Encouraging Children to Consume Whole Grains
Are you wanting to introduce more whole grains into your family’s meals and snacks but are worried that your child(ren) won’t eat whole grains? Childhood is an important time to establish healthy eating patterns. Encouraging children to adopt healthy eating habits from a young age can have a positive impact on dietary habits later in life.
A healthy eating pattern includes grains, with at least half coming from whole grains.
Whole grains are an important source of many nutrients including B vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber, a nutrient that most kids (and adults) do not get enough of. Dietary fiber helps you feel full longer and can lower heart disease risk.
Tips to encourage children to consume whole grains
- Try different products. There are so many different types and ways to offer whole grains. Consider buying whole grain bread, pita bread, sandwich buns, rolls, tortillas, pasta, cereal, crackers, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa and bulgur in order to make half your grains whole. Sometimes kids will like one version of a product but not another. For instance, my oldest will not eat bread that has “grain/oatmeal” on the top crust, but is happy to eat whole grain bread without it. Sample different products and don’t give up!
- Get Children Involved. Involve kids in planning meals, going grocery shopping and preparing food. Getting children involved in the process will get them interested in cooking and consuming new products. Children can put together their own ‘friendship pockets’. Provide different protein or vegetable options to give children a choice in what they create.
- Provide a Choice. People (especially children) do not like being told what to do. By providing choices, children feel like they are in control and parents won’t feel like they are nagging. Research shows that when children are given a choice in what they eat they are more likely to consume it. When you are at the grocery store, provide two whole grain options and let them pick which to put in the cart.
- Bake with White Whole Wheat Flour. Try replacing half of the all-purpose flour in recipes with white whole wheat flour in order to make baked goods whole grain-rich. White whole wheat flour is made from a lighter-colored grain the coloring is lighter and it has a milder taste yet still has the same nutritional benefits of whole wheat flour. Pizza is an easy way to get whole grains into your family’s diet. We use this quick and easy pizza crust recipe.
- Keep trying! It can take a child up to 12 times of being exposed to a new food before they are willing to try it. Introduce new foods gradually in combination with their favorite foods.
- Be a good role model. Children learn from watching you. If you enjoy whole grains they will too!
- Stay Positive. Trying new foods can be intimating to children so keep it fun and positive!
Want to get your kiddos into hands-on activities in the kitchen but not sure what tasks are age-appropriate? Check out this great guide from the Home Baking Association! Or does your child know the sounds a moo-cow makes, but isn’t so sure what a tractor is? Check out the equipment farmers use here!