How to Get Your Family to Eat More Whole Grains

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Want to improve your family’s diet? Help your family eat more whole grains by giving them a bigger piece of the pie.

Personal Cherry Crumble LAM

See that? That sweet, spicy, delicious cherry crumble? That, my friends, is chock full of fruit and whole grains. Yes, really. And it is absolutely delicious.

I know that there’s much debate about grains and nutrition. I am not a scientist or a nutritionist. I’ve done some reading, I’ve tried elimination diets, I’ve done a lot of eating. So, I’m going with my gut — both literally and figuratively.

I like grains!

Grains typically are filling and low cost, making them a great way to stretch the budget and still eat tasty food.

I feel better and my digestion seems to work better when I eat whole grains instead of processed ones. I think a diet with plenty of vegetables and whole grains is a good one. (Exceptions, of course, would be for those who know that they have celiac disease or some other intolerance to gluten or other grains. Or those who know that grains don’t agree with them for whatever reason.

Whole Wheat Bread LAM

Generally speaking, I don’t believe that any food God made is inherently bad. I do question, however, what we do to the food in the producing and processing of it. As I work to improve my family’s diet, I’m working on substituting more whole grains for the processed ones.

While it’s easy to carbo-load on white bread, white pasta, and all kinds of decadent, highly processed sweets, those aren’t the kinds of grains I’m stomping for.

No, I’m talking about stuff that hasn’t been messed with too much. In addition to baking our favorite breads and desserts at home, we also enjoy “straight grains” like popcorn, oats (in morning oatmeal as well as in granola bars and energy bites), and rice as a way to stretch our grocery funds and supplement our diets.

Years ago after FishPapa got a bad report from the doctor regarding cholesterol and blood pressure, I switched much of my baking supplies to whole wheat. I found through trial and error the things that my family enjoyed and those which were a little hard to swallow.

Bob's Whole Wheat Pastry Flour LAM

We particularly love Bob’s Red Mill’s Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. I can substitute it for unbleached flour in most of my recipes and no one notices a difference.

I regularly order cases of oats, popcorn, and whole wheat flour from Amazon since it’s cheaper than buying it at my local store. It’s not always cheaper to buy whole grains, but I know the investment is worth it. I also have ordered it straight from Bob’s Red Mill. Currently, you can get free shipping with most orders over $50.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned about helping my family eat and enjoy more whole grains.

1. Let your kids explore and learn.

My kids all love to eat, but more importantly, they love to cook, experiment, and try new things. My eldest, now 19, has been a whole grains fan since he started weight lifting and doing a lot of nutrition research.

The others love to bake and make messes in the kitchen. I think the more we let our kids “play” in the kitchen, the more ownership they’ll have over their own diets — and the more interested they’ll be in eating well.

Boy with Grains LAM

By learning and exploring with grains hands-on, my kids get a better understanding of the food they are eating.

We regularly eat at least three different kinds of oats: quick, old fashioned, and steel-cut. We’ve talked about the different ways that oats are prepared for eating. Kids love to learn, so include them in your grain exploration.

2. Go halvsies.

When I originally made the switch to whole wheat pasta, it didn’t go over well. It was a little too “wheaty”. However, I learned that going halvsies worked. I now regularly cook half white and half whole wheat pasta for our dinner.

When I bake, I try to substitute about half the flour with whole wheat. If I’m baking a yeast recipe, I use white whole wheat or regular whole wheat flour.

If I’m making a pie or a quick bread (recipes without yeast), I use whole wheat pastry flour. In fact, recently I made a Slab Apple Pie, Chocolate Mint Bars, and the Cherry Crumble all with whole wheat pastry flour. No one was the wiser! Chicken Pot Pie? Same thing!

Whenever I can I throw some oats into the mix, too, slipping them into pancake batter, waffles, and streusel topping.

Creamy Rice LAM

3. Try it, you’ll like it.

You’ll never know if your family likes it, unless you try it. The same goes for you. I wasn’t too sure about the 8-Grain Hot Cereal Bob’s Red Mill sent for us to try a few years ago, but I found out that I love it! Cooked with a bit of cream and maple syrup, it makes a perfect hot breakfast for cold mornings.

Buy a small bag of something and try it out. Try it out a few times, Mama. We don’t always like things first thing. Give it a fair shot.

4. Do the side step.

Whole grains often make up the main dish at breakfast, but they can easily play a supporting role at other times of the day. Cooked rice, quinoa, polenta, and barley make wonderful side dishes. I regularly stir up a pot of one of those to serve at dinner time. Polenta is one of my favorites.

5. Snack on.

You’d be surprised how many snacks you can enrich with whole grains. Popcorn and homemade granola bars are easy to make yourself. Brown rice cakes are an inexpensive snack to buy; we love it spread with sunflower seed butter.

Energy Bites LAM

Removing processed grains from your diet and replacing them with their whole grain counterpart is a great way to add fiber and extra nutrition to your family’s diet. They taste great, and can really enhance your dinner table experience.

What’s your best trick for eating more whole grains?

BRMLogoVectorFull4CProBob ESOPThis post is sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill, a distinctive stone grinding miller of whole grain natural foods. Bob’s offer the widest selection of natural, organic and gluten free flours, cereals, and baking mixes. Check out the Bob’s Red Mill product line.

