The monsoons are a time when I feel a deep craving for my hometown in Karnataka. Lush green landscapes, the chocolate brown earth & cool afternoons where we, a bunch of cousins would clamber up and down the old staircases of our ancestral home. In the evenings as the grown-ups sipped their filter coffee, we kids were handed steel mugs of steaming ragi malt. To a city dweller, this humble drink seemed like a trophy to join in with the adults around the coffee table. Ragi malt was next only to God when it came to healthy food for babies.
When I became a mother and was looking for ideas for healthy foods for babies, I found all pieces of advice directing me to the humble ragi or nachni. In my heart, I did a happy dance, only if to know that my child would eat a food that I so relished in my childhood.
But how was it that the humble finger millet or ragi had found a place in the modern mom’s repertoire of healthy foods for babies?
What are millets?
Millets are tiny grains related to the grass family. There is nothing glamorous about them at all. They are hardy crops that can survive in extreme and unpredictable weather conditions that India is blessed with. Seems like a win doesn’t it?
Millets are a boon for farmers and agriculturists because they require very little water, or nutrient rich soil and almost no artificial fertilisers. I was also well impressed to learn that millets attract few or no pests on crop or in storage.
Millets sound like manna from heaven to me.
Well, they truly are, considering that these tiny grains are today, coming to be seen as a superfood that provides valuable nutrition and goodness to us – kids and grown-ups alike.
What are some of the types of millets?
Millets! The term sounds so fancy, but when you hear what they are called in the local languages, you are most likely going to “Aah” about the familiarity of it.
Aah – Ragi mudde, Jolada rotti, Sajje rotti. All names I heard commonly around the house!
I’ve only listed 4 types of millets here because these were what I grew up hearing. But Google millets and you will have a big list to peruse.
But why is Ragi so popular as healthy food for babies?
If there is one food that I relied on upon in times of teething, hunger strikes, hunger pangs between meals for my son, it was ragi porridge or ragi malt. Visibly I knew it filled him up and satisfied me that good nutrition was going in. He ate/ drank this religiously every day in his first year (after starting other foods from the age of 6 months of course.) He ate it plain, or with jaggery, or with fruits. But eat it he did. He may have skipped meals, but knowing that a cup of ragi was going into him kept me happy.
Maybe I had a health-conscious baby. Or Maybe he had a natural liking for it because I had a cup of ragi malt every single day of my pregnancy. 🙂
But millets like ragi do much more than just fill you up.
Millets are miles ahead of rice and wheat when it comes to nutrition. They contain a significantly higher amount of fibre – 50% more than rice, calcium – Finger Millet has 30% more calcium than rice, minerals, iron – the score is through the roof for Foxtail millet, beta-carotene – zero in rice.
Millets are also the favourite choice of baby food for weight gain. Now I am not the kind of mom who thinks that the single most important indicator of health is weight but yes, it is an important factor of health at least in growing babies up to the age of 1. In fact, an informal research leads me to believe that ragi porridge is one of the first baby foods at 6 months.
The most heartening news is that millets are great for children with food sensitivities. Infant allergies are on the rise and one only stands to gain by consuming millets in place of rice or wheat. This puts millets high up on the list of healthy food for babies.
My tryst with millets
I have PCOD. It’s a funny condition to have. Hormones go for a toss which means that you put on weight and because you have excess weight your hormones go for another whirlwind spin.
It was after years of not being able to conceive that my doctor issued me with an ultimatum that I needed to lose weight. “But I have PCOD. I will not be able to lose weight” I protested. “You will have to do it – hook or crook” retorted my doctor.
Then I decided to get serious and see a diet consultant with a speciality in controlling weight for PCOD sufferers like me. Her diet chart was simple, to say the least – cut out all Rice and Wheat. Have bhakris made of jowar, bajra, nachni. Yuck, I said in my mind – dry, cement-like rotis that won’t go down by food pipe.
But I followed her advice to the T. And I lost 14 kilos in a matter of 3 months. With no exercise may I add. That is incredible for a person with PCOD. I also conceived and had a beautiful, healthy pregnancy and then a baby. 🙂
I was hungry for millets and millets were everywhere.
It’s raining millets!
Millets are present everywhere today and have already acquired their place in the list of healthy food for babies.
It is a boon indeed that there are companies out there like SlurrpFarm who provide us with products containing millets and that too in a quick and easy to use form. Their dosa and pancake mixes contain millets like Navane, Jowar and Ragi. With the addition of other healthy favourites like spinach, beetroot and oats they promise to bring healthy and “honest yummyness“ to the plates of our lil hungry monsters. Making healthy breakfasts or snacks for kids just became so much easier.
If you follow me on Instagram (which you should if you don’t already) then you will know that SlurrpFarm dosas and pancakes are a way of life for us. One screwed nose at the breakfast table and I have a piping hot, scrumptious SlurrpFarm dosa on offer. SlurrpFarm – do you know how much I love you for making me a cool mom and a calm one at that!
And I am not the only one out there, you should check out their Facebook page for all the cuteness on offer as they gobble down some SlurrpFarm dosas.
What works really well is that the mixes are free from preservatives, colours and additives. They are also very easy to make. Its as easy as snip the pack open, take some pre-mix, add milk or yogurt or water (we are dairy free) and ladle onto a hot pan. Dosa or pancakes are ready instantly.
I also love experimenting with the dosa mixes and coming up with interesting and fun foods like beetroot appams, egg dosa rolls or winter vegetable crepes. I also tried my hand at these multicoloured savoury muffins and let me tell you there was almost a battle to claim the last one. Making healthy food for babies is so much fun now.
I couldn’t be a happier mom than knowing that valuable nutrition from millets is being consumed by my child in the vital years of his growth and development.
If you have been waiting to get on to the millet train then the time is now. Millets seem like the food of the future. Just like many other things along our parenting journey its a realization that the age-old wisdom is back and here to stay.