Why white rice cereal is the worst first food for your baby.

 

I’m sure you’ve heard the recommendations. White rice cereal as your baby’s first food. And the reasons they give you, too.

“White rice is hypoallergenic and easy to digest.”

“We have even added iron to give your baby all their iron needs!”

But did you ever step back and think about white rice? As adults we tend to want to avoid processed white grains as we know they can cause weight gain, hormone imbalances (diabetes), and aggravate the gut. Why do we think white rice does anything less to our babies?

 

How is white rice cereal made?

Brown rice is bleached to white rice.

White rice is ground down to cereal.

The cereal is fortified with iron and other nutrients (extra processing).

 

The next step onwards from your baby’s cereal? Sugar. With a bit of iron.

In fact that’s you’re your baby’s body does to it the moment it enters their mouth – turns it into glucose.

Processing brown rice in to white rice cereal strips it of most its nutrients, too.

 

So, white rice cereal is devoid of nutrients, and causes a massive blood sugar hit in the body. Baby nutrition advocates say you may as well be giving your baby a spoonful of sugar, as there isn’t really that much difference.

 

What about being hypoallergenic?

Well, turns out there is no evidence to suggest starting with white rice cereal is best for your baby’s tummy and potential allergies.

And this was proven long enough ago that your nurse and paediatrician should know about it.

 

What does white rice cereal do to my baby?

  • Increases the risk of rapid (unnecessary) weight gain

Did you know that obesity is a major issue before 12 months of age? I mean, how baffling is that! The one and only factor in infant obesity is their diet. The majority of infants do that same amount of activity, they don’t sit at a desk all day (like us adults), and they don’t have access to high sugar foods like soft drink and chocolate bars. The one factor is the solid food diet that we as parents feed them. And considering white rice is a food we as adults try to avoid (especially when trying to lose weight or control metabolic diseases), it is such a paradox that we are taught to feed it to our babies as their first food. Of course white rice increases the risk of weight gain during infancy. It is a bowl full of sugar.

  • Develops a strong preference for white refined grains

Your baby’s first foods set up their food preferences for the rest of their life. Let me repeat that. For the rest of their life. When you feed your baby white refined grains, it changes the way their brain develops, and causes it to develop in a way that prefers said foods. You can imagine, a lifetime of desiring and craving (and most likely eating) high GI, refined and processed grains, which have a low nutritional value and negative effect on hormones, is going to lead your child down the path of chronic disease.

  • Stresses out the hormonal system to deal with a high glucose load

The pancreas has the important job of maintaining stable blood sugar. When you feed your baby white rice cereal, you’re giving them a huge hit of glucose. It has basically been turned into glucose in their mouth, before it reaches their stomach! So the pancreas then has a grand job of reducing the glucose in the blood and storing excess sugar for future use. Consistently high levels of blood sugar puts undue stress on the pancreas, and can lead to the body needing high baseline levels of blood sugar to function. This is a stepping stone towards insulin resistance, diabetes, metabolic diseases, and obesity.

  • Feeds pathogenic bacteria in the gut, leading to imbalances (or dysbiosis)

Our gut bacteria are essential to our body’s proper functioning. Well, having healthy bacteria in our gut (and our entire microbiome) are essential to our health. In our modern environment, with high usage of antibiotics, poor diet, excess chemicals and medications, and use of products such as triclosan anti-bacterial hand washes, it is increasingly common to have imbalanced gut bacteria populations. Often pathogenic, or bad bacteria over-ride the gut ecosystem. The issue with this is that it means the function of the entire gut and digestive system is reduced. In fact, the pathogenic bacteria can even produce metabolic by-products that change the way our entire bodies work. Our brains, our liver detoxification, our kidney filtering. The list goes on. The great thing about babies is that their gut systems can be easily altered with diet. They do not become stable until at least 3 years of age! So early diet has the ability to literally create a healthy gut, or an unhealthy gut (and therefore unhealthy body). White rice is not the option for a healthy gut.

What else do I need to know about baby rice cereal?

Unfortunately, all rice contains arsenic. The rice takes up the arsenic from the soil and water it is grown in, and keeps it! You can also find arsenic in much lower doses in barley and wheat, but rice seems to be the best at uptake from the soil.

A little bit about arsenic.. Inorganic arsenic is classed as a group 1 carcinogenic. It has been linked to skin, lung and bladder cancer.

In 2009, the European Food Safety Authority assessed the risk of arsenic in food to humans, and here’s what they found. Children under the age of 3 years have the highest exposure to inorganic arsenic (2-3 times that of adult exposure), and dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic is directly related to the intake of rice-based products.

When researchers compared the daily intake of inorganic arsenic by body weight, they found that infants aged 8-12 months are exposed to more arsenic that adults who drink 1L of water a day.

Keep in mind, as your baby grows, their exposure according to body weight will reduce. Plus, after their detox systems really kick in, they will be able to tolerate larger exposures. So this is not something you need to worry yourself with for the rest of their life. But it’s certainly not something to be giving to your precious child as their first food.

This goes for rice milk and rice malt syrup too (arsenic is even more concentrated in these!).

What about other grains?

I’ll be straight with you. There is no need to give your baby a grain as their first food. It isn’t about the gluten, or the rice.

It’s about starting your baby off on the right foods from the beginning (and if you want to know what I recommend, you can have access to my Top 12 recommended first foods below).

I’ll also be writing a blog post very shortly about how I’m raising my child grain and dairy free until 2 years of age, and why.

 

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But for a minute let’s pretend my child has hit 2 years of age. What would I do with grains at this point?

The main goal with grains is making them easy to digest, so that your child can absorb their nutrients.

  • Ensure grains are adequately soaked overnight to remove phytins, and aid digestion.
  • Buy germinated grains where possible (did you know you can get germinated rice?), which also aids digestion.
  • Go brown/wild/natural. Don’t go for any bleached, white varieties.
  • Rotate your grains. Don’t give the same grain every single day. Give their body a little break after a few days of one grain.
    • This might mean you alter what bread, pasta or crackers you buy, or what you use with meals (eg. rice vs quinoa).
  • Ensure your child has a healthy gut before introducing grains.

 

Even once I introduce grains, I do not plan on giving grains as a full meal each day. Children (just like adults) can comfortably live on a paleo-style diet. In fact they can thrive on it.

However, grains do offer a way to fill up meals, and they are convenient. Not to mention they’re everywhere (restaurants, birthday parties, school..)!

What about my baby’s iron? 

It is quite a myth that your baby can’t get their iron elsewhere in their diet.

The best sources of iron from a whole food diet include green leafy vegetables, nuts, liver, meat, and mushrooms. I also love to add blackstrap molasses into my baking which gives a great additional dose of easily digested iron.

And these are just some examples – there are tonnes and tonnes of foods you can give your baby that have iron and other vitamins and minerals, all in one! Best part is, they don’t cause blood sugar spikes, gut issues, or contain high doses of arsenic!

 

Long-term implications of baby white rice cereal

We are raising a generation of children who are overweight or obese, and who have a myriad of chronic health diseases by the time they finish primary school.

The food we give our children early on has a massive impact on their lifelong health. That’s right, lifelong!

Lets make sure we are raising our babies on foods that nourish them during a time of rapid growth and development.

 

Wondering what to feed your baby?

I've done all the research for you!

Enter your details to get this list for FREE!

Powered by ConvertKit
 

 

Wondering what to feed your baby?

I've done all the research for you!

Enter your details to get this list for FREE!

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