Oat based breakfasts make an amazing start to the day.
My first baby was ravenous the minute he woke up so I used to make him overnight oats that were ready and waiting in the fridge the moment we got downstairs. My second child, however, loved a warming bowl of porridge to start her day. Whichever you choose oats are amazing providing protein, iron and fibre which means that they give your little one a fantastic start to fuel their day.
Oats provide one of the best sources of slow release energy so are ideal for busy little people. They’re wholegrain, a great source of soluble fibre, gluten free and are packed full of vitamins, minerals and importantly that critical nutrient iron that all babies and toddlers need.
But as well as all that you can top your hot or cold oats with some fantastic flavours to keep breakfast interesting while boosting the nutritional value and your little one’s health too.
It’s really important to offer variety and not stick to the same foods routinely as this helps with your their brain development as they process new experiences, tastes, textures and flavours. You can read more about this in my blog on sensory weaning and you can check out my breakfast suggestions below.
The different kinds of oats
But before we dive in, I wanted to explain the difference between the different types of oats we see on the supermarket shelves these days. This is a snap of the porridge isle of my local supermarket (and the gluten free options were behind me!), there are so many different options, here’s what they all mean:
Sometimes called ’Scottish’ porridge oats. These are oats in the whole grain form. They have been rolled between two stone plates to make them flat and open up the grain, making them easier to cook.
More processed oats that sometimes have a flour like texture. They cook very quickly and form the basis of cereals such as Oats So Simple and ReadyBrek. I actually quite like ReadyBrek for babies and toddlers as it’s been fortified with iron, calcium, vitamin D and a whole host of B vitamins too!
Steel Cut Oats
Whole oats that have been chopped by steel blades. These take longer to cook as they are less refined and processed.
Bigger versions of whole oats that haven’t been flattened as much, these take longer to cook.
Gluten Free Oats
Oats are naturally gluten free but many are made in factories where other gluten containing cereals are produced. Gluten free oats guarantee that they won’t have been accidentally contaminated and these are the ones that must be chosen by those people with coeliac disease or a sensitivity to gluten.
Baby Porridge Oats
These are expensive when compared to standard oats and are simply rolled oats that have been ground into a flour, and often flavoured. You can make your own very easily if you have a food processor, but it’s actually better to challenge your little one with the more complex texture of rolled oats as it will help their development and brain growth.
Here are my basic recipes for both porridge and overnight oats that you can add any of my delicious toppings to. Do add more milk if your baby prefers their porridge runnier. It goes without saying that all of these recipes are good for the whole family, not just babies and toddlers!
Basic porridge recipe
You can use traditional whole oats or the more refined quick oats.
You can use any milk of your choice. Babies benefit from whole cows milk, breast or formula until age 2 then if they are eating well you can switch to semi skimmed milk. Plant milks are quite low in nutrition but a small amount in food can be used from 6 months and often provides a lovely flavour.
Place in a pan and stir over a high heat until the porridge thickens.
The length of time this takes will depend on the type of oats you have chosen.
You can also make porridge in the microwave too, stir the oats and milk together and microwave for aprox 60 seconds.
Add your porridge topper from my suggestions below and stir through.
Allow to cool before serving.
Basic overnight oats recipe
Use traditional whole oats rather than the more refined quick oats.
Place in a container, mix and cover then store in the fridge overnight.
Can be eaten straight from the fridge the next day or warmed in the microwave.
Add your porridge topper and stir through.
My favourite oaty breakfast toppers:
And now for the fun stuff! Here is a list of 20 different versions of porridge or overnight oats to keep things interesting, not just for baby, suitable for the whole family too. My favourite is number 1!
Baked apples with cinnamon and raisins.
Core apples and place on a high sided baking tray or pyrex dish, stuff the centres with raisins, sprinkle a little cinnamon on top of each one. Fill the bottom of the tray with around 1cm boiling water, cover with foil and oven bake for 60 minutes at 180 degrees. Allow to cool a little and puree or mash with a fork.
Stewed plums with the juice of half a Clementine.
Half and de-stone each plum and place in a casserole dish. Half a clementine and squeeze the juice over, cover with foil and bake at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. Puree or mash with a fork.
Chopped dates, satsuma and ground cardamom.
Chop the dates into the size you know your baby can manage and place in a bowl. Add a pinch of ground cardamom and the juice of 1 satsuma. Stir to combine and refrigerate covered ideally overnight to allow the dates to plump up. Puree if your baby needs it otherwise it’s ready to serve.
