Not that these are really commandments, more of suggestions according to Leisa. I’m definitely no Moses, but I have worked with kids on eating healthier (including my own) so that is kind of a qualification right?! Anywho…
- Variety: Variety is the spice of life no? Well, when getting your sprout to eat whole grains, variety can be the best way. Forcing them to eat whole wheat bread all the time might get really old really quick but there are so many more options! Whole wheat pasta, brown rice, whole wheat crackers, whole wheat bread/tortillas/pitas/hamburger buns, barley, oatmeal, cereals, popcorn, amaranth, buckwheat, bulgur, farro, millet, quinoa, rye, sorghum, spelt, and wild rice… Just to name a few. Try adding them to soups, cookies, buckwheat pancakes anyone? The world is your oyster and all that…
- Set the example: I’m not sure how things work in your house, but in my house my G eats what I eat. I can’t really expect him to eat and enjoy a food if I won’t eat it can I? So, if you want your little one to eat more whole grains, you might want to start eating more yourself. In fact, make it a family affair! It’s more fun that way and less work for whoever is in charge of groceries and meal prep.
- Start early: Can’t teach an old dog new tricks right? (Man, I’m full of little sayings today aren’t I….) So make it easy on yourself and make whole grains the first trick you teach them. The first type of bread I gave G was whole wheat bread; he doesn’t know any different and he loves it. Switching from white bread and rice and pasta might be a little trickier than just starting them out on the whole stuff, but don’t fret. It’s never too late!
- Make it fun: Just like with other aspects of eating, your kids might be more inclined to try whole grains if they’re fun and interesting. Want them to eat whole wheat pancakes? Try making Mickey Mouse pancakes. Want them to eat whole wheat pasta? Try getting new, fun shapes or serving them with mini meatballs. How about cutting your little one’s whole wheat sandwich into fun shapes with cookie cutters? Dedicate a meal each week to learning about a different grain, or turn it into a game and have them guess the names of new grains.
- Involve your kids: Kids like to have some say in what they’re eating so get them involved with whole grains too! Let them pick a new grain or a new recipe to try. Give them the choice to try a new whole grain cereal. Ask their opinion on which grain item they like better. Help them have ownership in their whole grain experience.
- Go halfsies: Can’t get your little one to eat whole grains? Try going half and half. Mix half whole wheat pasta with half white pasta. Same idea with rice and bread. If that doesn’t work, try products that are made with some whole grains but not all (like crackers, cereals, breads…. They’re throwing whole grains into all kinds of things these days). Some is better than none afterall. They’ll still get some benefits and these products might be more palatable for young mouths and appetites.
- Don’t stress: Stressing about it won’t help, so don’t! If your little one won’t eat whole grains, that doesn’t mean they’re going to have high cholesterol when they’re 16. Keep trying and keep offering and it will all work out. If everything in your pantry isn’t whole grain, that’s OK too (my pantry isn’t full of 100% whole grains either). The USDA recommendation is to make HALF your grains whole grains (catchy right?). That means that some refined grains are totally fine. So take a deep breath….and keep reading!
- Don’t push it: See #7. But really, pushing it on your child will only add stress. Follow the Division of Responsibility and provide whole grain foods, let your child decide if they want to eat them.
- Go Natural: Try getting whole grains through foods that are naturally whole grains (does that make any sense?). For example, popcorn. Popcorn is a whole grain that your child can eat without knowing they’re eating a whole grain. Foods like oatmeal, that they already like and eat for breakfast, are a great way to get whole grains. Even brown rice or wild rice, something that is naturally whole grain, might not be as hard to switch to as whole grain bread or whole wheat pasta. You can also try white whole wheat bread. This bread is made from a lighter whole grain so it looks like your child’s favorite white bread and has a texture similar to your child’s favorite white bread but has all the nutritional benefits of that brown grainy stuff!
- Make them likeable: Not everyone wants to eat a kale-quinoa salad to get their whole grains, but I bet most people can get behind a PB&J made on whole wheat bread (unless you’re my husband and you don’t like PB&J on any type of bread). Include whole grains in your sprouts diet in a natural, likeable way. Try whole grain crackers (like Wheat Thins or Triscuits) and cheese for a snack. Make a chicken and rice casserole for dinner using brown rice or wild rice. Even try substituting quinoa for rice in a stir fry or Hawaiian haystacks. Make their favorite pasta dish using whole wheat pasta. Add barley or farro to soups and stews. Whole grains really can be delicious if you try to make them likeable.
What are your favorite ways to include whole grains in your child’s meal? Be sure to comment below if you have any creative ideas!