Rye

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Poop Friendly:Whether a food has qualities that help baby poop. Yes
Common Allergen: No
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a pile of uncooked rye ready to be prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat rye?

Rye may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Note that rye contains gluten and therefore is not safe for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Where does rye come from?

Rye is part of the same plant family as barley and wheat, and while those grains are more widely grown, rye has an edge: it thrives in cooler, wetter climates. Trade brought rye from its origins around the Mediterranean Sea to the northern regions of Europe and Asia, where the hardy grain thrived in harsh growing conditions. In fact, before modern food preservation and global trade, rye beat out wheat in those regions, becoming a staple food known as råg, rukis, seigle, and zyto that is still consumed today. While whole rye grains can be cooked and eaten, rye is often ground into flour to make breads like American sissel bread, Danish rugbrød, German pumpernickel, Polish chlep zytni, and Swedish limpa.

Maya, 6 months, eats strips of toasted rye bread with labneh spread on top.
Cooper, 11 months, eats rye berries.
Callie, 17 months, eats a slice of rye bread.

Is rye healthy for babies?

Yes. Whole grain rye, sometimes called rye berry, has plenty of carbohydrates, some protein, and is a noteworthy source of fiber, providing more than many other grains. Rye contains a unique combination of particular fibers that promote gut health by supporting a baby’s developing microbiome.1 2 Whole grain rye also contains some vitamin B6, iron, and zinc, all of which are essential for early childhood growth and development. White and light rye flours primarily contain carbohydrates and less of whole grain rye’s other nutrients. Dark rye flour is made with more of the whole grain, and therefore contains more nutrients, including fiber and iron.

As with most grains, rye is susceptible to many types of pests, so pesticide use is common.3 4 In general, thoroughly rinsing grains can help reduce pesticide residue.5

★Tip: When shopping for whole grain rye or rye flour, check out the bulk bins: bulk rye tends to be more affordable, and even organic rye can be much cheaper when bought this way. Store whole grain rye and rye flours in air-tight containers, away from light and moisture.

Can babies eat gluten?

Yes—if a child does not have an allergy to gluten-containing grains, celiac disease, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Gluten is a type of protein in wheat and other grains such as barley, rye, and triticale, and can also be present in certain kinds of oats. Gluten is fine to consume, but it becomes problematic for individuals with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that affects an estimated 1-2% of the Western world.6 When an individual with celiac disease consumes food with gluten, the small intestine becomes damaged.7 8 9 Some individuals may be sensitive to gluten but may not have a wheat allergy or celiac disease – this reaction may be non-celiac gluten sensitivity (not generally common in babies and toddlers). However, gluten-containing grains can also contain carbohydrates like fructans that are difficult for some individuals to digest, which can be mistaken for allergies or intolerance to gluten.

Is rye a common choking hazard for babies?

No, cooked rye berries should not pose a choking risk, although various products made from rye certainly could and in theory an individual can choke on any food.. Breads made with rye flour can also glom up in baby’s mouth. To make the texture easier for baby to handle, toast bread well before serving. Whole grain rye berries are small enough that they do not present a choking hazard, but they do pose a higher risk for aspiration, or entering the trachea and bronchial tree during a poorly coordinated swallow, but this risk is lowest when baby is self-feeding. Never put rye berries in a baby’s mouth. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Is rye a common allergen?

No, rye is not considered a common cause of IgE-mediated allergies, although allergic reactions to rye have been reported.10 Individuals who are allergic to wheat or barley may also be sensitive to rye, which is also a gluten-containing grain.11 12 Keep in mind that breads containing rye often contain multiple grains and common allergens, such as dairy, eggs, sesame, soy, and wheat.

Gluten-containing grains have been reported as a trigger of food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome, also known as FPIES.13 14 15 16 FPIES is a rare and delayed allergy to food protein which causes the sudden onset of repetitive vomiting and diarrhea to begin a few hours after ingestion of the food trigger. Left untreated, the reaction can result in significant dehydration.17 18 Fortunately, most cases resolve completely by early childhood. To learn more about FPIES, read our post on Food Allergens and Babies.

Rye contains gluten, which must be avoided in those who have celiac disease. Celiac disease requires a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet and lifestyle.19 A gluten “allergy” is typically a misnomer, often in reference to celiac disease.20 Triticale is a hybrid grain made from wheat and rye and should be avoided in those with wheat or rye allergy, celiac disease, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.21

Individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also known as pollen food allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to rye, particularly those who are allergic to grass pollen.22 In some cases, patients with pollen food allergy syndrome develop bloating and abdominal discomfort after consuming large quantities of rye.

While rare, some individuals have a condition known as food-dependent, exercise-induced anaphylaxis, which can result in a severe allergic reaction if the person exercises within a few hours after eating certain food allergens, including gluten-containing grains such as rye. These patients should avoid eating rye in the four hours before strenuous activity.23

If you suspect baby is allergic to rye, talk to your baby’s doctor before introducing rye at home. As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first few servings and watch closely for any signs of an allergic reaction. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the amount over future servings.

Can rye help babies poop?

