You’ve heard of it. In fact, you know it – whole grains are healthy and a necessary part of your diet. For children, it’s just as – if not more – important to eat whole grains. In fact, according to the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents, at least half of your child’s intake of grains should be in the form of whole grains. But here’s the thing: Most children don’t have enough whole grain in their diet. The Nutrition Society of Malaysia conducted a nationwide dietary survey and the results showed that an alarming nine out of ten children aren’t getting enough whole grain! 

Don’t worry, mums and dads, we’re here to tell you a bit more about the benefits of eating whole grain. More importantly, we’ll also tell you how to get your child to eat more whole grain!

What is a Whole Grain?

Before anything, what is a whole grain? A grain is considered “whole” if it has all three edible parts of it still intact, just as it was during harvesting. It should not have grounded, refined, or processed – something that grains such as white flour, rice and noodles go through.

The three parts of a whole grain:

  1. Bran – outermost skin and contains antioxidants, B-vitamins and dietary fibre
  2. Germ – the part of the grain seed that is able to sprout into a new plant; it is high in B-vitamins, minerals, some protein and healthy fats
  3. Endosperm – the largest part of the grain; it provides energy mainly in the form of carbohydrates and some protein 

Benefits of Eating Whole Grain

Whole grains are full of fibre, vitamins and antioxidants that are great for your child. They also offer a plethora of health benefits such as a reduction in the risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

  • B-Vitamins are essential for a healthy nervous system and to convert and produce energy from fats, carbohydrates and glucose.
  • Minerals like magnesium build strong bones and release energy from muscles.
  • Antioxidants strengthen the body’s ability to fight infections and diseases.

The extra fibre in whole grain also significantly adds to its many benefits. Dietary fibre is important for the bowel to function properly, and it reduces constipation. In addition, your child will feel more “full” from the extra fibre in whole grain. This full feeling helps a lot when it comes to combating obesity or preventing children from snacking on sugar-loaded or unhealthy junk food.

Whole Grain Sources

Now that you’re aware of the benefits of eating whole grain (and hopefully are convinced about including it in your child’s diet), the next question is, where do you get whole grain from? Here are some of the common sources of whole grain:

  • Barley
  • Brown Rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Oatmeal
  • Corn
  • Wheat

These whole grains are then used to make all kinds of grain-based food such as noodles, bread, pasta and cereals.

When to Include Whole Grain

Mums and dads, now that you are aware that kids today aren’t eating enough whole grains, this is where you come in.  To begin with, it’s important to quell the misconception that children won’t like whole grains. Eating habits are, more often than not, a result of conditioning, so children tend to like foods they are exposed to and are most familiar with. As such, it’s never too early to start steering your children in the right direction. Remember, healthy eating habits encouraged from a young age will have a lasting, positive impact on their health. While you can (and should) include whole grains in all their meals, breakfast is your best bet. There are endless options of whole grain bread, cereal and oatmeal to tickle their taste buds.

Making Wholemeal a Choice

Apart from whole grain breakfasts, here are some simple ways that you can make eating whole grain a healthy habit. It’s as simple as making it a preferred choice!

  • Mix white with brown – It might be a bit shocking to serve your kids an entire plate of brown rice, so you can start by mixing half white and brown rice and cooking it as per normal in the rice cooker. Brown rice can also be used in entirety when making fried rice as it is less obvious.
  • Noodles and pasta – When cooking noodles and pasta, choose whole grain options. With all the seasoning and flavour, they probably won’t be able to tell the difference!
  • Bread – When making wraps, buns or sandwiches, choose whole-grain bread over white. 
  • Oatmeal – This can be eaten at any time of the day. It can also be cooked with savoury dishes. You can even use it for making smoothies!
  • Cereal – Explore the many different whole grain cereals available. Served with milk and topped with fresh fruits, it makes a healthy and delectable breakfast. For variety, you can include crushed cereal as toppings for other dishes.

There you go, mums and dads. These are just a few of the numerous ways to include whole grains in your child’s diet. If you don’t succeed immediately, keep exploring new options, and you will find the answer in no time. Remember, the choice you make today, matters for your child’s tomorrow!

Original article contributed by TheAsianParent.