5 Steps to Switching Your Family to Whole Grains

Focus this month on switching your family over to whole grain products. Eating whole grains is a challenge for many of us and is up there in the top 2 ‘eating fights’ we have with our kids. Follow these five steps for success.

Step 1 Prepare Yourself by Being Label Savvy: Buying whole grain products can be very tricky indeed. Just take a look down the cereal or bread aisle: Made with Whole Grains, 100% Whole Grains, contains 1 serving of Whole Grains jumps out at us. What should you believe?

  • Select those items that have a whole grain as the 1st ingredient on the ingredient list: “whole wheat”, “whole corn”, “rye berries”, whole oats” for example
  • Don’t believe the front of the box. Avoid “made with whole grain” as these products can have only a tiny amount of whole grain in them
  • Look for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving (2 grams of fiber if the serving is 80 calories or less)
  • There are 2 Whole Grain stamps developed by the Whole Grain Council that you may see on the front or back of a package.

1. The Whole Grain stamp means that there is some whole grain in the product (a minimum of 8 grams of whole grain). Check the ingredient list to see what else in the product as these might not be the best choices.
2. The 100% Whole Grain stamp means the product is made with 100% whole grains. A minimum amount of whole grains in the product must be 16 grams. Products that have this stamp are a great whole grain choice.

Step 2 Begin with Breakfast: Most children start their day eating foods high in sugar and processed grains. Take one to two weeks to make over their breakfast to one that contains a serving of whole grains which will provide them the energy they need over a longer period of time

  • Switch cereals made with processed grain to those made with whole grain (whole oats, whole corn, whole wheat
  • Offer bagels or bread made with whole wheat (1st ingredient whole wheat) instead of processed wheat (white flour, enriched flour, wheat flour) bagels or bread
  • Toaster cakes, donuts, cinnamon rolls, and many muffins (those made with processed flour) are no better for your child than offering them a piece of cake for breakfast. Breakfast does not need to be fun; it just needs to be healthy. Save these items for occasional treats.
  • Serve oatmeal made with whole oats and less than 4 grams of sugar per serving

Step 3 Focus on Breads: Switching your child to whole grain bread is difficult and may require an incentive. Give younger children a sticker and older children 5 points every time they eat whole grain bread. When they reach a certain amount of stickers or points (you decide) reward them with something that they want: time with you alone or a toy for example.

Step 4 Find and Replace Processed Food: Look at the label of the crackers, pizza, pasta, rice, baked goods and other items made with grains and replace them with a whole grain product. You can do this slowly by adding ¼ the amount of whole grain to the processed grain. For example when making pasta, add some whole grain pasta (¼ the amount) to the pasta made with white flour. Continue until you have switched over to the whole grain product.

Step 5 Serve Other Whole Grains: There are many grains besides wheat, corn and oats that most of eat on a daily basis. Try quinoa, buckwheat, teff, Kamut, spelt, amaranth and millet to name a few.


  1. Great idea about slowly working up the amount of whole grain pasta! I had never thought of that before. A study found that whole grain pasta was one of the hardest types of whole grain products to get kids to like. Seems funny to me — I just love it! But then, I’ve been eating whole grains for decades. I have an article with some more ideas to help kids like whole grains http://smartparentprogram.blogspot.com/2011/10/teaching-kids-to-like-whole-grains-is.html

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