Because of their tiny tummies, babies don’t eat much. That’s why it’s important to make sure the foods they do eat contain lots of nutrients. And nothing could be far from this truth, when you include this amazing nutritious and versatile superfood “Barley” in your babies meal times.
Barley can be made into cereal, cooked into soups and stews and also into pilaf. Barley is a great baby food as it is easily blended into a soupy and cereal like consistency and is full of nutrients that baby needs.The size and shape of barley also makes it a great finger food! When your baby is moving on to finger foods, cooked pearled barley makes a great food to help get baby’s pincher grasp pinching.Barley is a protein rich cereal and is very good for your baby when weaning begins.Many pediatricians and parents recommend using rice cereal as the first grain to introduce, but barley can usually be used shortly after or if a baby does not tolerate rice well. Prepackaged barley baby cereal is available in most grocery stores, usually for less than $2 US Dollars (USD) per box. It is prepared in a similar way to instant oatmeal, by adding water, breast milk, or formula and mixing to the desired consistency.
Why barley is good for your baby
It may be a somewhat unfashionable food these days, but barley is one of the most nutritious grains out there!
Eating barley is believed to help regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease and certain types of cancer. Interestingly, research has shown that it is also useful in protecting against childhood asthma.
It contains amino acids, lots of fiber (ounce for ounce, three times as much fiber as oatmeal), B vitamins, iron, selenium, copper, manganese and phosphorus.
Barley: (one cup, cooked) Protein – 3.55 g
Vitamin A – 11 IU
Vitamin C – 0 mg
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) – .13 mg
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) – .09 mg
Niacin – 3.23 mg
Folate – 25 mcg
Contains some other vitamins in small amounts.
Potassium – 146 mg
Phosphorus – 85 mg
Magnesium – 35 mg
Calcium – 17 mg
Sodium – 5 mg
Iron – 2.09 mg
When can my baby eat barley?
Barley contains gluten, the protein which gives it its chewy texture and which is also contained in wheat and rye. Many experts believe that introducing gluten before 6 months of age increases the risk of baby developing Celiac (or Coeliac) disease, a serious condition where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues.
For this reason, it’s best to wait until your baby is at least 6 months of age before introducing barley.
You should never offer it as a ‘first’ food to your baby if there is a family history of Celiac disease. You should also be extra careful about introducing barley if your baby is allergic to wheat, as there may be a relationship between barley allergy (which is quite rare) and wheat allergy.
Remember – you should always discuss the introduction of ANY new foods with your child’s doctor, as there may be a specific reason why a particular food isn’t right for him.
How to select and store Barley for baby food
Purchase only hulled or pearled barley – “Whole barley must be prepared for human consumption because of it’s hard, fibrous hull that is not easily removed. Only buy barley in its whole form if you want to sprout it and eat it as barley grass. Processors use an abrasive machine to remove the hull making it safe to eat. At this stage it’s called hulled or pot barley. In this processed form, the germ has been damaged to the point that it will no longer sprout.
Pearled barley, which is hulled barley with the ends of the kernel removed so it’s round in shape is another popular way you can get barley. Pearled barley has it’s germ and much of the bran around the endosperm removed. This is where many of the vitamins and minerals are found and because of this, it’s nutritional qualities are down about 25%-33% from what you generally find in hulled barley. But pearled barley cooks up much quicker which is it’s big advantage.
Both pearled barley and hulled barley are primarily used in soups and stews where they fluff up to almost the size of a pea.”†
Pearled barley may be stored for several months in a cool dry place. Most packaged or boxed pearled barley will have a “best if used by” date on the package as well. Milled barley should be stored in an air tight container and preferably in your refrigerator. You can store it in a cool dry place however ensure that you check on the status of the barley if you use it infrequently.
Keep in mind that if you have milled (ground) your own barley, the natural oils that come from the grain may become rancid without refrigeration. When purchasing any type of milled whole grain, it’s always best to buy smaller quantities to ensure that your whole grains are used prior to them going rancid. You should store it in an air tight container, in a cool dry place but preferably in the refrigerator if your home is warm.
How to cook barley for your baby
If you buy pre-packed barley, there will usually be cooking instructions provided on the packaging.
Otherwise, the general rule is to use one cup of barley to 3 cups of water. Just bring the water to a rolling boil, add the barley, bring the liquid back to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer. Pearled barley requires less water – around 2 cups of water to one cup of barley – and cooks in around 40 minutes. Pot barley takes around an hour to cook and hulled barley takes around 1 1/2 hours.
A little barley goes a long way… 1 cup of uncooked barley produces around 3 to 4 cups cooked!
Want your baby’s barley to cook faster AND be easier to digest?
Then try soaking it first, which not only increases its digestibility but also makes its nutrients more ‘bio-available’ (easy for the body to absorb).
To do this, place the desired amount of barley in a bowl and cover with twice as much water (i.e. one cup of barley to 2 cups of water). Leave to soak for several hours (or just leave it overnight), then drain and rinse.
If you don’t plan to cook with it straight away, then put it in a covered container and store in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Barley baby food ideas and recipes
Barley has a yummy, almost nutty flavor and you can add it to lots of different baby food dishes, immediately boosting their nutritional value.
It’s incredibly versatile and can be used to make breakfast (recipe below), savory dishes or even dessert!
You can easily add it to soups and stews, making them more satisfying as well as more nutritious, or you can simply serve it as a side dish instead of rice or pasta.
Barley Baby Cereal
2 oz (1/4 cup) ground barley*
12 fl oz (1 1/2 cups) water
*You can grind barley in a good food processor, or with a grain grinder. We find that grinding in small batches gives a better result.
Pour the water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil.
Add the powdered barley, stirring constantly.
Bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for around 15 to 20 mins.
An alternative to grinding the barley is to simply cook it in the regular way, then place the cooked barley in a food processor and blend with enough breast milk or formula to give the desired consistency.
However you cook it, stirring in some mashed banana will sweeten the barley – you can also try mixing it with other fruit purees for extra creaminess.
Barley and Sweet Potato Balls
1 cup soft cooked pearled barley (not pureed.)
1 cup cooked sweet potatoes
1/2 cup applesauce or peach puree
pinch of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg as desired (8 months +)
1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl
2. Shape into small bite sized “balls” or plops for a nice baby finger food.
Barley Salad 6 months+
soft cooked pearled barley (not pureed.)
soft cooked carrots – diced
soft cooked peas – smashed if needed
soft cooked sweet potato cut in cubes
1. Toss all ingredients together in a bowl
2. Serve as a finger food meal or snack.