Getting Your Kids to Eat More Whole Grains

Whole Grains
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You've probably heard that whole grains are good for your family, but understanding why is a little more confusing. An even bigger challenge may be getting more of these nutrient-dense grains into your daily diet.

Whole grains have not undergone the same degree of processing as refined “white” grains. Less processing means nutrients like protein, folate, thiamin, vitamin E, and iron are retained. Increased amounts of fiber are also found in whole grains, which is why whole-grain versions of bread, pasta, rice, and other grains take longer to digest and keep you feeling fuller longer.

According to the Whole Grains Council, people who eat whole grains regularly have a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

Start With Swaps

Since there are many options to choose from, making swaps for at least some of your grain choices is a step in the right direction.

Experiment With Ancient Grains

Quinoa is now a household name, but there are other nutritious ancient grains to try, like farro, spelt, millet, barley, bulgur, and sorghum. Each grain features a different flavor, texture, and nutrient profile; many are higher in protein and antioxidants as well.

Change Your Pasta

Pasta has evolved far beyond white and whole wheat. Nowadays you can easily find pasta made from brown rice, quinoa, or a combination of multiple grains at your local grocery store. The addition of egg whites and legumes (like beans and lentils) can add an extra boost of protein.

Serve whole-grain pasta with vegetables and beans or lean protein for a complete meal.

Try Family-Friendly Whole Grain Recipes

Pasta can be an easy whole grain option, but don’t shy away from experimenting with other homespun recipes like flatbreads, quinoa salad, granola, and popcorn—yes, popcorn counts as a whole grain!

Peanut Butter & Banana Granola

Servings: 9 (1/2 cup each)

  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups rolled oats
  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup dried bananas
  • 2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick spray.
  3. Whisk peanut butter, oil, honey, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, or until melted; whisk again to combine.
  4. Combine oats, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and salt in a large bowl. Pour peanut butter mixture over oat mixture and gently toss. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden brown (about 15 to 20 minutes). Remove from oven. Once cool, mix in banana chips and chocolate chips, if using. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Flatbread

Servings: 1

  • 1 whole-grain naan bread
  • 1 tablespoon ranch dressing, plus more for topping
  • 3 tablespoons shredded part-skim mozzarella
  • 3 ounces grilled chicken breast, diced or shredded
  • 1 slice cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup chopped vegetables, such as sliced mushrooms and broccoli
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Place naan bread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. Spread ranch dressing on top and then sprinkle with cheese. Layer remaining toppings and bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  4. Top with additional ranch dressing before serving.

Mediterranean Farro Salad

Servings: 6 (about 1 cup each)

  • 1½ cups dry farro
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup sliced Spanish olives
  • ½ cup canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup diced tomato
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 5 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add two teaspoons salt.
  2. Add farro to water and cook according to package directions. Drain, transfer to a large bowl, and season with extra virgin olive oil and remaining salt and pepper.
  3. Mix well and set aside to cool slightly. Once cool, add olives, beans, tomatoes, feta, basil, and vinaigrette. Toss well to combine.

Hot Multi-Grain Cereal

Servings: 4 (about 1½ cups each)

  • 2 cups dry long-grain brown rice
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups reduced-fat milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup, plus more for drizzling
  • Fresh fruit for serving
  1. Place brown rice and quinoa in a food processor or high high-speeder and grind to a fine powder; transfer to a container and set aside.
  2. Combine milk and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  3. Remove the cinnamon stick, then whisk in ground cinnamon, maple syrup, and a ½ cup of the grain mixture.
  4. Continue to cook, whisking frequently until the mixture is thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Serve immediately topped with fresh fruit and a drizzle of maple syrup, if desired.
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