Choosy Kids Choose Whole Grains
“My kids are picky eaters. They won’t eat whole grains.” Parents who make that assumption may want to rethink things, thanks to new research from the University of Florida, showing kids are quick to gobble up tasty whole grain choices.
To carry out the research, Allyson Radford (a graduate student at the time) paired up with two faculty members, assistant professor Wendy Dahl and professor Bobbi Langkamp-Henken, in the University’s food science and human nutrition department. Kids and their families were given a variety of whole-grain or refined-grain foods for home consumption, including pasta, rice, and bread, and were supplied with whole- or refined-grain snacks at school.
The end result? Kids paid little attention to whether the foods were made from whole or refined grains, as long as they found them tasty.
Radford reported, “We tried to choose foods we thought kids would enjoy, such as cereal bars, macaroni and cheese, and SunChips, and found that they ate the ready-to-eat snack foods the most. We were interested to see if they would eat the whole-grain foods as much as the refined-grain foods, and so we were pleasantly surprised that they would eat the same amount whether the food was whole or refined.”
For the study, 83 Florida middle-school students were randomly assigned to receive either whole grain foods or refined grain foods over a six-week period. Researchers interviewed the kids weekly to tally how many fruits, vegetables, and grains they had eaten in the last 24 hours. Students in both groups reported eating six ounces of grains daily (the amount recommended in the Dietary Guidelines); those in the whole grain group, who ate on average just one serving of whole grains per day at the start of the study, more than tripled their intake of whole grains, while cutting back on refined grains – meeting the recommendation to “Make at Least Half your Grains Whole.”
This research echoes findings in a 2011 study, where scientists found that middle- and high-school students liked whole wheat pancakes and tortillas about equally with their refined-grain equivalents (although elementary kids showed a slight preference for refined grains).
How much whole grains should your kids be eating? The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that kids age 9 and up should be eating six servings of grain total each day, with at least three of those being whole grain. (We encourage more!) Younger kids need smaller amounts, as detailed here.
What are your kids’ favorite whole grains? Tell us here, in the comments, to inspire other parents. (Cynthia)