September is National Whole Grains Month which makes this the perfect time to talk about how to incorporate whole grains into your child’s and adolescent’s diet. Did you know that whole-grain foods contain 3 elements of grains? These include: Bran (fibrous outer portion of the grain), Endosperm (inner part of the grain) and Germ (heart of the grain kernel).
White enriched flours have the bran and the germ removed. Unfortunately, when the bran and germ are removed, so is essentially all of the fiber, along with protein, antioxidants, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Some of those vitamins and minerals are added back into white flour later, but whole grains still contain significantly more fiber, protein and vitamins than foods made from enriched white flours.
In other words, whole grains are a lot more nutritious! Here are some ways to incorporate whole grains into your children’s meals and snacks.
So what does the term whole grain really mean on a food label?
It indicates only that some whole grain is included. The only way to ensure that a product contains an actual serving of whole grain is if the label says so. The government’s dietary guidelines recommend that Americans eat three 1-oz servings of whole grains every day.
HOW TO GET YOUR KIDS TO EAT MORE WHOLE GRAINS AT BREAKFAST
- Offer whole grain toast, bagels and english muffins instead of enriched white bread.
- Cook whole grain pancakes or waffles (or buy them frozen).
- Serve your favorite oatmeal for breakfast (overnight oats, stovetop oatmeal, baked oatmeal… they’re all delicious!)
- Opt for a breakfast cereal made with whole grains (Cheerios are a great example!)
HOW TO GET YOUR KIDS TO EAT MORE WHOLE GRAINS AT LUNCH
- Swap white sandwich bread for whole grain bread or wraps.
- Make whole grain pin-wheels or quesadillas using whole wheat tortillas.
- Create a DIY Lunchable, and serve deli meat and cheese with whole grain crackers.
- Prepare mini-pizzas on whole grain flatbreads or english muffins.
HOW TO GET YOUR KIDS TO EAT MORE WHOLE GRAINS AT DINNER
- Use whole wheat pasta in place of traditional enriched white pasta.
- Instead of white rice or couscous, opt for whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, barley or farro.
- Add whole grains to soups and chilis for a heartier take on traditional favorites.
- Swap whole wheat pizza crust for your traditional crust at home or when ordering out.
HOW TO GET YOUR KIDS TO EAT MORE WHOLE GRAINS AT SNACK-TIME
- Swap crackers made from whole grains for those made from enriched white flour.
- Offer muffins or quick breads made from whole grain flours.
- Purchase whole grain granola bars, ideally those with less than 5 grams of sugar per bar.
- Serve whole grain bread or toast topped with your child’s favorite nut butter.
- Pop your own popcorn and top with salt and a touch of butter or oil. (SkinnyPop is also a great alternative that even comes in snack-size bags.)