Quinoa: A Healthy Alternative to Rice Cereals & An Ideal First Food

by Caroline Freedman, founder and CEO of NurturMe

You may have heard of quinoa, the seriously healthy superfood with a funny-sounding name. Pronounced “KEEN-wah,” the ancient grain is an allergy-free nutrient powerhouse that has been popping up more and more in healthy recipes and has become a staple food among the health-conscious. In fact, 2013 was officially named the “International Year of Quinoa” by the United Nations. But did you know the protein-packed supergrain also makes a healthy and nutritious first food for your little ones, too? With a nutritional profile similar to breast milk, quinoa is the perfect first food for babies and toddlers and makes a healthy and nutritious alternative to traditional rice cereals for weaning.

According to Dr. Laura Jana, a nationally recognized pediatrician, parenting expert, and award-winning author of Food Fights and Heading Home with Your Newborn, quinoa offers parents the opportunity to introduce healthy eating habits right from the start, a practice she actively promotes. “Given that quinoa has long been recognized for being both nutrient-rich and easily absorbed, not to mention less allergenic than other grains, the concept of introducing quinoa as a first food alternative to traditional rice cereal is particularly appealing,” says Jana.

Not sure how to go about giving your little one quinoa? NurturMe, the award-winning organic baby and toddler food brand, developed the first-ever pure quinoa cereal for infants. Founders/moms Caroline Freedman and Lauren de la Rosa wanted to give parents a healthy and easy alternative to rice cereals that is rich in nutrients, gentle on the tummy, and naturally supports baby’s growth. Made from 100-percent supergrain, NurturMe’s Organic Quinoa Baby Cereals are a complete and balanced protein, iron-fortified, easily digestible, and gluten-free. They’re also the first and only infant cereal to offer 100-percent naturally occurring nutrients from whole foods. Unlike synthetic nutrients, which can cause constipation and indigestion, plant-based vitamins and minerals are easily digested and improve baby’s overall nutrient absorption. For next-stage eaters, NurturMe also offers organic Quinoa Squares toddler snacks that are perfect for healthy, whole-grain snacking on the go. Made from 100-percent pure protein-packed quinoa—no rice, wheat, or other grains—these organic puffed crackers are chock full of essential vitamins and minerals to support healthy growth and are baked with real organic fruits, veggies, and cheeses.

NurturMe’s Organic Quinoa Baby Cereals and Quinoa Squares come in a variety of flavors and are available for purchase online and in stores nationwide. Click here to find a store near you.

Q&A with Dr. Jana, nationally recognized pediatrician and award-winning parenting author, on the many benefits of quinoa as a first food:

Q: What’s the difference between quinoa and the rice (and other) cereals that have been used as first foods for decades?
Jana: What quinoa shares with the traditional baby cereals is the fact that it can be fed to babies in the same safe and time-tested form of a baby cereal—the consistency of which can be adjusted to accommodate babies’ developing feeding skills. Referred to as a “supergrain,” what’s different about quinoa is the fact that it naturally offers a higher nutrient value than rice—complete with protein, iron, and other nutrients—while also being hypoallergenic.

Q: So quinoa is safe for babies with gluten and other food allergies?
Jana: Two key aspects of quinoa that make it particularly compelling are that it is both gluten-free and hypoallergenic by nature. While quinoa is harvested and prepared in much the same fashion as rice and other grains and has long been referred to as “the mother of all grains” as far back as the Incas, it does not technically fall into the same category as cereal grains at all. In fact, quinoa is actually related to beets, chard, and spinach. While this little-known fact may seem like simply interesting trivia, it is quite relevant in helping to explain why pure quinoa foods do not come with the same potential allergy concerns as traditional grains.

Q: What are some other benefits of quinoa as a first food?
Jana: I am a big believer in introducing healthy habits right from the start, so the idea of introducing what is considered to be a hypoallergenic and nutrient-rich “supergrain” into a child’s diet as a first food is very appealing. In addition, the ability to mix quinoa with breast milk (which itself is commonly recognized as “the perfect food for babies”) allows parents to serve babies a nutritionally dynamic duo.

Click here to read the full Q&A with Dr. Laura Jana about the many benefits of quinoa and other first-food tips for your baby.

Meet the NurturMe team at Maletzky Media’s Babypalooza on July 14!

Karyn Ravin