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Get kids to eat more whole grains

Does your son run hiding at the mention of “whole grains”? Shriek at the sight of multigrain wraps? Boggle over the unusual shapes of different cooked grains? Well, like it or not, grains are good for people — young or old.

Boy eating whole grain bread
The word “grain” is one of those words that conjures ideas of crunchy – literally – bread and cardboard crackers. Yuck . . . doesn’t sound like something my kids would enjoy. But, fortunately, there is more to grains than those stereotyped notions.

You probably have heard that you should be eating whole grains instead of refined grains. But do you know why? According to, grains are high in fiber which can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, reduce constipation and help maintain a healthy weight. They are high in dietary fiber, several of the vitamin Bs and important minerals. All of those things are important for kids and adults alike. Nice. And healthy kids are more likely to be healthy adults so the benefits just keep on coming.

What are whole grains?

We’ll start with an easy one – Whole wheat. That’s the whole grain that most people know. You don’t have to put a rush order on whole grain whole wheat bread to get in your daily intake of grains. In fact, there are a lot more whole grain options than whole wheat.

Whole grains also include bulgur, oatmeal, whole cornmeal, brown rice, popcorn and quinoa. It’s true. That means an after-camp or after-school snack of hot air popped popcorn or some oatmeal at breakfast can count as servings too.

Getting kids to eat grains

Chef Gale Gand says that multigrain hot cereals are a good place to start introducing kids to whole grains since you “can doll them up.” In Gand’s house, peaches and “a dollop of whipped cream” make multigrain cereal a favorite of her family, which includes three children. She adds that wheat berries are another great whole grain. “Wheat berries [are] a really, really fun, stimulating way to get whole grains,” Gand says.

A new cookbook on cooking with wheat that Gand collaborated on, Food for Thought: From Parents to Children, includes recipes like Strawberry and Yogurt Wheat Crepes, Wheat Berry Tuna Salad and Honey Raisin Bars. Recipes like those, Gand says, are real-world ways of getting grains into kids eating vocabulary. The book, which benefits Spoons Across America, includes recipes both from Gand and parents.

The Whole Grains Council also suggests just making easy switches in kids’ meals such as whole wheat bread with their favorite sandwich or oatmeal raisin cookies instead of chocolate chip.

Other ways to cook with grains

The internet has a breadth of recipes that use whole grains. You can search on Google for good recipes, or check out websites like The Whole Grains Council or the Wheat Foods Council.

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