Stephanie Middleberg, MS, RD, CDN, author of The Big Book of Organic Baby Food and consultant dietitian who works with Ready, Set, Food! shares her top 5 oatmeal toppings to help expose your baby to different flavors, textures, and nutrients.
One of the great things about oatmeal is that you can mix up the toppings! This is helpful to not only provide your little one with a variety of nutrients but also expose them to different flavors and textures to encourage exploration and reduce picky eating.
Ready, Set, Food!’s Organic Baby Oatmeal is a fantastic base. Not only is it delicious, it also contains nine of the top allergens (peanut, egg, milk, cashew, almond, walnut, sesame, soy and wheat) so your little one will be exposed early to ensure a future of food freedom. Further, it has 4g of protein per serving, making it a fantastic filling meal or snack.
Okay now let’s have some fun with the top five nutritious toppings that everyone will love.
1. Mix in some fruit
I know, I know not the most inventive first idea but there’s a reason we’re starting here.
Whether it's raw or cooked (baked pears are yummy!) fruit is a perfect first mix-in for your little ones. Not only is it delicious, and nutritious, but the colors are a great way to stimulate the senses and get kids used to the fact that food should be all kinds of different colors.
Here’s a breakdown of some of my favorite fruit toppings and why they’re great for little one.
Apple: With fiber, vitamin C, and potassium, apples are a nutritious and filling add-in for oatmeal.
Pears: Just like apples, pears provide fiber. Fiber is great for kids’ digestion and can also help them feel fuller for longer. Pears can be baked or roasted with spices like ginger and cinnamon or simply eaten as is!
Mango: Exceptionally high in vitamin C, which can support immune health and help with iron absorption. It is also a good source of minerals like copper and folate. Pair with coconut flakes and chia seeds or a squeeze of lime for even more vitamin C!
Kiwi: Another great source of vitamin C. They also contain both soluble and insoluble fiber for digestion.
Berries: Berries are one of the most antioxidant-packed foods on the planet and are also relatively low in sugar compared to other fruits. Coupled with their high fiber content, berries are a great addition to oatmeal.
Peaches: Good source of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium. They are a summer favorite!
Banana: A filling and delicious topping for oatmeal, bananas contain fiber and nutrients like potassium and magnesium. They contain easily digested carbohydrates which are great for providing quick energy!
Freeze dried fruits- Another fun way to play with texture, tastes, and visuals! My kids like to call them “sprinkles.” Look for unsweetened, freeze dried fruit.
2. Try some veggies!
Veggies on your oatmeal, are you nuts? I know, I know, but I promise this isn’t some dietitian’s pipedream. It actually tastes really good!!
Zucchini: A great addition to oatmeal (make sure to shred it with a cheese grater) during the warmer months as it’s hydrating and provides important vitamins like vitamin A, which supports a healthy immune system, as well as vision.
Carrot: A great source of vitamins A and C, which help support a healthy immune system. Carrots get their orange color from the potent antioxidant beta-carotene. Similar to zucchini, you can shred carrots with a cheese grater and add them as a mix-in or topping.
Pumpkin: Filled with vitamins and minerals and is especially rich in beta-carotene- a carotenoid that your body uses to make vitamin A. It is also a good source of vitamin C, iron, folate, fiber, and potassium. I love mixing it with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg!
3. Spice it up!
Spices are a great way to introduce interesting flavors to expand your little one’s palate! Some classic options include: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and pumpkin pie spice. A little goes a long way. I typically add about one quarter of a teaspoon to a single serving of oats, but do what works best for your little one.
Cinnamon: A delicious, warming spice that can help regulate blood sugar and is full of antioxidants. When buying cinnamon, look for the Ceylon variety, which is a higher quality and has a milder, less spicy flavor that may be better for young palates!
Ginger: This flavorful spice can support immune health, relieve nausea, and may help to stimulate kids’ digestion and absorption of food.
4. Say yes to seeds!
Seeds are a wonderful, simple way to get added nutrition in the form of good fats, fiber, and antioxidants. Store seeds in the fridge to extend their shelf life and keep them from spoiling.
Chia seeds: Provide fiber, protein and Omega-3 fats. They also contain important anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Chia seeds can be purchased whole and should be stored in the fridge to prevent their oils from spoiling. When soaked in liquid, they can expand up to 10X their weight, and form a gelatinous texture that is excellent for digestion and preventing constipation issues in kids.
Hemp seeds: A complete protein, which is especially important for vegan and vegetarian kiddos. In fact, in just 1 tablespoon, hemp seeds provide 3g protein! These seeds are also high in omega 3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health and development. Never had them before? They have a nice nutty flavor that your kids will enjoy!
Flax seeds: With both soluble and insoluble fiber, flax seeds can support gut health and regularity. Ground flax seeds are more easily digested, however, whole flax seeds have a longer shelf life. If you buy them whole, simply grind them as you use them using a coffee grinder or a high-speed blender and store in the fridge. If purchasing them already ground, look for opaque packaging and the “best if used by” date to ensure freshness.
5. Go nuts for nuts!
Pistachios: A delicious combination of good fats, protein, fiber, tons of vitamins, and minerals. Not only tasty but they also add a dash of color.
Almonds: High in essential fatty acids, protein, almonds are the tree nut highest in vitamin E, dietary fiber, magnesium, and protein!
Walnuts: Walnuts score major points for brain and heart health with walnuts. They contain the most Omega-3 fatty acids than any other nut!
Pecans: Rich and buttery, pecans are a good source of healthy monounsaturated fat and fiber. They also provide some plant-based protein, as well as minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium, and zinc.
A note on preparing nuts - for children under 5, grind nuts into a find powder or thin nut butter with water or milk to safely mix into oatmeal.
Coconut flakes: Look for dried and unsweetened varieties. These flakes have a functional type of fat rich in healthy fats called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which the body may use for rapid energy can absorb and metabolize more easily. Plus, there’s more! – coconut is also high in fiber and fat, can help stabilize blood sugar levels, and is antibacterial because it contains lauric acid.
Some of my favorite combos include:
- Pumpkin Pie: pumpkin puree + pumpkin pie spice (or ginger + cinnamon) + flax seeds
- AB&J: Berries + almond butter + chia seeds
- Tropical Vacation: Mango + coconut + chia seeds
- Carrot Cake: shredded carrots + walnuts + raisins + nutmeg + ginger
- PB&J: Berry chia jam + peanut butter
- Warm and Spicy Pear: Baked pears + cinnamon + ginger + flax seeds
- Berry Bliss: Berries + yogurt + chia seeds
- Blueberry Surprise: Blueberries + frozen cauliflower rice + hemp seeds
Kids LOVE a toppings station and this can encourage even more exploration and diet diversity. Try putting toppings into little containers, muffin tins, a sprinkle jar, a DIY topping bar, etc. Have them eat with a spoon or their hands- just have fun!
Enjoy the endless possibilities to add more taste, texture and nutrition to your little one’s oatmeal!
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