When I first started introducing whole grains to my kids, I have to admit I was a bit sneaky. I’d use white whole wheat bread in French toast, sandwiches and grilled cheese. I also made fried rice using brown rice since I figured my kids would think the rice was brown because of the soy sauce.
Over time my kids have gotten used to heartier whole grains, whole grain bread and whole grain pasta. In fact, last fall, one of my sons actually reported back that he chose the brown bread over white bread for his sandwich at school because he had a cross country meet that afternoon. See, kids actually do pay attention more than we think.
What made me decide to transition my kids to whole grains you might ask? The reason is simple: I want to instill healthy eating habits in my kids while they’re still living at home. After all, whole grains can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend all of us consume half or more of our grains as whole grain, with adults and kids age 9 and up, getting at least 3 to 5 servings of whole grains every day. For younger children, the recommendation is 2 to 3 servings or more. A serving size is an ounce, which equals one slice of bread, a half cup of cooked grain, or a half cup cooked pasta. Fortunately, there are lots of high-quality whole grain products on the market today. Whole grain bread isn’t the rock hard bread I remember from my childhood, and whole grain pastas are available that are more kid friendly.
Barilla® Whole Grain Pasta was one of the first whole grain pastas I introduced to my kids. Made with 51% whole wheat, Barilla® Whole Grain Pasta is all-natural, and has 3 times the fiber (6 grams dietary fiber in one serving) than regular pasta (2 grams dietary fiber). What I like about it is that this whole grain pasta looks and tastes more like the regular pasta kids are used to, making it an easy way to add whole grains and fiber to my family’s diet. Barilla® actually has a taste guarantee-if you don’t love it, you get a free box of their regular pasta. When introducing whole grain foods like brown rice or pasta to your family’s diet, I do think it’s important to choose the right ingredients to compliment the textures and heartier flavor of whole grains. For example, I’ve found that spices and briny sauces like soy sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce work nicely with brown rice, especially when making fried rice.
When serving whole grain pasta, bold, flavorful, heartier sauces and deep-colored sauces work best. For example, a hearty Puttanesca Sauce, Bolognese Sauce, Tomato Paste Sauce, or Italian Tuna Sauce would all go perfectly with whole grain pasta.
One tip I’d offer up when cooking whole grain pasta–be sure to cook it al dente. Don’t overcook it; otherwise it will break down, and the consistency will be mushy. To test this theory of using bold flavorful sauces with whole grain pasta, I made Stir-Fry Chinese Noodles with Chicken, Shitake Mushrooms and Vegetables the other night, which had soy sauce and oyster sauce as seasonings. When my boys asked what was for dinner, I simply said, “Chinese noodles with chicken.” No one asked what kind of pasta I used, and I didn’t volunteer it.
As I said in a recent post, sometimes things are best left unsaid (at least until after the first few bites). No leftovers. I think that says it all.
For more information on Barilla® Whole Grain pasta products, check out their entire Whole Grain product line (6 shapes), the Whole Grain Taste Challenge and Whole Grain Dinner Kit for healthy recipe ideas. What do you love about Barilla® Whole Grain?
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. As always, I only share brands I use and love!
- 1 pound boneless chicken breast or thigh, trimmed of fat, cut into ¼" wide strips
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar or sherry
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ¼ teaspoon organic sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or other flavorless oil, divided
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
- 1 red bell pepper
- 3 cups baby bok choy, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces
- 8 fresh shitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps cut in half
- 2 scallions, trimmed, cut into 1" pieces
- 1 box whole grain thin spaghetti, cooked al dente according to package directions
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ¼ cup chicken broth
- Place chicken strips in a medium bowl. Add Chicken Marinade ingredients and toss well. Set aside (chicken can be left in marinade overnight in the refrigerator).
- Heat one tablespoon oil in a wok or large saute pan on medium heat. Add onion and ginger and saute until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add red bell pepper, bok choy, shitake mushrooms and white part of scallions. Continue to saute until bok choy is just tender but still has some crunch, about 2 more minutes. Transfer vegetables to a bowl. Set aside.
- Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in wok. Add marinated chicken to wok and use a spatula to spread the chicken in a single layer. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, then flip chicken pieces over. Cook another 3 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
- Add cooked spaghetti to wok along with cooked vegetables. Toss until ingredients are mixed together.
- Mix together Stir-Fry Sauce and add to wok. Toss noodles until coated with sauce. Continue cooking noodles, tossing until noodles are warmed through.
More posts on healthy eating and whole grains:
Whole Grains 101 – Why Whole Grains?
10 Kid-Approved Recipes with Whole Grains
The New 2010 Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans – Foods and Nutrients to Increase
The New 2010 Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans – Foods and Food Components to Reduce