White rice cereal is one of the most commonly recommended first foods for infants. It is easy to make, easy for infants to eat, and easy to sell to parents since it is fortified with important vitamins and minerals like iron.
It is also bad for your baby.
What's Wrong With White Rice Cereal?
According to Stanford-based pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene, a lot.
"The number one ingredient in what we call rice 'cereal' is processed white rice flour. That's all the rice there is. There are also some vitamins and minerals sprinkled in that babies could easily get in other ways. These don't make this gateway junk food healthy… Metabolically, it's not that different from giving babies a spoonful of sugar."
Feeding your infant white rice cereal is the equivalent of feeding him sugar? Yes, and it only gets worse. Dr. Greene believes that not only is the cereal nutritionally bad for babies, but also that its consumption sets our children up for health problems later in life.
Ever wonder why so many children (and adults) prefer to eat white breads and highy processed foods? Consider Dr. Greene's theory that flavor preferences are influenced by our first foods. If a highly processed cereal is the most consumed food in a child's first year of life, it only makes sense that the child will prefer processed foods later on.
First Food Alternatives
White rice cereal might be bad for our babies, but it is still frequently the first choice of parents and pediatricians. This doesn't have to be the case. There are many healthier alternatives for baby's first foods. If you're trying to decide what solid foods to introduce to your baby, consider some of the following options:
- whole grain baby cereal
- sweet potato (cooked until soft)
- mashed banana
New parents often have many questions about when and how to start their babies on solid foods. Unfortunately, it's easy to get conflicting advice.
If Dr. Greene gets his way, though, the confusion over white rice cereal will soon come to an end. Last year, he founded White Out, a national campaign dedicated to getting white rice cereal out of babies' mouths for good. The campaign has seen tremendous success, and more and more parents and pediatricians are finally getting the message that every baby's first food should be a real food.
What was your baby's first food? Did your doctor recommend white rice cereal?