Photo Credit: Jeanette Chen
“Yuck, what is this?…brown bread? Where’s the white stuff?!” That’s what my kids used to say when I first tried switching to whole grain bread. I knew I had to come up with a better plan to add more whole grains to my family’s diet.
Okay, so I admit I started sneaking in some whole grains here and there -- like making French toast and sandwiches with the white whole wheat bread that's more off-white than brown. Or cooking fried rice with brown rice figuring my kids would think it was brown because of the soy sauce.
Why did I do all this sneaky stuff to get my kids to eat whole grains? Because I want them to grow up to be healthy adults. Whole grains can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, and lead to better weight maintenance. According to the USDA's new food pyramid, MyPlate, kids ages nine and up should be getting at least three to five servings of whole grains every day. For younger children, the recommendation is two to three servings or more. (A serving size is an ounce, which equals one slice of bread or a half cup of cooked grains such as brown rice or oatmeal.)
Luckily, there are so many high-quality whole grain products on the market today that kids (and adults) will warm up to. I still remember the rock-hard whole wheat bread my mom made when we were growing up. Or the first pack of whole wheat pasta I ever tasted and ended up throwing out. Now there’s white whole wheat bread that’s soft like white bread (I like Vermont Bread Company and Canyon Bakehouse) and whole grain pasta that isn’t completely brown, just a tad. (Barilla makes good 51 percent whole wheat pastas and I also like Vita Spelt's 100 percent whole wheat pasta.)
Need some ideas for introducing your kids to whole grains? Try these:
- Pack popcorn, whole corn tortilla chips or an oatmeal granola bar for a snack.
- Substitute white whole wheat bread for white bread – it’s mild in flavor and soft in texture.
- Make checkerboard sandwiches using half white and half whole grain bread.
- Substitute whole grain pasta that’s 51 percent whole wheat to begin with, or try quinoa corn pasta – it’s delicious and gluten-free.
- Serve oatmeal with maple syrup or honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon for breakfast.
- Substitute white whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur flour) for half the all-purpose flour in muffin and quick bread recipes.
- Heartier muffins like pumpkin, carrot or zucchini are good vehicles for whole grain flour.
- If you’re serving a lighter pasta sauce like garlic and olive oil, serve it over a lighter-colored whole grain pasta like quinoa corn pasta (like Ancient Harvest Gluten-Free Quinoa Corn Pasta). Top whole wheat pastas with a hearty tomato sauce; spaghetti and meatballs are a good kid-friendly choice.
Once your kids get used to these whole grains, they’ll be more likely to try the darker, heartier 100 percent whole grain breads and pastas. Gradually, they’ll get used to the fuller, nuttier taste of whole grains.
Here are 10 easy kid-friendly whole grain recipes to get you started, including my Whole Grain Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe, which is made with mostly white whole wheat flour. After a few batches of these muffins, try eliminating the all-purpose flour and use only white whole wheat flour and I bet your kids will still gobble these muffins up (the chocolate chips don’t hurt!).
Whole Grain Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
(Makes 1 dozen muffins)
2/3 cup organic sugar
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup regular or light olive oil
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup low-fat milk
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix together sugar, white whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
3.In a small bowl, whisk together egg, oil and applesauce.
4.Add to dry ingredients, stirring until just blended.
5.Add mashed bananas and chocolate chips and stir until just blended.
6.Divide batter into muffin tins and bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick poked into the center of the muffin comes out clean.
More kid-friendly whole grain recipes:
Whole Grain Pumpkin Streusel Muffins
Pumpkin Spice Donuts (gluten-free)
No-Bake “Clif” Granola Bars (gluten-free)
Oatmeal Peanut Chocolate Chip Cookies (gluten-free)
Easy Vegetable Minestrone Soup
Creamless Cream of Tomato Soup with Pasta
Tomato Paste Pasta
Vegetable Fried Rice
For more healthy recipes, please stop by my blog, Jeanette’s Healthy Living!