Put Your Whole Grains to the Test—Good, Better or Best?
Recently, First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled the federal government’s new food icon, MyPlate, which replaces the old food pyramid that most of us grew up. The First Lady explains, “When mom or dad comes home from a long day of work, we’re already asked to be a chef, a referee, a cleaning crew. So it’s tough to be a nutritionist, too. But we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. As long as they’re half-full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we’re golden. That’s how easy it is.”
Sure it SOUNDS easy, but getting children to eat whole grains, especially when they have already become accustomed to white bread and pasta made with enriched flour, can be quite a challenge.
What are whole grains?
According to Virtua registered dietitian, April Schetler, RD, “A whole grain consists of three parts: wheat germ, bran and endosperm. Therefore, whole grain means the entire grain is intact and hasn’t been modified or adjusted. When refined grains or white flour are produced, the fiber and antioxidants, the nutritional powerhouse of a whole grain, are stripped away. The consumer is left with the endosperm, which may taste good, but has no nutritional value.”
It’s important to integrate whole grains into your family’s diet as a means for preventing or lowering their risk for developing heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes. And the added bonus for the whole family is that whole grains typically help people better manage their weight.
If you’re not ready to take a full leap into whole grains, try a gradual approach. The following offers Schetler’s best tips for finding a variety of whole-grain foods that are good enough, better and best for your family.
Bread: Try to find bread that has some fiber in it. Most white breads have no fiber at all, but you may be surprised to find out that the Wonder Kids bread that you’ve been buying has the same amount as 100% whole wheat bread.
Pasta: Anything that has some fiber in it is good enough. Read the labels and you may discover, for example, that many regular Barilla pastas have 2 grams of fiber, which is better than none.
Flour: Most all-purpose flours have less than 1 gram of fiber, which is essentially, none. But King Arthur’s Unbleached White Whole-Wheat Flour looks and bakes like all-purpose flour and has 3 grams of fiber.
Bread: If you’re feeding your family rye, pumpernickel, or marble rye breads you are already doing better. They are full of healthy whole grains.
Pasta: Cooking with pastas such as Barilla Plus and Ronzoni Healthy Harvest that have modified fibers added to them, is better even though they’re not whole grain.
Flour: Try using half all-purpose flour and half whole-wheat flour when baking. Family favorites like chocolate chip cookies will taste just as yummy to your kids. The adults are the ones to watch out for – their palates are already conditioned to the taste of white flour, so they may call you out on the whole wheat substitution!
Bread: 100% whole grain or whole-wheat breads are best and easy to find in both name brands and store brands. It MUST say 100% to be true whole grain.
Pasta: Whole-wheat pasta is a little darker and has a slightly different taste and texture from regular pasta, but it’s the best whole-grain choice.
Flour: When buying whole- wheat flour, be careful to read the ingredients. The only ingredient that should be listed is whole wheat.
Schetler offers these tips for feeding whole grains to kids:
- Stay away from products where the first ingredient is “enriched.”
- Pack lunches with whole-grain snacks like popcorn or trail mix made with whole-wheat cereal and dried fruit.
- Get your kids involved with the cooking and let them pick out their favorite whole-grain ingredients for the meal.
- Make grocery shopping for whole grains a game where they have to read nutrition labels and find whole-grain products.
It is much harder to change the way you eat as an adult. Give your kids a gift by incorporating whole grains into their diet now, and it will be the familiar taste their palate always knows.