What's the Big Deal about Whole Grains for Kids?

What's the Big Deal about Whole Grains for Kids?

Article By: Dominica Dieffenbach, RDN

Dominica is a Registered Dietitian and mom of 2 kiddos currently specializing in the special needs pediatric population. She has over 15 years of experience as an RD, working with a wide variety of patients to provide them with individualized medical nutrition therapy and education.

All whole grain kernels contain three parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Each layer contains health-promoting nutrients, offering a “complete package” of health benefits, unlike refined grains, which are stripped of all the good stuff!

1) Which nutrients do the 3 components of whole grain kernels contain?

The bran is the fiber-rich outer layer that supplies B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, which are known for their role in disease prevention. The germ is the core of the seed where growth occurs — it is rich in healthy fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants as well. The endosperm is the interior layer that holds carbohydrates and protein.

2) What are the health benefits?

Aside from just housing vitamins and minerals, the layers of whole grains also help to prevent spikes in blood sugar, promote a healthy gut, and lower cholesterol. Many kids are consuming a diet high in processed foods (with less whole grains) and are thus not getting the necessary fiber to help prevent constipation. There are two kinds of fiber — soluble and insoluble fiber. Even though our bodies cannot digest fiber, it can increase the bulk of stool making it able to move quicker through the bowels and soften stools by pulling in water.

3) What's the difference between whole wheat vs. whole grains?

Whole wheat refers to the entire wheat kernel, while whole grains include all types of grains in their original form (amaranth, barley, corn, millet, quinoa, rice, rye, sorghum, teff, triticale, and wheat). Both are equally nutritious as they contain all three grain components.

4) How can you incorporate more whole grains in your kiddo's diet?

It is recommended that half of the grains in our diet come from whole grains. Some examples include quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, popcorn, 100% whole wheat flour pasta, and bread products. When reading a nutrition facts label, take a peek at the “Ingredient List” — it will list the components in order of what weighs the most first, in descending order to what weighs the least last. If the word "whole" is missing (or not the first or second item listed), then the flour has been processed and much of the nutrients have been removed. Remember... Wheat flour does not equal whole wheat flour.

How to incorporate more whole grains in your kiddo's diet:

  • Choose whole grain cereals such as plain Cheerios or Rice Chex, whole wheat bran flakes, or shredded wheat
  • Try plain oatmeal sweetened with your kiddo's favorite fruit
  • Substitute white flour products with whole wheat toast or whole grain bagels instead
  • Make sandwiches using whole grain breads
  • Use whole wheat tortillas instead of white flour tortillas
  • Incorporate whole grain pastas
  • Replace white rice with brown rice

For picky children, try gradually incorporating whole grains instead of swapping everything in the house at once. You may even consider mixing white and whole wheat foods during the same meal. Over time, phase out the white flour foods but be mindful of different cooking times. For example, incorporate 1/3 whole wheat pasta mixed with 2/3 white pasta — covered with sauce they’ll never know!

If you have a picky eater and are worried they aren't getting the proper nutrients on a daily basis, be sure to check out our Picky Eater Multi, which tastes great and is designed to give parents peace of mind.

Renzo's Vitamins provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice.

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