There’s a misconception out there that kids don’t (or won’t) like foods made from whole grains. But do kids really innately prefer white bread over wheat?
Of course not! It’s usually a matter of kids liking what’s familiar. No kid is going to love every food you offer, but the truth is, your kids will learn to like whole grain foods if that’s what’s put in front of them.
But why do we care if kids eat whole grain breads, cereals and crackers anyway?
Mainly, it’s that whole grains are made of – you guessed it – WHOLE grains. Whole grain foods contain of all three parts of the grain, while 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.
Here’s a great little video to explain the basic difference between white and whole grain flours at your child’s level:
In other words, whole grains are a lot more nutritious!
In particular, the fiber in whole grains is key to feeling full after meals and is also crucial for healthy digestion. Fiber keeps things in our digestive track moving, so kids with a diet lacking the fiber from whole grain foods often struggle with chronic constipation.
So if you’re looking for new ways to get those healthy, whole grains into your child’s diet, here are my favorite tips on how to get your kids to eat more whole grains.
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!)
- Whip up a batch of whole grain breakfast cookies.
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.
- Make a simple grain-based salad using whole grains like brown rice, quinoa or whole grain pasta (This roasted veggie pasta salad is a favorite in our house.)
- 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.
- Purchase (or make) whole wheat bread crumbs for breading meats or seafood.
- 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.)
If your child is used to eating foods made from enriched white flours, they probably aren’t going to learn to love whole grain foods overnight. In fact, research shows that kids may need to taste a new food 20-30 times before deciding they like it.
Start by offering one whole grain option at each meal, and allow kids to take it or leave it. If you’re baking something from scratch, try using half white and half whole wheat grain to start, and transition to the full whole grain version over time.
Just like with anything else new, learning to like whole grain foods may take time, but it will happen!
Curious about other nutrition topics for kids? Check out the Raising Healthy Eaters section of Home Cooked Happy!