Grain Spotlight…Millet!

ImagePhoto credit: Michael Newman

If you’re from the United States, there’s a good chance you may not know what millet is–or if you do, maybe it’s because you’re familiar with its use as birdseed. However, even though it may be underrated in the US, millet is a nutritious cereal grain that actually serves as a staple in many other cultures around the world, and is gaining traction in health food stores and even some conventional grocery stores here.

There are many different types of millet that grow throughout Asia and Africa, with India and Nigeria serving as the biggest producers in the world. The crop does well in dry, hot regions, even in infertile soil, making it valuable in areas where other crops may be suffering from drought. Millet grains have even been found in Asian archaeological sites, with some dating back to 8300 BC!

The most common type of millet today is pearl millet, and many people with gluten sensitivities enjoy it as another gluten-free, alternative grain. The cooked texture is fluffy like rice with a similar flavor that adapts well to any other ingredients it may be cooked with. One cup of the cooked grains provides 23% of the daily value for manganese, 19% for magnesium, 17% for phosphorus, 2.3 grams of fiber, and 6.1 grams of protein!

Millet porridge is a common way to enjoy the grain, made by boiling one part millet grain to about three parts water, then letting the mixture simmer for about 25 minutes. Honey, vanilla, cinnamon, or fruit can then be added as well. To make a millet cereal for babies, use ground millet powder: mix 1/4 cup of ground millet with 1-2 cups of water and whisk thoroughly while heating to avoid clumps. For more flavor, add puréed fruits or veggies!

For older toddlers and the rest of the family, try this recipe for Slow Cooker Millet Cereal!

Ingredients (about 8 servings):

1 cup millet
1 quart water
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium apple, peeled and diced (or 1 cup applesauce)
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Put all ingredients into the slow cooker/crock pot and stir. Cover, set the slow cooker on low heat, and cook overnight or for 8-9 hours.

Have you ever tried millet before? What are some of your favorite recipes?

Written by: Lauren Mesaros

Sources:
Recipe adapted from Mosher Products
Wholesome Baby Food
Food & Agricultural Organization of the United Nations
Progress with Proso, Pearl and Other Millets
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of Americ

Adding Texture Into Your Baby’s Food

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Have you started adding purees into the mix or are you not quite there yet?  Either way, here are a few tips on when and how to start adding more texture into the food.

As a general rule, though, it’s a good idea to introduce some texture into your baby’s food once he has been enjoying pureed foods for around 3 weeks, which usually takes place around 7 months.  Some babies, particularly those that are breastfed, don’t start solid foods until towards the end of their first year. In this case, you can often dispense with pureed foods altogether, as these babies tend to be ready to deal with textured foods from the outset.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO GIVE BABY MORE TEXTURED FOODS?

If you give your baby only pureed food for an extended period of time, you may find that he becomes unwilling to accept lumpier textures and baby feeding problems may develop.

Learning to chew, either with teeth or gums ,is an important part of your baby’s development because:

  • it strengthens the jaw muscles
  • it helps with the development of speech
  • it helps ensure healthy teeth
  • it enables him to enjoy finger foods and other foods that the rest of the family are eating.

HOW TO START ADDING TEXTURE

  • Start by thickening baby’s purees  by adding cereal or even mashed egg yolk. Although thicker, the puree should still be smooth. This allows your baby the opportunity to become accustomed to a “heavier” type of food before he has to deal with actual lumps.
  • Next, try using a food mill to grind soft fruits or vegetables which will give you a texture that is only slightly lumpy.
  • You can also try grating a peeled apple and adding this to a smooth base, such as yogurt.
  • Another good method is to puree half of your baby’s food and grind the other half.
  • Once baby is happy with these foods, you can move on to mashing food and, finally, chopping it.

Source: Journal of Pediatrics