By Connie Evers MS, RD, LD – Nutrition for Kids
Connie’s Healthy Eating Blog – Choosing and Using Whole Grains
Rich in fiber, complex carbohydrates and nutrients, whole grains provide energy for moving bodies and thinking brains.
Children really benefit from the nutrient boost that whole grains provide. Most American kids eat very few servings of whole grains and prefer products made from refined flours. When children are offered whole grains beginning at a young age, they get used to the coarser texture of whole-grain breads and cereals. I advise parents to start whole grain iron-fortified baby cereals (e.g. oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat) as soon as they begin feeding solid foods at around 6 months of age. And of course, parents who eat whole grains on a regular basis up the odds that their kids will too!
MyPlate (http://choosemyplate.gov) recommends that we eat at least half of our grains in the whole form. For a typical 2000 calorie diet, this amounts to 3 daily servings of whole grains. But surveys show that most Americans of all ages are lucky to consume even one daily serving of whole grains.
What are “Whole Grains”?
Whole grains literally come from the “whole” grain seed, which includes the nutrient rich kernel and bran. Refined or “enriched” grains have the outer covering (bran) and germ removed, leaving only the starchy endosperm. Because refined grains are basically just nutrient-void starch, manufacturers are required by law to enrich by adding back a few B vitamins and iron.
While all grains supply energy in the form of carbohydrates, whole grains also supply fiber, trace minerals and hundreds of disease fighting phytonutrients. Regular consumption of whole grains is important for digestive health, weight control and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease and several types of cancer.
Examples of whole grain ingredients
- Brown or wild rice
- Bulgur (cracked wheat)
- Whole corn meal or grits (not the degerminated varieties)
- Whole grain barley
- Whole grain sorghum
- Whole oats such as oatmeal
- Whole rye
- Wholegrain triticale
What’s a serving?
One serving of whole grain weighs about one ounce. Below are some examples of one ounce servings:
- 1 slice of whole wheat bread
- 1 cup of whole wheat flakes cereal
- ½ cup cooked oatmeal
- ½ cup of brown or wild rice
- ½ cup of quinoa
- ½ cup of whole wheat pasta
- 3 cups of air-popped popcorn
- 1 small (6”-7”) whole corn tortilla
- 5 squares whole wheat crackers
Getting Your Three Servings
It’s not hard to get to three servings of whole grains each day:
1. Begin by reading product labels. The first ingredient should be one of the whole grains listed above. Don’t be fooled by products that are brown or have names such as “multi-grain” or “wheat.” The only way to be sure is to read the ingredient label.
2. Start each day with a whole grain at breakfast. You can find virtually any breakfast food in a whole grain form. Choose whole grain versions of waffles, pancakes, French toast, toast, and hot or cold cereal.
3. Try using whole wheat pastry flour in baking. It is very fine in texture and produces baked goods that are well accepted by children. It’s the only flour you will find in my canister – I use it for everything.
4. There are many ways to make your family’s diet more “whole.” Experiment with whole grain versions of pasta, rice, couscous and cornmeal. Or try one of my recipes below.
Whole Grain Recipes!
Quinoa & Black Bean Salad
This is one of my favorite dishes to take to work because it is a complete all-in-one satisfying meal. Every time I make it, it turns out a bit differently, depending on the vegetables and seasonings that I choose.
- 1 cup cooked quinoa, chilled
- 1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 – 1 cup fresh seasonal vegetables (e.g. chopped tomatoes, peppers, broccoli or cauliflower florets, squash, onions, garlic, etc.)
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/4 avocado, cut into chunks
- Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- Seasonings as desired (e.g. basil, oregano, dash of cayenne or hot sauce, etc.)
Directions: Mix all ingredients. Toss or cover and shake to mix. Chill for at least one hour to blend flavors.
Makes 1 serving – Nutritional Information Per Serving: 480 calories; 15 g fat; 18 g protein; 71 g carbohydrate; 233 mg sodium; 17 g fiber; Calcium 9% DV; Vitamin A 35% DV; Vitamin C 131% DV; Iron 32% DV
Cranberry Rice Pilaf
This is a great whole grain dish to serve during the holiday season and kids enjoy it too.
- 2 ½ cups water
- ½ cup brown rice, uncooked
- ½ cup wild rice, uncooked
- ½ cup chopped onion
- ½ cup chopped celery
- 1 tart apple, peeled and diced
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- ¾ teaspoon dried sage
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ cup sweetened dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1/4 cup Fresh parsley, chopped
- Salt to taste (optional)
Directions: Bring water to boil; add brown and wild rice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 40-50 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. (or, cook in rice cooker).
Saute’ onion, celery and apple in canola oil; add sage and pepper. Mix with prepared rice and dried cranberries; mix well. Place in 2 quart covered baking dish and bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees or until thoroughly heated. Stir in pine nuts. Top with chopped fresh parsley. Serve and enjoy!
Makes 12 (1/2 cup) servings – Nutritional Information Per Serving: 185 calories; 5 g fat; 2 g protein; 33 g carbohydrate; 8 mg sodium; 3 g fiber; Calcium 1% DV; Vitamin A 3% DV; Vitamin C 5% DV; Iron 4% DV
For more information on using and choosing whole grains, visit the grain section of MyPlate at http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/grains.html
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