5 Alternatives to Rice Cereal

Keeping up with the news can be a little scary when you’re raising a baby. With headlines like “A new study finds 6 times more arsenic in infant rice cereal than in other infant cereals,” how can you not worry about what you’re putting into your baby’s body? 

Recent studies have shown that companies have significantly reduced the level of arsenic in rice cereal, but it is left up to us, as parents, to decide if we are comfortable with that number or not. 

Why is rice cereal so popular? Parents choose rice cereal because it is a simple food and has an incredible amount of iron that babies need.

How much iron do baby’s need?
- Infants ages 7–12 months need 11 milligrams of iron a day.
- Toddlers ages 1–3 years need 7 milligrams of iron each day.
- Kids ages 4–8 years need 10 milligrams of iron each day

What do high levels of arsenic mean for babies’ health?  Arsenic is known to cause cancer and permanently reduces a child’s ability to learn. Rice cereal is babies’ top source of arsenic exposure.

Why does rice cereal contain so much arsenic? Rice tends to absorb 10 times more arsenic from the environment than other grains. A study found arsenic in all brands of infant rice cereal tested, and lower levels in all brands of non-rice and multi-grain cereals. 

What can you do as a parent? Parents who include infant rice cereal in their baby’s diet can immediately lower their child’s arsenic exposures simply by switching to oatmeal, multi-grain, and other non-rice cereals. 

We have listed the top alternatives to rice cereal that will still give your baby plenty of iron, while significantly reducing the amount of arsenic they are exposed to. 

  1. Oats
    oats are a great rice cereal alternative

    Oats are a great alternative to rice cereal as they have 3.4mg of iron per cup. Baby oatmeal is available and you can also easily cook up oats or rolled oats, purée them and add in a little extra milk or breastmilk to thin it out. Once your little one is a toddler, rolled oats are exceptional as they digest slower and can mix easily with any fruit for added flavor.

  2. Quinoa
    Quinoa, a gluten-free seed, cooks just like rice. Once cooked, it can be easily added to purees for a  little more iron in your baby’s routine. Just one cup contains 2.8 mg of iron!

  3. Lentils

    There are a large selection of lentils to choose from. Of the lentils, red lentils cook faster and are more smooth. This makes them the perfect option for purees and a great choice for baby food. Due to red lentils having a lower amount of fiber, it is thought that they will not cause gas for babies as easily as other lentils.

  4. Sweet Potatoes

    Sweet potatoes can be considered a perfect food. They give baby the iron they need while also providing the Vitamin C which makes that iron easier for baby’s body to absorb. We don’t have to mention that pureed sweet potatoes are usually appealing to babies from the start thanks to their natural sweetness.

  5. Dark Greens
    dark greens make a good alternative to rice cereal

    Leafy greens such as broccoli, kale, or spinach are great sources of iron for your little one. These can be easily steamed or sauteed and pureed with other cooked vegetables or meats to enhance taste. They are also great additions to fruit smoothies or purées. Added Bonus: Like sweet potatoes, the vitamin C in fruits such as oranges or strawberries improves the iron absorption.