KidsInTheHouse the Ultimate Parenting Resource
Kids in the House Tour

How To Switch Your Child to Whole Grains


Sadly, the majority of grains that children are exposed to in today’s world are the refined variety. Whether it’s restaurants, birthday parties, or even Grandma’s house, white flour dominates the offerings. You can’t totally control what goes on outside your kitchen – but you can control your home and increase whole grain consumption.


How to Transition from White Flour to Whole Grains


“I have no idea how it happened, but my kids will only eat white flour products – bread, pasta, crackers. I eat whole grains so I can’t believe I’ve let this happen! How do I get them moved over to whole grains?”


The Gradual Substitution Method


You can slowly make changes to your child's favorite foods by gradually substituting ingredients for better nutrition. For example, when making pasta, begin by adding 1/3 whole grain pasta to your child’s usual choice. Adding a small bit of whole grain does not change the flavor much, so it’s likely your child won’t notice. Over time increase the percentage working your way towards 100% whole grain. By doing this a bit at a time you gradually introduce your child to the flavor and texture of whole grains.

Use this same idea to wean your child from refined-flour, high-sugar, breakfast cereals. Begin by sprinkling in a bit of a whole grain, low-sugar, high fiber cereal. Gradually, over time increase the amount of healthy choice cereal until you can serve mainly the healthy choice with just a bit of the kid’s sugary cereal sprinkled over the top.


Switch from White Bread to Whole Grain


When making your child a sandwich, start by using a bread with a whole grain blend or one with added whole grain (since the texture will be similar to white bread.) When making a sandwich, replace the bottom slice only with the whole grain blend piece. After a time, use a grainier piece for the bottom, and replace the top piece with the blended style. Once that is accepted you can move to two slices of whole grain.

This may take months, so be patient - remember that your child is still getting white bread products elsewhere which can affect how quickly whole grains are embraced. He has a whole life ahead, so don’t feel you have to be perfect or make the change in a day.


Use Whole Grain Ingredients


When you prepare soups, stews, stir-fries, or casseroles add some whole grain pasta or brown rice to the mixture. These will blend in with the other ingredients and will introduce the flavor and texture to your child. Use whole grain bread crumbs in meat loaf or hamburgers. Look for other sneaky ways to provide these grains to your child if you have a picky eater on your hands!

When baking familiar recipes substitute the enriched white flour with whole grain flour in the same gradual substitution method as mentioned previously – begin with one quarter whole wheat flour, then half the recipe, and move towards using 100% whole wheat products.


Why Whole Grain Ingredients


Whole grain ingredients and food boast a multitude of health benefits. By substituting whole grains for white flour, you are simply adding proteins, fibers, and vitamins to your child's diet. Plus, research has even shown that whole grains can reduce the risk of many long terms health issues such as heart disease and diabetes. Even if you can't completely transform your child's diet in a day, know that each little step towards healthier food can go a long way. 

Need more tips? The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution is your resource for gentle ways to encourage your child to eat - and eat healthy!


i've been thinking about switching our family to whole grains... this article makes it seem like an easier transition than i thought it might be.

Elizabeth Pantley's picture
No-Cry Solution Series Author

Elizabeth Pantley is a parent educator, mother of four, and the author of the now-classic baby sleep book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, as well as six other books in the series, including The No-Cry Separation Anxiety SolutionThe No-Cry Potty Training SolutionThe No-Cry Discipline Solution, The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution, plus other successful parenting books. She is known worldwide as the practical, reasonable voice of respectful parenting.