How do you get your teenager to eat whole grains?

A research study published in the February 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that the average daily whole grain consumption by adolescents and young adults was less than 1 serving.  The average recommended amount is 3 servings.*

Whole grains play an important role in preventing coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and overweight/obesity.  They also reduce constipation and provide many important nutrients.

So what is a parent of a teenager to do?  Discussing the importance of eating whole grains is not likely to get a parent far.  Teenagers live in the “now”.  Long term health benefits are of little interest.  Here are a few ways to get your teens to eat whole grains everyday:

Stock your kitchen with plenty of whole grain foods.
Home availability impacts the consumption of whole grains.  It makes sense – kids eat from what’s available.  Make sure you have plenty of whole grain foods in your pantry.

Provide a variety of whole grain foods and see which ones your teenager likes.
There’s a good chance nutrition isn’t influencing what your teenager eats.  Taste, however, is.  Finding out what whole grains your teen likes eating is a process worth undertaking.  Try different whole grain breads, breakfast cereals, crackers, popcorn and pasta.  Make sure the first ingredient includes the word “whole”.  Some products tout themselves as being made with whole grains but may include only a small amount of whole grains.


Purchase new grain products.
The marketplace continues to include more and more whole grain products.  Whole grain pastas are becoming more common and are cheaper than they were in the past.  Just the other day I saw Boboli offers a 100% whole wheat pizza crust.  There are even white whole grain breads made with a specific type of wheat.

Pack a lunch or snack for your teen (if they let you).
Many foods available to teens, such as fast food, offer few whole grain choices.  Bringing a lunch from home allows you to include some whole grain foods.  Snacks are a great time to enjoy whole grains.  Popcorn and trail mix made with whole grain cereal seem to be winners with kids of all ages.

Start offering whole grain foods when your kids are young.
I enjoy hearing nutrition-related stories from my friends who are parents.  One of my favorites was my friend’s toddler telling his mom he didn’t want that peanut butter and jelly sandwich because it was made with yucky bread.  The yucky bread he was referring to was white bread.  He’d always eaten whole grain bread.  Kids get accustomed to what they eat at home every day.  It’s never too early…or too late…to start offering healthy foods.

What ways do you have of encouraging your family to enjoy whole grains?  Some of the best ideas come from our readers.

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2 Responses to "How do you get your teenager to eat whole grains?"

  1. Some of the whole grains that my teen and preteen girls like include Pepperidge Farm whole grain cinnamon swirl bread, whole wheat mini pitas from Trader Joes, whole wheat flour tortillas and lavash bread, whole wheat burger/bulkie rolls, and Barilla Plus whole wheat blend pastas. I also use half whole wheat in most of my baked goods and buy cereal with whole grains like frosted (yup!) mini wheats. Every little bit counts.

  2. Joan Sather

    I miss Trader Joe’s! Great ideas. I think a lot of my muffin recipes actually taste better when I substitute whole wheat flour for half the white flour.