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Filling the Whole Grain Gap

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My first comment came in today, yay! And actually it was a request for ideas on how to get more whole grains into our kids’ diets. It can seem like a daunting task when our kids are so used to consuming refined grain foods made with enriched flours like white bread, bagels, hamburger buns, (most baked goods really), pasta, white rice etc. (BTW-enriched flour just means the grain has been refined and only a few of the original nutrients have been added back. “Enriched” is really a misnomer and somewhat deceptive because those flours are actually less rich in nutrients). But we do need to turn this tide and get our kids used to the taste and mouth feel of whole grain foods.

Fortunately, adding more whole grains into our diets and our kids’ diets is now easier than ever. With all the recent press and publicity on the benefits of whole grains, food manufacturers are bending over backwards to get as many products out on the market that are made with whole grains and that have acceptable taste and mouth feel. Here are some things to try to get your family started:

  • The most obvious is switching to whole wheat or other whole grain bread, bagels, and buns. Not all whole grain breads are created equally, however so be prepared to try a few brands before you find the right one for your family. Some of them are very dense while others are nice and soft and fluffy.
  • Breakfast cereals are a great way to get the day started with whole grains. Besides oatmeal, there are so many options now but be careful to check ingredients. Look for whole wheat, whole oats, whole corn and so on. Some examples are Cheerios, frosted mini wheats, low fat granolas, oat squares, and Kix. All General Mills cereals contain whole grain, but try to avoid the sugary ones like chocolate puffs and the like, because they are just that, still high in sugar. Dry cereal also makes a great munching snack.
  • Mix whole wheat pasta with regular pasta to ease the transition. You can find whole wheat pastas in most of the shapes kids love.
  • Corn counts as a whole grain! Kids love corn and there are so many fun ways to eat it i.e. popcorn, corn tortillas, tortilla chips (go for baked if your child will eat them), polenta, corn on the cob, corn nuts just to name a few. As for popcorn, yes it’s a whole grain but stay away from those slathered with butter and oil. Try 94% fat free microwave popcorn or pop it yourself on the stove with a little vegetable oil in a nonstick pan.
  • When baking mix half whole wheat flour with all-purpose flour
  • Instant, quick cook and frozen brown rice products tend to be softer and fluffier than regular brown rice. Rice-A-Roni and Near East now make a variety of flavored dishes with brown rice blends.
  • Try whole wheat couscous, you can barely tell the difference because it’s so small. Like the rice blends you can also find yummy whole wheat couscous mixes.
  • Try some of the meat substitute products like Gardenburgers made with brown rice. They have lots of tasty flavors now.
  • Experiment with whole wheat crackers like Triscuits.
  • There are oodles of tasty chewy granola bars and energy bars made with oats and other whole grains. Read the nutrition facts label and go for the ones under 200 calories, preferably less.
  • Many companies are making whole grain options now like fig newtons and whole grain goldfish. Keep your eye out for more of these.

Things to watch out for: Don’t be fooled by multi-grain on the front of a package. Flip it over and read the ingredients. Any grain can be refined.

This was a little long winded but I wanted to get in as many tips as I could today. Have fun! And to learn more about whole grains visit the Whole Grains Council website http://www.wholegrainscouncil.org/.

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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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