Infant Articles

What Exactly IS a Whole Grain and Why Are They Important For My Infant or Toddler?

By Kate Geagan, MS, RD

Whole Grains are Wholesome Foods Straight from Nature

Did you know that all grains actually begin their life as whole grains? That’s right-a “whole grain” is simply defined as the entire seed of the plant, with all three parts intact: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. In nature, this serves as a nourishing base designed to give the plant all it needs to grow another new seedling. In infants and toddlers (and grown ups too!) whole grains are powerful, nutritious foods to include, as they provide several vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fats, and even phytochemicals to a healthy diet. Refined grains, in contrast, typically remove the bran and germ, leaving only the carbohydrate-rich part called the endosperm. According to the Whole Grains Council, without the bran and germ many key nutrients are lost, including fiber and protein.

A Powerful Source of Energy And Nutrition

The health benefits of a diet rich in whole grains begin with the first bite but last a lifetime, which is why leading health professional associations and the new USDA My Plate Guidelines recommend Americans aim to make at least half of their grains whole grains. Why are they so nourishing for toddlers? The fiber in whole grains helps little tummies stay satisfied longer after meals and snacks, powering them through their day. This same fiber also plays a key role in helping your digestive tract to stay regular. And as a bonus, offering your toddler a variety of whole grains helps to expands your little one’s exposure to new tastes and textures, helping you to take advantage of this time when his or her curiosity to try new foods is growing. And a child who grows up enjoying whole grains reaps benefits for years to come, because diets rich in whole grains and other plant foods , as part of a diet low on total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of several chronic diseases, including heart disease and certain types of cancer.

While you should talk with your pediatrician about when it’s best for your baby to start enjoying whole grains, most Earth’s Best moms can safely and enjoyably start introducing baby to whole grains as some of their early food experiences. And the Earth's Best® brand new line of 2nd Foods Wholesome Grains (for ages 6 months and up) is a perfect stepping stone towards heartier whole grains, as they provide 2 grams of fiber . They are also formulated with 18 mg with DHA omega- 3 fatty acids per serving, an important nutrient to support baby's brain and eye development.

Here is a partial list of some of whole grains available today, some of which might be familiar and others being a new taste to try:

  • Oatmeal
  • Whole Wheat
  • Brown Rice
  • Whole Corn Meal
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Teff
  • Wild Rice
  • Spelt
  • Farro
  • Groats
  • Sprouted Grain
  • Wheat Berries
How do I look for them?

Check the product’s ingredient list first for any of the whole grains listed above, preferably as the first or only ingredients in the product. While many moms look for fiber content on the Nutrition Facts Panel, the ingredient list will provide information on fiber from whole grains or from other sources, Look for products with ingredients like “whole grain” or “whole wheat” flour instead of “wheat” or “wheat flour” which is actually white (refined) flour.

Another tip? Find healthy choices fast by looking for the Whole Grains Stamp, which guarantees the product meets rigorous standards for the whole grain content of a product. You'll see this stamp on things like barley or bulgur at the grocery store, but you'll also find it on several of the Earth's Best Sesame Street products, such as their Yummy Tummy Instant Oatmeal.

whole grain logo

So raise a healthy eater by offering them plenty of whole grains throughout meals and snacks each day, and set an example for them by bringing them to your table as well. Got any kid tested family favorites that supply whole grains? Share them with us on the Earth's Best Facebook Page. When you consider that whole grains form the foundation of so many cuisines from around the world, it’s a delicious journey you and your child can savor together.