Apricots and cranberries with ginger.
Add chopped apricots and cranberries to a bowl and cover with a small amount of grated fresh ginger. Cover with hot water and allow the dried fruit to plump up for half an hour or so. Drain and puree then top to your oats.
Chopped strawberries and raspberries.
Chop the fruit to the desired size and mix with the porridge oats and milk before cooking or refrigerating. The red fruit juices will ooze into the oats and make a lovely pink breakfast!
Coconut & banana.
Switch out your usual milk for some coconut milk, the one from the tin is usually more nutritious than coconut milk drinks and cook or soak overnight as normal. Mash a banana and add to the oats and serve.
Almond butter and cinnamon.
Simply add a teaspoon of almond butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon to your porridge or overnight oats and stir through. For overnight oats you may want to warm the almond butter in the microwave for a few seconds first to make it easier to stir through.
Grated pear and Greek yoghurt.
Pear is very sweet and makes a great addition to greek yoghurt. Simple add as much as you like to a big dollop of Greek yoghurt and stir through your oats.
I like to plump up my dried fruit before adding to any recipe. You can let them steep in hot water or a small cup of chamomile tea for half an hour or soak in fruit juice overnight. The sultanas will plump up beautifully. Drain and puree if you need to or chuck them straight into you oats if you have a proficient chewer.
Carob and peanut butter.
Babies shouldn’t really have chocolate, cocoa or cacao till they are over 1 due to the caffeine like substances they contain, but you can get a similar flavour from carob. Mix a teaspoon of carob flour with a teaspoon of warmed peanut butter for a delicious oaty breakfast topper.
Coconut milk, mango and kiwi.
Switch out your usual milk for coconut milk and make your oats as usual. Add chopped mango and kiwi and stir through. You can puree the mango if necessary but don’t puree the kiwi as this releases a natural spiciness which is quite unpleasant.
Cranberry & Apple.
This one takes a bit of work, but it’s worth it for its amazing red colour. Peel core and grate an apple and pop in a bowl with 60g fresh or 30g dried cranberries and a pinch of mixed spice. Microwave covered for 1 minute and check to see if the apple is cooked, cook for longer if necessary. You can also cook on the hob till the apple is soft. Try and keep a lid on the pan so that you don’t lose any of the steam. Puree when soft enough then add to your overnight oats when it’s cooled or top your porridge straight away.
Carrot, raisins, mixed spice, cream cheese & vanilla.
This one is a bit decadent, it tastes a bit like carrot cake! Simply stir all the together and either refrigerate overnight or cook with your oats and milk into the porridge.
Vanilla, chia and blueberries.
Add all the ingredients to a bowl with your oats and milk and cook together or leave overnight. The chia will absorb some of the milk and the blueberries plump up and burst. Stir to combine before serving.
Poached eggs and avocado.
Savoury options may sound a little unusual but they really do work. Poach an egg and pop it on top of your porridge or overnight oats, burst through the white so the yolk drips through and stir a little to combine (runny eggs are fine for babies from 6 months of age), add chopped or mashed avocado too. Yum!
Pesto and tomato.
Shop bought pesto is often perceived as being salty but a teaspoon contains only 0.13g salt so is absolutely fine and super tasty in this dish. You can add chopped cherry tomatoes or even chopped sun dried tomatoes if your little one has good chewing skills. This one sounds good for dinner too!
Cheese & onion.
A sprinkle of grated cheddar cheese or parmesan and some finely sliced spring onions stirred through a warm bowl of porridge makes an oozy delicious dish and is still superb served cold with overnight oats.
Frozen smoothie mix fruits.
Simply add straight from the freezer to the pan or overnight oats mixture and they will thaw before you serve them.
Choose peaches tined in natural juice rather than syrup and chop into bite size chunks or puree before topping your porridge or overnight oats.
Butternut squash and cinnamon.
Peel, dice and roast a butternut squash and allow to cool a little before mashing a few cubes with the back of a fork. Add to your porridge or overnight oats with a sprinkle of cinnamon and stir through. Ideal if you have leftover squash from another recipe
So there you go, I hope that’s inspired you to give oats a try and the savoury versions make quick dinner options too! Who said oats were just for breakfast? Tell me your favourite in the comments below.
Sarah Almond Bushell MBDA, MPhil, BSc (Hons) Registered Dietitian & Children’s Nutritionist