Best whole grain sources for kids

Toasts with avocado on the cutting board

White bread, pasta and rice are common in many households, but while these foods may temporarily fill kids up and give them energy, they're lacking in fibre and other nutrients that growing bodies need. Whole grains are less processed than their white counterparts. All the grain is used hence the name "whole" grain, and includes the bran, germ and endosperm. Whole grains, compared to processed white grains, have a richer balance of nutrients. Whole grains are also a better choice than refined grains for long fullness and energy. Good whole grain choices for kids include:

  • Whole grain/ whole wheat pasta - Refined wheat is missing its nutritious bran and germ, therefore when serving pasta switch to a whole grain option. If the kids turn away from this, try easing them into the change by mixing both white and whole grain together for a few weeks, and then gradually reduce the white until only wholegrain remains.
  • Brown rice - Brown rice has much higher levels of nutrients than white rice and is especially rich in manganese, magnesium, vitamin B3 and selenium.1 If kids are used to eating white rice, as with pasta, start by mixing the white and brown rice together.
  • Oats - Whole oats are a great source of fibre, protein, zinc and vitamin B1.1 Serve for breakfast as porridge or muesli, or add to healthy muffins.
  • Rye - A staple in northern European and Russian households, rye is rich in fibre, has a low glycemic index and promotes a rapid feeling of fullness.2 Ensure you check the ingredients list for 'whole rye' or 'rye berries' which is preferred. Just because it says "rye bread" doesn't mean it's whole grain.
  • Buckwheat - Buckwheat isn't technically a grain, or related to wheat, but it has a similar appearance and nutrient profile.2 Buckwheat makes delicious pancakes and can also be found in soba noodles which can be served with a veggie stir-fry for a kid-friendly lunch or dinner.
  • Quinoa - Like buckwheat, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is not a "true" grain and is actually related to swiss chard and beetroot. It's abundant in protein and contains all the essential amino acids your bodies cannot make on its own.2 Versatile quinoa can be used in place of rice or cous cous for stir fries, stews, salads and curries or made into a delicious nutty porridge or dessert. To arouse your kid's interest, look for red, purple of black varieties.
  • Spelt - Spelt is a variety of wheat but is higher in protein than common wheat and is generally better tolerated in those with wheat sensitivities.2 You can replace common white flour with spelt flour for baked goods or try spelt breads or pasta.
  • Millet - Millet is not a single grain, but rather the name given to several small related grains that have been around for thousands of years. It's a good source of fibre, magnesium, vitamins B1 and B3 and is gluten-free.1,2 Millet can be used to make flatbread, porridge and even desserts.
  • Amaranth - Amaranth is another "pseudo-grain" but it's listed with other whole grains because of its similar nutritional profile and uses. It contains higher levels of protein than most other grains and is free from gluten.2 Amaranth is found in some breads and breakfast cereals and can be used to make muffins or pancakes.
  • Corn - Is corn a vegetable or a whole grain? It can actually be considered both. Corn is often classified as a vegetable when fresh and as a grain when dried. It's rich in eye-friendly nutrients vitamin A, lutein and zeaxanthin, and is gluten-free.3 Kids can enjoy corn fresh on the cob, as lightly salted popcorn or natural corn chips or included as "cornmeal" or "polenta" in baked products.