fiber. This helps in satiety as well as digestion.
- Helps prevent obesity. Amino acids in ragi remove excess fats and reduce cholesterol levels. This protects the liver and prevents childhood obesity.
- Increased absorption of Iron: Ragi is enriched with Vitamin C, especially when sprouted. Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron from your child’s diet.
- Reduces the risk of diabetes. Dishes made from ragi in any form have a low glycemic index. The polyphenol and fiber reduce the chances of diabetes.
- Easy to cook. Ragi is one of the most versatile items that can be prepared in a variety of ways. Be it ragi porridge, dosa, paratha, khichdi or halwa, every dish is easy to prepare and is sure to be enjoyed by your baby.
- Ragi is gluten-free. Being free of gluten, ragi is safe for babies with an allergy and also has a lesser risk of causing colic or discomfort on consumption.
- Promotes regular bowel movements. Ragi is rich in fiber and maintains the body's water content. This helps in preventing constipation.
When can ragi be given to babies?
Ragi can be given as a weaning food for babies after the age of six months. Some parents who begin weaning earlier give ragi for 5 months babies too. However, it should not be the first food. It is advised to begin with steamed and mashed vegetables or fruits such as carrots, apples, or potatoes. A homemade preparation of ragi powder is best for your little one.
How to prepare ragi powder for babies at home
There are two methods to prepare ragi powder for babies. A traditional method involves the extraction of the milk of the ragi grains, which is then dried and converted to a fine powder. This technique is tedious and pain-staking.
The other method involves powdering sprouted ragi. Sprouted Ragi powder has higher levels of iron, calcium, vitamins, and minerals. Soaking and sprouting break down the complex proteins into simpler amino acids as well as reduce the fat content in the ragi grains. This makes it easier for babies to digest.
Step by step preparation of sprouted ragi powder for babies:
- Soak ragi overnight for at least twelve hours
- Wash the ragi in running water. You may have to repeat this step 4 to 5 times to remove dirt and other particles.
- Transfer the ragi onto a white muslin cloth or cheesecloth and wrap it tightly around it, making what is called a potli.
- Store the potli in a cool, dry place for at least twelve hours, till you see sprouts grow. Note: If the ragi grains are very old or very young, it may not sprout at all, try with a different batch.
- Once they have sprouted, transfer the ragi onto a plate.
- Dry the grains in the shade for around 6 hours, until they are completely dry.
- Dry roast the ragi in a kadai. They usually should taste crunchy at this point.
- Allow it to cool.
- Grind it into a fine powder either using a blender or at a commercial mill. Note: If you are getting it ground at a commercial mill, make sure you take half a kilogram of rice to grind before you give the ragi. This ensures that the ragi is not contaminated with either spices or other cereal.
- Sieve repeatedly until you get a fine powder.
- Store in a dry container.
- Your sprouted ragi powder is now ready for use.
Preparation of ragi porridge for babies
Here is the recipe for preparing ragi porridge for babies.
- Mix two tablespoons of ragi in a glass of water, ensuring there are no lumps.
- Boil until the ragi is cooked well, for at least ten minutes.
- You can add fruit purees for flavour and sweetness.
How much ragi do I give my baby?
As for any new food, always begin by giving your baby increasing amounts of a small quantity for three days. After this, if the baby has not had any reaction like loose stools or abdominal discomfort, you can feed your baby ragi porridge confidently. Always let the baby decide how much to have, don't force him to finish off the bowl.
Side-effects of ragi for babies
Ragi though full of goodness. However, here are some side effects of ragi for babies.
- Known to have a cooling effect, you might want to avoid it at night during winters.
- Ragi, if store-bought, or if it is not cooked completely can cause an upset stomach. Make sure it is cooked properly for every meal.
- Increased amounts of ragi can interfere with iodine absorption and cause accumulation of oxalic acid, which can lead to the formation of stones. Thus, like everything else, should be consumed in moderation, and along with other cereals, fruits, and vegetables.