Even though the Health benefits of Millets are well known, unfortunately, our current staple food grains majorly comprise of wheat or rice that do not provide the much-needed nutrition for kids in their growing years. So, including different types of millets in everyday meals is an easy way to add variety along with nutrients in your child’s diet.
We all know our grandparents lived long healthy lives as they ate well-rounded meals and maintained a lifestyle that kept them active. In those days, the environment was cleaner and more green as well. Whereas today, we live a lifestyle with machines and gadgets to help us in our day to day activities. We are exposed to chemicals, pollution and tons of easy-to-order junk food. Though it might not be easy to change a lot of things, our eating habits are definitely something we can improve. Especially for kids, eating nutritious food is very important. Moreover, incorporating healthy eating habits at a young age carries benefits in the long term as well.
I always had this in mind when I started the process of weaning off my son. And to ensure wholesome nutrition, I gave him a variety of millet-based foods.
What are Millets?
Millets are a superfood that has a long history of existence but somehow lost its importance due to lack of awareness. These are small-seeded grasses grown just like cereal crops. There are different types of millets available that are rich in proteins, fibre, iron, calcium, phosphorous and other essential minerals. While most of us assume that it is a single variety of grain (i.e. Bajra), but according to a report by the Indian Institute of Millet Research, there are over 500 varieties of millets within the main forms itself.
This Superfood Millet is broadly classified into two categories – Major millets and Minor Millets
These include Bajra (pearl millet) and Jowar (bajra).
I clearly remember those chilly winters when my grandmother used to feed us bajra rotis with homemade butter or ghee. We used to joke and call them ‘cement roti’ due to the colour and hard texture. However, jokes apart both Bajra and Jowar rotis are popular and consumed in most parts of the country in winters. Where Bajra is high in protein and energy content (around 5-6 times higher than wheat), Sorghum or Jowar has high unsaturated fats, anti-oxidants and is also rich in minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium and iron.
Ragi (finger millet), koda millet, Samwat (barnyard millet), Bhagar (little millet) and Kangani (foxtail millet) are all minor millets. There is a huge variety of Millets available that are so different from each other yet provide a host of nutrients for kids.
- Ragi or Nachini (Finger Millet) is quite popular and well known for its high calcium and iron content. It makes a great first food for kids. I started feeding T, Ragi porridge for breakfast when he was 6 months old and it helped him a lot during teething. And now that he’s older, I make yummy ‘Whole wheat and Ragi ladoos’ for him. We recently also tried Slurrpfarm Millet cookies and he absolutely loved them too!
- There is one more form of Millets known as Sanwat or Barnyard millet or “sama” that is also called ‘fasting rice’ in northern parts of the India. It looks like broken rice and is cooked in a similar manner as upma or rice during fasting season. It has the highest fibre and iron content of all millets. An important point to note is that it’s one of the easiest grains to digest. I made simple Sama Millet Khichdi and Sama Pulav with finely chopped seasonal vegetables for my son and he loved it. You may like to try out this Mixed grain millet khichdi.
- Bhagar or little millet has the highest fat content compared to all other millets and a good amount of protein. It comes in the form of rice, semolina and even as flour that can be used as a base for dosa and idli batters as well.
- Kangani or Foxtail millet has the highest mineral content amongst all types of millets. The protein available in them is not lost due to cooking and is considered even better than quinoa.
Each of these millets is nutritionally superior to our staple rice and wheat in terms of proteins, minerals and vitamins present in them. In addition, they are one of the most easily digestible and non-allergenic grains available today. Hence, they are the perfect nutritious value-add to your child’s diet.
Health Benefits of Millets for Kids:
- Millets are very high in protein content and unlike quinoa, millets don’t lose protein while cooking. Hence, millets aid muscle growth and development in kids.
- The smart carbohydrates in Millets have lots of fibre and very low simple sugars. Hence, they have a relatively low glycaemic index and produce lower blood sugar levels than wheat or rice. Hence, Millets are highly recommended to prevent the risk of obesity in kids.
- Millets are highly rich in fibre, which keeps the colon hydrated and helps prevent constipation in children.
- Millets are also found to be rich in magnesium that is essential for the proper neuro-muscular function of the body. It also helps in normal contraction of muscles and formation of bones and teeth.
- Niacin (vitamin B3) present in Millet helps to lower the cholesterol levels which contributes to reduced risk of heart diseases in the future.
Recipes With Millets for Kids
I used SlurrpFarm Millet dosa mix here to make these fluffy Millet dosas last weekend and it was a complete hit in my house. My fussy toddler finished it up and even the adults loved them. The one I used above, has 5 superfoods like Ragi, Red Rice, Oats, Suji and Urad Dal along with Beetroot. I loved the fact that it is made with no preservatives and no artificial flavours. So I am assured that I am feeding my son a healthy nutrition packed meal in that small plate served with love.
Easy Healthy Millets recipes
You can even easily replace staple rice or wheat in your daily cooking with these healthy grains. Here are some easy and healthy Millet recipes suggestions to try out:
- Porridges or khichdi cooked with Millet and different fruit/vegetables (finely chopped or pureed depending upon your kids age and taste).
- Upma with toasted Millet and cooked with some finely chopped seasonal vegetables.
- Millet Halwa with jaggery or fruit purees.
- Dosa, idlis or uttapas with batter made from Millet.
- Biryani that I feel tastes best with Samvat grains .
- Roti/Paratha with these healthy Millet and/or boiled vegetables.
- Laddos or barfi using Millet instead of wheat or rice flours.
- Millet or mixed grain khakras.
If you want to want to be a little adventurous, you may include Millets in baking as well. Try baking Millet cookies, breads, cakes or a brownies. There are endless possibilities to use this superfood Millet in your day to day cooking and add that extra nutrition in your child’s diet. I am sure they will happily slurrp it off the plate!
“This post is sponsored by SlurrpFarm and is meant to educate parents about the use and importance of millets for kids nutrition.”