By Carolyn Nestman, BS, WIC Nutritionist Assistant
“I HATE this seeded bread,” I remember my spirited sister declaring to my mom at 6 years old. To get our family to eat a little healthier, my mom had bought a multigrain whole wheat bread and banned my dad from buying his favorite potato bread. Needless to say, we were not happy.
My mom began her concentrated effort to fill our home with nutritious foods when my sister and I were in elementary school. Her original push was for salads at mealtimes, and then came the switch from potato chips to popcorn. Both of those went well enough, but transitioning to whole grains took years.
Instead of making a few small changes to get our family on board, like starting to mix in brown rice with white, or bran flakes with corn flakes, my mom went all in. While other kids were eating chocolate crumbles on their yogurt, my sister and I got whole oats and wheat germ. The white rice we ordered from our local Chinese restaurant was traded out for brown; whole wheat pastas and quinoa started to fill our shelves at home.
We were stubborn, but my mom never backed down on her mission. She was aware that the nutrients provided by whole grains would help guard us against the chronic diseases that many American families suffer from. With fiber, B vitamins, and minerals (like zinc, magnesium, and manganese), whole grains help our bodies fight against concerns like obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. The additional antioxidants also protect against certain types of cancer.
Though my dad, sister, and I originally protested kicking and screaming (almost literally), eventually we accepted the change, which was the best decision we made for our health and our families’ health.
Now, 20 year later, the whole grain transformation has stuck. My fiancé and I fill our shelves with bulgur and brown rice, as we have taken up Middle Eastern and Asian cooking during the quarantine. My sister regularly makes vegetable barley soup for her toddler and prepares herself a bowl of raisin bran each morning. My mom has since had to give up gluten for health reasons, so she and my dad now fill their shelves with ground corn tortillas, buckwheat pancake mix, and whole oats.
It took my mom two decades, but she was able to get us all on board with eating whole gains, even my sister who “HATED seeded bread.” When it comes to your own family, take small steps, get creative, and don’t feel discouraged when your kids push back; soon enough, you will all be headed for a healthier future.
Follow Mary’s Center on Instagram for delicious whole grain recipes throughout National Nutrition Month in March.