In the past, India's regions were categorized by their primary food sources. The North favored wheat, while the South and East leaned toward rice. Western India preferred coarse grains such as barley, millet, and sorghum.
However, times have evolved and how! Today, rice and wheat are the predominant dietary staples across the country, and wheat is commonly enjoyed in the form of chapati, roti, paratha, and more.
Wheat: An Energy Powerhouse
Nutritionally, wheat is packed with complex carbohydrates, making it a great source of energy.
Certain types of wheat are also rich in essential B vitamins like B6, B12, and B3, along with significant amounts of iron, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, and more.
That’s why wheat can be a healthy first food for your baby. You can start introducing wheat to your baby as early as 6 months.
Traditional/Older Varieties of Wheat in India
India’s wheat consumption has drastically increased in recent years after the Green Revolution. There are many varieties of wheat, but the common ones popularly consumed by Indian families are:
- Emmer wheat (locally known as “khapli wheat”); and
- Durum wheat (local varieties include bansi, kalibal, and kathiya)
It’s heartening to see many Indian families returning to their roots by opting for traditional varieties of grains and millets.
Wheat has a variety of uses: from wheat bran and wheat flour (or “atta”) to refined wheat flour (maida), semolina (sooji rava), and broken or cracked wheat (lapsi or dalia). Wheat is also used to make noodles, pastas, and bread products.
Certain wheat products will be better choices for your baby when you’re introducing wheat into their diet. For example, whole wheat products are better, healthier choices. Even broken wheat (lapsi or dalia) is very nutritious, as it is an unrefined whole grain which retains the nutrition.
We recommend avoiding products or dishes that contain refined wheat flour (maida) due to its low nutritional value. Now let’s look at the various preparations you can offer to babies starting at 6 months.
Safe & Nutritious Wheat Preparations for Babies
From 6 months onwards, certain wheat preparations can be tasty, healthy choices to feed your baby. Here are some nutritious ideas:
- Broken wheat (lapsi or dalia) porridge or kheer made with fruits and breast milk/milk/coconut milk
- Cooked dalia upma with veggies
- Dalia khichdi mixed with curd
- Wheat halwa (without sugar)
- Toasted bread
- Wheat dosa (adai) dipped in sambhar
- Wheat pancakes/chilla
- Dalia patties
Best to Avoid These Wheat Preparations
- Foods like puri, bhatura, and parotta are usually deep fried and made from maida (refined flour), so it's best to hold off its introduction until babies are older.
- Also, avoid crispy puris, namakpara, chakli, murrukku, and other hard foods as they can be choking hazards and are also deep fried.
Can Babies Eat Chapati or Roti?
Certain wheat preparations may require a bit of caution initially. Roti or chapati is one of them! For example, introducing roti/chapati is better delayed until around 7-8 months since they can be harder for babies to chew.
To make it softer, you can first dip the pieces of roti, chapati, bhakri, koki, thepla, or paratha in liquids like curd, dal, egg/chicken curry, or stew/kurma and then serve this to your baby.
Can Babies Eat Bread?
Babies can eat bread 6 months onwards, but parents have to be mindful of certain things before offering it:
- Soft bread can be very gummy. When bread mixes with our saliva in the mouth, it clumps together and gets stuck. This can be a serious choking hazard for babies. Therefore, a better alternative is to offer toasted bread to babies dipped in dal, gravy, milk, or curd.
- Most bread is made from refined wheat flour (or maida), which is not recommended for babies. Refined flour is made by removing the wheat bran layer, which contains all the nutrition. It’s better to choose 100% whole wheat bread if you choose to feed bread to your little one.
- You can also try sourdough bread or sprouted bread, which are popular nutritious choices in Indian families. Ensure the bread is softened by soaking or dipping it in some liquid like milk, curd, dal, rasam, porridge, payasam, etc., so your baby can eat it easily.
- Millet-based breads (ragi bread, amaranth bread) are also more delicious and healthy alternatives to switch to, not just for your baby but as a family!
- If you can, opt for organic brands of wheat/wheat flour, as many mass-produced brands available in the market tend to be heavily sprayed with pesticides. This harms both human health and environmental health.
Is Wheat a Choking Hazard?
When it comes to choking hazards, wheat, on its own, poses minimal risk. However, the way it is cooked and served can determine whether it’s a choking risk.
As mentioned above, bread and chapatis can be problematic due to its dry texture. When a piece of bread or chapati mixes with saliva, it becomes gummy or "glob-like," that could cause choking.
To make bread/roti safer, lightly toast it before offering small pieces to your baby. You can also dip or soak the pieces in dal, curd, curry, or any liquid to soften the pieces.
As always, closely supervise your baby during mealtimes and be aware of their developmental readiness and chewing abilities.
Is Wheat an Allergen?
Globally speaking, wheat is one of the top allergens and one of the most common food allergens in children. But most children who develop an allergy to wheat tend to outgrow it by their 10th or 12th birthday.
But when it comes to wheat allergy among Indians, there’s limited research or data. Available studies indicate that wheat allergies among Indian children is relatively low. This could be attributed to the fact that wheat is a common part of the Indian diet, and many babies are exposed to it from a young age. Additionally, early introduction to various food types has been shown to reduce the likelihood of developing allergies later on.
That being said, some babies may exhibit low tolerance or intolerance to wheat. Please discuss this with your pediatrician or healthcare provider if you’re concerned.
Remember, wheat allergy is different from gluten intolerance.
- An allergy can be life-threatening; a food intolerance is sensitivity to a particular food, wherein consuming that food causes digestive issues in the individual.
- A child can outgrow an allergy, but this is not found to be the case with food intolerance.
- On the other hand, Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that’s triggered when one consumes gluten.