Increase Your Kid's Whole Grains With These Easy Tips

Health & Wellness on 09.09.11
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Having worked with children and their diets, I know that most kids prefer white bread, white rice, and over-processed cereals and crackers. These foods are fine to an extent, however our kids need a fair share of whole grains as well.  I admit that I am a full blown brown-rice-mama, so my daughter, Lilia, has been raised to love the rich and complex tastes of whole grains.With a little practice and creativity, your kids can love them too.

Research shows that eating whole grains reduces risks of chronic disease like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some cancers, and even improves weight maintenance.

The new Food Plate and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend that kids make half of their daily grain servings whole grains. This means that kids under age 9 should get about 2-3 servings per day and kids age 9 and older should get 3-5 servings of whole grains per day.

What is a Whole Grain?

There are two types of grains: whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains include the entire grain kernel, and therefore contain higher amounts of dietary fiber, B vitamins, and iron. Grains are any foods made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or other cereal grain and include items like pasta, grits, breakfast cereals, tortillas, crackers, breads, and oatmeal.

A serving of whole grain is equivalent to:

  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice or other cooked grain
  • 1/2 cup cooked 100% whole-grain pasta
  • 1/2 cup cooked hot cereal, such as oatmeal
  • 1 ounce uncooked whole grain pasta, brown rice or other grain
  • 1 slice 100% whole grain bread
  • 1 very small (1 oz.) 100% whole grain muffin
  • 1 cup 100% whole grain ready-to-eat cereal

Easy Tips to Increase Whole Grains

1. Start Your Day With Whole Grains: Breakfast is an ideal time to add whole grains because many breakfast foods already come this way.  Choose a breakfast cereal with whole grain ingredients like oats or oatmeal, muesli, or whole wheat flakes. Try preparing toast with whole wheat or whole grain breads.  Add fruit or fruit topping to increase sweetness for picky eaters.

2. Give Whole Grains at Snack Time: Kids snacks can be another chance to increase whole grains. Give whole wheat/grain crackers with cheese or peanut butter, popcorn, rolled oats in yogurt, or whole wheat pasta salad. 

3. Bake and Cook with Whole Grains: Replace 1/2 the white flour with whole wheat flour in your regular recipes for cookies, muffins, and breads. Try adding oats to hamburger or meatballs, and grains like bulgur, rice, or quinoa to soups. Use 1/2 whole wheat pasta in your favorite pasta dishes and use whole cornmeal in cornbread and corn muffins.

4. Be Creative: Try a new food each week. Make sure to get your kids involved with the cooking to encourage them to try these new foods. (Check out how here and here). Try more making side dishes like risottos, tabbouleh, and pilafs with bulgar, quinoa, millet, or amaranth.  And remember to lead by example. Kids will be more apt to try these foods when parents are willing too.

5. Read Food Labels: Make sure to read the food labels on packaged or processed foods to ensure they contain whole grains. Make sure the ingredients state whole wheat or whole grains.  Also, check the label for fiber content. A food with at least 10 grams of fiber is a good source of whole grains.

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