In cafeterias across the country, it’s exciting to see whole grains become the norm for a new generation of children. After all, with all three components of the kernel intact, whole grains provide at least seventeen key nutrients that are greatly reduced in reﬁned grains, and provide about 25% more protein than their reﬁned counterparts. If you’re working to reinforce healthy habits at home and build a preference for wholesome whole grains in your family, then check out these tips below!
- Start Slowly: Ease kids into whole grains by gradually switching out more and more of the white ﬂour in your recipes for whole grain ﬂour. Milder, lighter-colored whole white wheat makes a great stepping-stone for those new to whole grains. Sprouted whole wheat ﬂour (made when grains are soaked and left to germinate, then dried and milled into ﬂour) is also being embraced as a popular whole grain baking option, for its sweeter ﬂavor and high nutrient bioavailability.
- Make it Familiar: Research shows that kids will eat (and enjoy!) whole grain versions of their favorite foods. In a study of over 500 kids eating diﬀerent types of pizza, researchers at the University of Minnesota found that not only did children consume as much of the whole-grain pizza as the reﬁned-grain pizza, but also that liking ratings for the pizza did not diﬀer by crust type. Take this lesson home by making whole-grain versions of kid-friendly favorites, such as grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, or tacos. In fact, even the more exotic “ancient grains” can be made familiar to kids with the right recipe, like these Quinoa Crusted Chicken Fingers or Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Teﬀ Cookies.
- Keep it Fun: When kids have a hand in the cooking process, they’re more likely to be enthusiastic about gobbling up the ﬁnal product. Whole grain pancakes are an easy recipe to get the kiddos involved in. Whether you buy a packaged whole grain pancake mix, or make your own from scratch, young children will enjoy dumping ingredients into the mixing bowl and helping whisk them together. Or, for a fun afterschool project, make whole grain bread from scratch (like this Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread, or this Oat-y-licious Wheat Bread). Kids love punching and kneading the dough! And who can resist bread fresh from the oven?
- Make it a Family Aﬀair: Kids aren’t the only ones that stand to beneﬁt from more whole grain goodness. Set an example, by eating whole grains yourself. If your little ones are hesitant, say “maybe you’re just too young. You’ll like that when you’re older.” Kids love feeling more grown up! Older siblings can also be excellent role models for youngsters, so make sure whole grains make it onto everyone’s plate.
Remember that kids may need to try new foods 6-15 times before they’ll accept them, so don’t get discouraged if a new recipe goes down reluctantly. Also, when kids like something that’s whole grain (such as popcorn), remind them they’re enjoying a whole grain. They’ll be more open to try the next whole grain.
What are your family’s favorite kid-approved whole grain recipes?