Unlocking the Goodness of Grains Part 5: Amaranth Day 3: Unlocking the Goodness of Grains Part 5: Amaranth

Unlocking the Goodness of Grains Part 5: Amaranth

Amaranth, an ancient and versatile grain, can be a fantastic addition to your baby's diet. Today, we’ll explore the wonders of amaranth, its nutritional benefits, and how to safely introduce it to your little one.

The Rich History of Amaranth

Amaranth, often known as "rajgira" or "ramdana" in Hindi, has been part of India's culinary landscape for over 500 years. It holds a place of honor in Ayurveda as a sattvic food, renowned for its exceptional nutritional value and ease of digestion. While it likely originated in South America and was a staple in Inca, Maya, and Aztec civilizations, India's climate has made it a thriving crop here.

This remarkable grain offers a vibrant array of colors, including purple, red, and green, and it can be consumed both as a vegetable and as a grain.

Amaranth as a Vegetable

The leaves of the amaranth plant, known by various local names like "chaulai," "chua," or "laal math," are a nutritious and delicious leafy vegetable. They come in reddish or green varieties and are a valuable addition to your baby's diet.

Amaranth as a Grain

Though not a true cereal like wheat or oats, amaranth is often referred to as a grain due to its nutritional composition and the way it's used in cooking. You'll come across two types of amaranth seeds: popped and unpopped. Popped seeds are soft and ready to use, while unpopped seeds are slightly yellow and require longer cooking.

When Can You Introduce Amaranth to Your Baby?

Amaranth can be safely introduced to babies starting at 6 months of age. It’s an excellent choice for your baby’s first foods, and amaranth porridge is a wonderful option for infants aged 6 months and beyond.

Nutritional Benefits of Amaranth

Amaranth is a nutritional powerhouse, offering a range of essential nutrients that are crucial for your baby's growth and development:

      • Vitamin C: Amaranth is the only grain that boasts a substantial amount of Vitamin C content, supporting your baby's immune system.
      • Complete Protein: It is a source of complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids your baby needs from their diet.
      • Iron: Babies require a significant amount of iron, and amaranth is an excellent source, making it an ideal first food choice.
      • Fiber: Amaranth is also a good source of fiber, aiding in digestion.
      • Other Nutrients: It provides zinc, selenium, B6 vitamin, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, antioxidants, Vitamin A, and calcium, contributing to your baby's overall health.

How to Prepare and Serve Amaranth to Your Baby

Preparing amaranth for your baby is simple:

      • Combine one cup of dried amaranth grain with two cups of water or cooking liquid (such as chicken or vegetable stock). This will yield two cups of cooked amaranth.
      • Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes until it's cooked to your desired consistency.
      • Use the cooked amaranth to make porridge, or serve it as you would cooked rice, incorporating it into pulao or khichdi recipes.
      • Note: If the boiling liquid or water falls short, the cooked amaranth may be slightly crunchy, so be cautious when serving it to your baby.

Apart from whole amaranth grains, you can also make amaranth flour (atta) and use it to prepare pancakes, chilla, chapati/roti, or parathas.

Is Amaranth Safe for Your Baby?

Choking Hazard: No, amaranth is not a choking hazard. However, like any food, it can pose a risk if your baby is not in a stable sitting position or if the adult feeding them is distracted. Always ensure a safe and supervised mealtime environment.

Common Allergen: Amaranth is not among the common allergenic foods, making it an excellent choice if your baby has a wheat allergy as it is gluten-free.

Here are our expert recommended recipes and cooking tips modified according to your baby’s age.

Rajgira/Amaranth: Age-Wise Recipes & Tips
Select Baby Age
6 to 8 months

1) Spoon-Feeding:

Prepare rajgira in a porridge, khichdi, or pongal-like consistency. Serve it to your baby with a spoon, or allow your baby to hold the spoon themselves and guide it to their mouth.

2) Thick and Scoopable:

Cook rajgira and combine it with thick dal, mashed pulses, meat, curd, or mashed veggies, along with a bit of ghee. Encourage your baby to use their hands to scoop and eat.

3) Rajgira Kebabs/Patties/Balls:

Shape the cooked rajgira into balls or log-like forms by mixing it with mashed pulses, potato, oats, or besan. Let your baby grasp and hold these with their hands, improving their palmar grasp, and allowing them to bring it to their mouth.

4) Pancakes/Chillas:

Cut rajgira flour pancakes or chillas into two-finger-thick long strips, and let your baby hold and enjoy them.

9 to 11 months

1) Amaranth Bowls:

Amaranth can be used to replace rice in various preparations, serving as a one-pot meal. It pairs wonderfully with dal, sambhar, or kadhi, and it complements dishes like flattened cooked pulses such as rajma, chole, and chana. You can also serve it alongside sabzis or in soft, scoopable form with chicken or meat curries.

2) Finger Foods:

Consider offering a variety of finger foods made with rajgira, such as roti, paratha, chilla, dosa, idli, pancakes, or idiyappam. Break them into 1-inch small pieces to encourage self-feeding. For example:

- Cut roti or paratha into bite-sized pieces and provide sabzis or curries for dipping.

- Divide idli into bite-sized pieces and serve them with sambhar.

- Slice dosa into long or small strips, perfect for dipping in sambhar, less spicy chutney, vegetable gravy, egg or chicken gravy, or curd.

- Enjoy idiyappam dipped in coconut milk, vegetable or chicken stew, or egg kurma.

3) Cutlets/Burgers/Patties/Fritters:

Incorporate rajgira into your recipes by mixing it with chopped or grated veggies, boiled shredded chicken, or minced meat. Form soft, hand-held patties or cutlets and shallow pan fry them. Break them into bite-sized pieces so your baby can easily pick them up and enjoy them with their hands.

4) Rajgira Pulao:

Prepare a wholesome rajgira pulao, either with curd or alongside pulses like chana, rajma, or chawli (flattened before serving). This delightful dish offers both flavor and nutrition for your little one.

12 to 24 months

1) Exploring Variety:

Embrace experimentation and introduce a diverse range of rajgira-based dishes to expand your baby's palate. Explore different flavors and spices by preparing rajgira in various ways. Consider options like rajgira salads, hearty soups, flavorful pulaos, stir-fries, bread, muffins, and the previously mentioned varieties.

Additionally, you can pop rajgira like popcorn and offer this delightful treat to your baby.

2) Rajgira Chikkis and Ladoos:

For children 2 years and older, you can introduce soft rajgira chikkis and ladoos, which can be a delightful and nutritious addition to their snacks.

Incorporating amaranth into your baby's diet can be a delightful and nutritious experience. It's a versatile grain packed with essential nutrients, making it an excellent choice for their early culinary adventures. 

As you embark on this journey of introducing solids to your little one, remember that every baby is unique. Pay attention to their preferences and nutritional needs, and consult with your pediatrician for personalized guidance on introducing new foods. Happy feeding!

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