We didn't want to let September slip away without letting parents know that it is National Whole Grains Month. It is a great reminder to carefully read nutrition labels on store products, and make decisions that increase the amount of heart-healthy grains in your family's snacks and meals.

What Are Whole Grains?

The Mayo Clinic website defines whole grains as those whose bran and germ haven't been removed. Removing those parts of the grain happens in a process known as milling, thus turning a whole grain into a refined one. This process removes precious nutrients and takes away the natural fiber that helps satisfy an appetite.

"Grains that haven't been refined — called whole grains — are even better for you. Whole grains are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium. So whenever you can, choose whole grains over refined grains."

Help Children Choose Whole Grains

Action for Healthy Kids offers this list of tips for ensuring your children get the whole grains they need:

  1. Buy products whose first ingredient is whole grain, such as 'whole-wheat' or 'whole-grain' corn. Other whole grains include oats, barley, wild rice, brown rice, and graham.
  2. Use only 100% whole-grain bread and tortillas for sandwiches and wraps. If hesitant, give whole-grain white bread a try first.
  3. Snack on whole-grain cereal with low-fat/fat-free milk.
  4. Make a whole-grain breakfast burrito by slicing a banana length-wise, then rolling it with yogurt or peanut butter in a whole-grain pancake.
  5. Top low-fat yogurt with a generous sprinkling of oats, or layer with yogurt, oats, and strawberries to make a fun parfait.
  6. Snack on baked tortilla chips with chunky salsa — the corn is whole-grain! Add a sprinkle of shredded cheese for a nutritionally-sound treat.
  7. Fill whole-grain pita bread with your favorite lunch meat and vegetables, or with hummus and cucumbers. Cut the pita into triangles and bake in the oven for easy pita chips.
  8. Choose whole-wheat crust for pizza.
  9. Make pasta salad using whole-grain pasta. If a gradual transition is needed, mix whole-grain pasta with regular pasta, increasing the whole-grain proportion over time.
  10. Experiment with lesser-known whole grains, such as amaranth, barley, or protein-packed quinoa. Perhaps you'll find a new family favorite!

See? Parents, it is not as difficult as you think. Pizza, peanut butter snacks, tortilla chips, and burritos all made the list! Teach your children to make healthy choices with the foods they already love, and they will be more likely to follow through.