Whole grains are an important part of a growing child’s diet, providing them with vital nutrients to get through the day. The recommended daily intake of fibre, iron, carbohydrates and other vitamins and minerals can seem like a lot. One way to ensure you kids are getting the most of out what they are eating is to introduce whole-grain and whole-meal food into their diet. Here are the grainy facts to consider when planning your child’s next meal.
What is a wholegrain?
A grain is considered whole as long as all three edible parts – the bran, the germ and the endosperm – are in their original proportions and have not been ground, refined or processed. This makes them slower to digest when eaten, therefore blood sugars rise gradually resulting in longer lasting energy. Refined grains (for example white flour) are milled which removes the bran and germ leaving only the endosperm causing a loss in fibre, vitamins and daily minerals. Examples of wholegrains include whole-wheat flour, bulgur, oatmeal, whole cornmeal and brown rice. To ensure grains are whole and not refined simply check the nutritional information panel for the above words before purchasing.
What are the benefits of eating wholegrain food?
According to the Better Health Channel, studies have shown consuming wholegrains lowers the risk of illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Below is a list of other added benefits gained from including whole-grains in your child’s diet.
Dietary Fibre is important for the bowel to function properly. Fibre helps to increase food movement through the digestive system and reduce constipation. At least three grams per serving is good but look out for foods containing six grams per serving, as this is even better.
B vitamins are essential for a healthy nervous system. Your child’s body needs thiamine, riboflavin and niacin to convert and produce energy from fats, carbohydrates and glucose.
Minerals such as iron and magnesium. Iron is responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood, whilst magnesium builds strong bones and releases energy from muscles.
Antioxidants strengthen the body’s ability to fight infection and disease. Many people know they are in fruits and vegetables but most are unaware that antioxidants are in wholegrains too.
Tips to help you eat more whole grains
Wholegrains can be found in foods like bread, breakfast cereals, pasta or noodles. An easy way to increase wholegrain intake is to try substituting white bread for whole-wheat bread. Bread can be a rich source of many nutrients. In addition, it’s usually inexpensive, convenient, versatile and a favourite for most children. Grains and seeds added to breads make them more nutritious and has a lower glycemic index (GI) compared to regular white refined breads. Sourdough breads, especially rye, are also low GI, due to the type of yeast used.
Other tips include:
- Trying brown rice or whole-meal pasta
- Trying rolled oats or a crushed, unsweetened wholegrain cereal as breading for baked chicken, fish, veal cutlets, or eggplant parmesan
- Freeze leftover cooked brown rice, bulgur, or barley. Heat and serve it later as a quick side dish.
While wholegrain foods should make up a high percentage of your child's diet, it does not provide all the essential nutrients required and should be part of a balanced diet that includes lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, dairy and lean, unprocessed meats.