How to Transition from White Flour to Whole Grains for Kids

Posted by in No-Cry Picky Eater

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 his 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?

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Gradual Substitution of Whole Grains for Kids

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 Grains for Kids

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.

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

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  1. Hi,
    My personal experience with whole grains Vs Refined flour is that what I introduced first stays with my child.I have 2 daughters 5 and a 1/2 and 18 months.We buy whole wheat bread always and white bread was not my daughter’s preference.Pasta-we started using refined flour and now she can clearly say-Mommy I don’t want the dark brown pasta.

    If we can start-up right it becomes a habit rather than switch-over.


    • You are right Priya – it can be easier if we start off right – but the world can get in the way! Grandmother’s house, the babysitter, friends, school, even TV commercials. Our children don’t live in a bubble so they will be exposed to those foods we rather that they not eat. If only it was simple to teach our kids and have them embrace healthy eating for a lifetime! We can only do our best and try to keep healthy foods in our own home.

    • You are so right – But usually this sneaks up on us before we realize it!

  2. My little guy had no problem switching from white rice to brown – he loves all grains: rice, quinoa, millet, barely! We’ve always been a wholewheat bread family, so that’s never been a problem either. But it’s been the pasta I’ve had trouble with. He only likes white…and honestly, so do I! So my solution was to cut it out entirely! I didn’t make it all that often anyhow, so it wasn’t much of a loss. My hope is that eventually we will have forgotten the taste of white pasta and be able to add in some wholegrain and enjoy it!
    Thanks for the endless GREAT articles and AMAZING books.

    • Great idea Megan – sometimes the substitute is so unappetizing to you it’s best to do as you did – eliminate it completely & after a time try to introduce a healthier alternative. And thank you for the kind compliment 🙂