Meal Plan to Help Eat More Whole Grains

AllisonMS, RDN, CDN

Grains, especially whole grains, are an important part of a healthy diet, particularly during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.1

What are grains and why are whole grains important?

Grains are our main source of carbohydrates, and include foods made from rice, oats, cornmeal, wheat, barley, and many other cereal grains.3 Other grain products include popcorn, tortillas, bread, pasta, and breakfast cereals.

As carbohydrates, both refined grains and whole grains give us energy. However, choosing whole grains will provide us with more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber than refined grains.3,6

What is a whole grain?

Whole grains contain the entire, or ‘whole’, seed. A whole grain includes 3 parts:

  • The bran: the outside shell of the grain which contains most of the fiber along with antioxidants and B vitamins

  • The endosperm: the carbohydrate-rich, starchy inside

  • The germ: the small embryo at the bottom center of the endosperm that contains B vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.1,2,3

Whole grains can be eaten in their complete form (such as quinoa and barley) or they can be ground into whole grain flour and used for baking bread and making pasta. As long as the grain contains the germ, bran, and endosperm – whether it be in the flour or the actual cooked grain you are eating – it is a whole grain.3

Examples of whole grains include: Brown-, black- or wild rice, oats, quinoa, barley (not pearl), whole wheat, wheat berries, farro, bulgur, corn, millet, teff, rye, sorghum, whole cornmeal, and 100% whole grain flour and the products made from it (whole grain bread, whole grain cereal and whole grain pasta).1,2,6

A grain that is whole contains more nutrition than a refined grain.

What is a refined grain?

Refined grains lose important parts of the seed, most often all or part of the bran and germ, during the milling process.1,2 Since most of the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants in grains are found in the bran and germ, most white flour/refined grain products must be enriched.2

Though not all nutrients are added back to an enriched grain during the enriching process, manufacturers must add back the B vitamins and iron that are lost during processing.6

Examples of refined grains include: white flour, white bread, white rice, corn grits, and white pasta.

Read more:

Meal Plan: Getting the Right Nutrition while Breastfeeding

How can I Include more Whole Grains in my Diet?

Recipes to help increase whole grains in your child’s diet

Figuring out how to add in whole grains to your little one’s diet is sometimes more difficult. Here are some recipe ideas to help integrate more nutrition into your baby and toddler’s diet:

Super Green Mini-Muffins

Banana & Yogurt Muffins

Blueberry Banana Blender Muffins

Berry Muesli

Oat Breakfast Bites

Broccoli & Cheese Nuggets

Banana Bread

Whole Grain Pumpkin Waffle Dippers

Whole Grain Blueberry Sheet Pan Pancakes

Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Bites

Mild Curry Chicken & Veggies with Brown Rice

Easy Baked Cheese Crackers

Make sure you offer the above recipes in a texture, consistency, and size your little one can handle.

Pro tip:

The US Dietary Guidelines recommend that at least half of the grains you eat are whole grains.4 By doing so, you’ll gain much greater nutrient value, and your baby is more likely to develop healthy taste preferences.5

Meal Plan to Help Eat More Whole Grains

Choosing meals and snacks from the below-listed options will help you consume more whole grains.


  • Option 1: Breakfast burrito: whole grain tortilla stuffed with eggs, black beans, salsa, and sautéed peppers.

  • Option 2: Banana buckwheat pancakes: 1 mashed banana, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons buckwheat. Mix together and cook for 3 minutes per side. Top with slivered almonds, a dollop of plain low-fat yogurt, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

  • Option 3: Whole grain English muffin with mashed avocado and an over easy egg (over-hard if pregnant); fresh fruit on the side

  • Option 4: Bran flakes with berries and low-fat milk or plant-based milk alternative

  • Option 5: Oatmeal with diced peaches and unsweetened coconut flakes


  • Option 1: Quinoa tossed with mushrooms, fresh herbs, and arugula. Top with grilled chicken.

  • Option 2:  Vegetable barley soup (low sodium if canned) and side of mixed fruit salad

  • Option 3: Whole grain pita with canned light tuna* or salmon, lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, and dried cranberries

  • Option 4: Bean salad: green beans, chickpeas, and white beans with cherry tomatoes, spinach, and wheat berries tossed with salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar.

  • Option 5: Cooked farro tossed with chopped carrots, tomatoes, onions, yellow and green peppers, feta cheese and Greek olives, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper on a bed of lettuce; orange slices and raspberries on the side


  • Option 1: Sautéed shrimp with herbed whole grain couscous or quinoa and roasted asparagus

  • Option 2: Pork chop, no added sugar applesauce, green beans, spinach salad, and brown rice

  • Option 3: Whole grain pasta tossed with veggies, ground turkey, and tomato sauce

  • Option 4: Grilled salmon and asparagus, chopped tomato and cucumber salad, and quinoa

  • Option 5: Hamburger on whole grain roll, sautéed onions, and side salad


  • Option 1: Nut or sunflower seed butter protein balls: 2.5 cups oats, ¼ nut or sunflower butter, 1 cup ripe mashed banana, 1 tsp ground cinnamon. Mix all ingredients and shape into 24 balls. Keep refrigerated.

  • Option 2: Baked whole grain tortilla chips and guacamole

  • Option 3: Air popped popcorn tossed with raisins

  • Option 4: Whole grain English muffin with nut butter and banana slices

  • Option 5: Whole grain crackers and sliced cheese with grapes

*Pregnant women should eat no more than 6 ounces of high mercury fish per week7

Let’s Chat!

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Our Happy Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday – Friday 8am – 6pm (ET).Chat Now!

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For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

Gluten Free Meal Plan for Pregnant and Postpartum Moms

6 Tips to help Managing Prenatal and Postpartum Constipation

How to Minimize Processed Foods in Your Diet

8 Tips for Simple, Quick, Healthy Cooking

How to Manage Gestational Diabetes

Our meal plans offer recipe and meal suggestions. They are not designed to replace your doctor’s recommendations, nor do they take into account special nutritional needs or allergies. The meal plans suggest serving sizes that may or may not be appropriate for you. Please consult your doctor to determine what is best for you and your child.