1. Benefits of whole grains
Whole grains not only help you feel fuller longer (preventing excessive snacking and overeating), they can help prevent long-term health issues like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. That’s why foods like whole wheat bread, cereal, and brown rice are important parts of a healthy diet for your little one.
2. What is a whole grain?
A whole grain is made up of three parts: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. Bran is the outer shell and contains phytochemicals, B vitamins, and fiber. The endosperm is an inner layer that contains proteins, carbohydrates, and B vitamins, and the germ is the inner core, which contains more B vitamins, vitamin E, unsaturated fat, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. Grains are “whole” when they have all three parts and all their nutrients, even after processing (whereas some refined foods strip parts of the grain and decrease the nutrition it contains).
3. How much do my kids need?
There are two ways to determine how many whole grains to feed your child. You can calculate the right number of grams by adding half a gram for every kilogram (or 2.2 pounds) your child weighs (if he or she is 2 or older). So, a 30-pound child would need 6.8 grams of fiber each day. You can also add your child’s age plus five to determine the total number of grams you should offer your toddler. Try to balance whole grain and refined grain intake as you fulfill these requirements.
4. Introducing whole grains
At around 6 months old, when your baby shows other signs of readiness for solid foods, you’ll likely start introducing whole grains through iron-fortified sources, like oats, barley, or rice. As your baby grows, you can start mixing in refined sources like breads, crackers, and cereals. In these early stages, meeting minimum whole grain requirements isn’t as important as ensuring that your child is exposed to them every day.
5. A healthy diet
As your baby becomes a toddler, exposure and diversity are the name of the game. Offer a wide variety of whole grains, balancing whole and refined sources. For 2- to 3-year-olds, try to offer three whole grain sources every day. For 4-year-olds, try to offer four sources each day.
6. Tips for success
Balance, as in every part of your child’s diet, is key with whole grains. Offering excessive amounts may interfere with your child’s appetite, causing low caloric intake and poor growth. Also be sure to keep your child hydrated, since the fiber contained in whole grains requires hydration for smooth digestion. As your child ages, whole grains will only need to be offered half of the time and should include more whole sources than refined ones.
Whole Grains Council
- Department of Agriculture
- 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
American Academy of Pediatrics
- Whole Grains.
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