Yes. Rye is an excellent source of fiber, particularly insoluble fibers (which help speed up bowel movements) and other qualities that, in combination with a balanced and varied diet, can help support overall digestive health and bowel regularity.24 25 Consumption of rye has also been associated with gas. While gas is normal and expected, excess gas can be uncomfortable for baby. To minimize digestive discomfort, introduce high-fiber foods like rye gradually and regularly in baby’s diet.26 Note that pooping patterns can vary significantly from child to child. Be sure to talk to your pediatric healthcare provider if you have concerns about baby’s pooping and digestive function.

How do you introduce rye to babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 9 months old: Rye porridge is a simple way to introduce the grain to baby, as well as an excellent vehicle for new flavors: your favorite spices, mashed fruits and vegetables, or finely ground-up nut, for example. You can also use rye flakes (rolled barley) or rye flour to make pancakes or breads. Offer a strip of crunchy toasted bread about the size of two adult fingers pressed together, or the end of crusty loaf of bread (read why the ends are often safer) for baby to munch on. Just know that bread, when moistened by saliva, can stick to the tongue or the roof of the mouth and cause gagging.

9 to 12 months old: Continue to serve rye porridges, pancakes, and breads, as well as meatballs and patties with cooked rye mixed in. Offer these foods cut into bite-sized pieces (the size of a large adult knuckle) to help babies practice their developing pincer grasp, where the index finger and thumb come together to pick up smaller pieces of food. Use rye flakes to add grip to slippery foods like apricot halves or mango spears.

12 to 24 months old: Explore the diverse world of rye breads and sandwiches. You may also continue serving rye in porridges and pancakes. Cracked or pearled rye grains thicken a stew’s texture, which can make it easier for toddlers to practice using a spoon. If the child is not interested in using a spoon, keep in mind that using utensils can be exhausting for new eaters, and many children toggle back and forth between feeding themselves with their fingers and utensils. Try not to apply too much pressure—consistent and accurate utensil use will come in due time—probably between 18 and 24 months of age.

Get out of your breakfast rotation rut with our guide 50 Breakfasts for Babies & Toddlers.

What are recipe ideas for rye?

How you cook rye depends on what type you have. Rye can be purchased as whole or pearled grain berries (with or without the hull removed), cracked rye (similar in look and texture to cracked bulgur), flakes (similar in look and texture as rolled oats), or flour. Use whole or pearled rye in grain salads or meat or vegetable patties. Mix cooked cracked rye with ground meat and seasonings to make a stuffing for bell peppers, squash, or portobello mushrooms. Or thicken soups and stews with pearled rye grains. If you’ve got time to bake, experiment with rye flour in pancakes, muffins, or breads. Rye bread is often spiced—go traditional with anise, caraway, and fennel seeds, or mix things up by using your family’s favorite spices.

★ Tip: Soaking whole or pearled rye not only reduces cooking time, but helps the body digest the nutrients and plant-based iron in the grains. To soak, simply rinse the grains until the water runs clear. Cover the grains with fresh water in a bowl and soak between 8 and 24 hours at room temperature. Strain and rinse the soaked rye again, then proceed with cooking.

Recipe: Smørrebrød (Open-Faced Sandwich)

Yield: 2 toasts
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 2 slices rye bread
  • 3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup (38 grams) blueberries
  • salt to taste for adults and older children (optional: 12 months+)

This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (butter) and wheat (bread). Bread may also include sesame, soy, or other common allergens. Be sure to check the ingredient list on the label and only serve to a child after these allergens have been safely introduced. Avoid bread with honey, which should not be given to babies under 12 months of age.

Directions

  1. Toast the bread well. For babies who are just starting solids, try offering the crusty end, which can be safer than a slice from the middle of the loaf. Read why.
  2. Spread 1 tablespoon (14 grams) butter on the bread for baby and the rest on a slice of bread for you. If you like, you can swap butter with another nutritious food like chicken liver pâté or ricotta cheese.
  3. Wash and dry the blueberries. Mash some blueberries with the back of a fork and spread them on top of baby’s smørrebrød. Place the rest of the berries on your smørrebrød.
  4. Season your portion of smørrebrød with salt to taste.
  5. Cut baby’s smørrebrød into age-appropriate pieces: If baby is younger than 12 months of age, the toast can be cut into rectangular strips about the size of two adult fingers pressed together. If the child is taking too-big bites and is older than 9 months of age, try offering bite-sized pieces the size of a large adult knuckle. Once the child reaches 15 to 18 months of age, you’ll find the child can likely handle a full piece of toast.

To Serve: Serve the smørrebrød and let the child try to self-feed. If help is needed, pass the smørrebrød vertically in the air for baby to grab from you. Eat your smørrebrød alongside baby to model how it’s done.

To Store: Smørrebrød is best enjoyed on the day it is prepared, but it can keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Flavor Pairings

Rye pairs well with the flavors of apple, blackberry, butter, pear, strawberries, and yogurt.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MS, CNS. Certified Nutrition Specialist®

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP. Board-Certified Pediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist

K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC. Pediatric Feeding Therapist

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT. Pediatric Feeding Therapist

Dr. S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

Dr. R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

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