How to Get Your Family to Eat More Whole Grains

This post is part of a longer series on how to improve your family’s diet.

Next up: how to make junk food yourself.

Originally published February 10, 2014.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Mandi says

    Great post. I am enjoying this series!

    Quick question: in your research, have you come across anything that makes a case that regular whole wheat is better than white whole wheat? I have just always used white whole wheat in my baking (often mixed with unbleached all purpose.) Is there any reason why I should try to work in regular whole wheat? We eat regular 100% whole wheat bread as our sandwich bread and often eat whole wheat pasta. I just find that the white whole wheat is such an easy substitution.

    • Jennifer says

      In my research I have found that white whole wheat is slightly lower in gluten (so not as good for making bread). I grind spring white wheat for my baked goods that don’t need to rise with yeast. So, as long as we are talking a whole wheat, they are virtually nutritionally identical.

    • Thanks for your kind words!

      I’ve not seen an argument for or against using white whole wheat instead of regular. I think what Jennifer says in her comment makes a lot of sense. My bread machine cookbook uses both, but usually uses regular because at the time of printing, it was harder to find. If I can find it Walmart, I’d say it’s now mainstream.

      The white whole wheat and the whole wheat pastry flours are practically painless substitutions for white flour.

  2. Charyse says

    I’m so happy you’re featuring Bob! My five year old even knows who Bob is around here! I cant wait to see recipes with whole grains in them!

    • The motto at our house? Bob’s my homie. Coined by my husband who loves the steel cut oats. 🙂

  3. Cheri A says

    Great to see a post about Bob’s Red Mill! I regularly buy the gluten-free products for my daughter, but I honestly hadn’t even thought about it for the rest of us. I’ll have to keep that in mind!

    • We’re not gluten-free, so I can’t speak to that product line at all, but we’ve loved the brand for years. The more I learn about them (gmo-free, wholesome, great company to work for), the more I love them.

  4. Lari says

    I use 1/2 ww flour when I bake and will often add flax seed and/or wheat germ to cakes and quick breads. No one has complained. I’ve found w/ the ww pasta we’ll eat the spaghetti but the other kinds are too heavy. I hadn’t thought of doing half and half tho…that’s what I do with rice…I use half brown and half white and it get eaten w/out complaint. I’ve made quinoa a few times…haven’t in a while tho. I’ve never been a cooked oatmeal fan (it’s a texture thing) but we love granola and I found I like oat bran.

    • Yep, 1/2 and 1/2 works wonders for pasta here. Curious how you do the rice, though. With different cooking times, doesn’t the white get mushy?

      • Lari says

        Funny thing…until about a year ago I didn’t even realize that was the case! I cook it for about 25 min and it’s OK to us.

        • You have me really curious to try that. Might be a quicker way to get brown rice to cook. Often I’ll do white when I’m in a hurry. At least this would be halfway better. 🙂

  5. Nia Hanna says

    Thanks for the tip about half ww pasta and half white. I’ve always been an all or nothing person, suffering through ww pasta even though I don’t like it. I’m gonna go halvsies next time and see if I can enjoy that compromise. Something that has recently come back into play for me is 100% whole wheat baked goods giving my tummy pain. I make our own yeast breads, buns and the like, as well as quick breads, muffins and treats. It would appear that these items made with unbleached AP flour don’t give me trouble as ww items do. For several months last year we made the switch back to unbleached AP after being a 100% red wheat loving family for at least 7 years. I’m wondering if anyone reading this has had this pain?

    • I’ve read this in the comments section before, but I think it might have been you? Have you googled it?

  6. Sarah says

    Is there a recipe for the bread pictured above somewhere on your site? I got a bread maker for Christmas and have recently started experimenting with making my own bread. I have yet to find a recipe that I love.

    • It’s in my new cookbook. I’m only allowed to share 20% of those recipes. That bread is part of the 80%. Sorry. 🙁

      • Sarah says

        I guess I will just have to wait then 🙂

  7. Years ago I started making whole wheat bread. We like it best with 1 cup of all purpose white flour and 2 cups of fresh ground hard white wheat flour. I make it all the time. If I buy bread at the store, the kids complain and ask when I’m going to make bread again. Recipe:

  8. Marlyse says

    There are 3 different types of brown rice long, medium and short grain. Short grain takes 40-50 minutes to cook and then the other types go up from there to 60+ minutes. Bob Red Mill sells all 3 types. The shortest cooking brown rice I have ever found is sprouted short grain which was 25-30 minutes and that came from QFC

  9. Bob’s really is a pleasure to work with! And you’ve shared some gorgeous recipes. Yum!

  10. LeslieT says

    Just last night I made homemade Chicken Fried Rice using cold brown rice I had cooked a few days before and “hid” in the fridge. My picky son was none the wiser, as fried rice looks dark anyway due to the soy sauce. I added in the cold leftover fried chicken we had eaten two nights ago and it was fantastic. He went back for seconds and even ate the peas and carrots in it. Score!

  11. Jill says

    I love making overnight oats with chia and frozen berries, and my 4 yr old and husband like them too. They last about 5 days in the fridge, so I’ll make a couple of different types at once.

    • Do you make them with yogurt or with milk? I’ve seen lots of recipes, but don’t think I’d like it with yogurt.

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