Make at Least Half Your Grains Whole Grain

Registered Dietitians (RDs) from the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford Clinical Nutrition department present eating tips and articles and links to other great websites for nutrition information, ideas, fun and games.

October 2011

The new 2010 Dietary Guidelines suggest that half of your grains be from whole grains. When grains are processed the germ, bran and endosperm are removed. This creates white flour, white rice and refined corn meal, to name a few examples. Whole grains retain all three of these parts in their original proportions. There is evidence that eating whole grains may decrease risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, digestive cancers and stroke. Whole grains also provide B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, fiber, and antioxidants as well as calories and protein.

To find whole grain foods, use the food label ingredient list. Look for whole grains at the top of the list, for instance, whole wheat flour vs enriched wheat flour. Try whole grain breads, crackers, cereals, brown rice, wild rice, whole grain pastas and tortillas (corn and wheat), whole corn or wheat tortilla chips, pita and bagels, oats and even popcorn.

Less familiar grains add variety to your diet such as polenta, quinoa, barley, amaranth, bulgar and millet. When eating out ask if whole wheat bread, buns, rolls or crackers are available. Some restaurants now offer brown rice. Start children young on whole grains to help their acceptance. This will make it normal to them. Don’t assume children will not like whole grains. Introducing whole grains into your family, can be more of a challenge. Make sure the adults are on board to encourage a conflict-free mealtime. If there are older children, consider discussing the plan with them separately from small children so they also will be more accepting and less likely to make a face. Use positive language when needed such as, “This is brown rice. I learned recently that it is more healthy for us and it’s really delicious so I thought we would give it a try.”

  • When selecting a whole grain bread consider starting one where there is at least ½ of the grains from whole grains and transition to a 100% whole grain product.
  • Look for the softer or fluffier bread choices rather than a dense, dry bread. This may be accepted better if your child is used to a soft white bread.
  • Substitute brown rice for white rice. Look for quick cooking brown rice if time is a problem as it does take a bit longer to cook than white rice. Consider cooking in a broth for added flavor, addition of vegetables and spices or herbs to make a “confetti” rice or pilaf.
  • Whole grain pasta can be harder to accept. It often has a chewier texture and, of course, the darker color. Look for the lightest color whole grain pasta and experiment with cooking times to get the texture you prefer. Consider pasta with some whole grain and some refined grain as a transition. Remember, the goal is for ½ of our grains to come from whole grain. Serve with your usual yummy sauces, as mac & cheese, and in pasta salads, lasagna, or as an addition to soups.
  • Whole grain crackers are usually easy to accept. Look for crackers that are a similar shape and type to what is usual for your family and to start with, avoid those with dense, hard or rough fibery textures.
  • Look for whole grain cereals that are familiar shapes such as whole grain O types or flakes. Don’t expect a sudden change to a heavy roughage type cereal to be accepted. Many cereals have changed to adding more whole grains to their usual brands. Consider mixing cereals together which can be a fun way to introduce new cereals. A handful of 2 or 3 cereals can allow for a familiar cereal to combine with a new cereal. Add raisins, berries, bananas for a little sweetness and added nutrition. Oatmeal is a great whole grain often well accepted by children.
  • Presoaking some whole grains such as rice can shorten the cooking time. Look for “quick cooking” grains and cooking in quantity and storing in the refrigerator for several days can decrease preparation time.
  • When baking substitute half of the flour with whole grain flour. Your kids will likely not notice. This substitution may lead to the need for a little more liquid in the recipe.

Recipe Ideas

My Favorite Pancakes

Makes about 12 small pancakes

  1. Sift together:
    1. 1 cup of whole wheat flour
    2. 1/2 cup of white flour
    3. 2 Tblsp sugar
    4. 1/2 tsp baking powder
    5. 3/4 tsp baking soda
    6. 1/2 tsp salt
  2. Mix together:
    1. 1 cup buttermilk (add more as needed)
    2. 1 egg
    3. 2 Tblsp vegetable oil or butter
  3. Add the liquids to the solids and mix

Polenta (Purchasing premade polenta is another option)

  1. Bring to a boil 5 cups of water and a pinch of salt
  2. Slowly add 1 1/2 cups of polenta. Stir slowly to avoid clumping.
  3. Stir constantly on low heat for 10 minutes
  4. Add 1 tsp salt and 3/4 cup of grated cheese (optional)
  5. Cook on low heat for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
  6. Serve immediately, or spread in a 13x9 inch baking pan and allow to cool. Slice into shapes and serve layered with your favorite tomato sauce recipe, chili, or brush with olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and broil.

Your kids will love it! There are many recipes available online.