Whole grains are loaded with healthy benefits! Not only do they decrease several chronic diseases, they provide many nutrients if eaten as part of a healthy diet. “Whole grain-rich foods are an important part of your menu in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Foods that are whole grain-rich are filled with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients that help kids and adults stay healthy” says the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Under the updated meal patterns, at least one serving of grains per day must be whole grain-rich. This requirement can seem overwhelming, especially when you don’t really know if an item is truly whole grain-rich. The USDA has provided a very informative worksheet that goes in depth of the requirement and provides tips for child care providers. Download the worksheet here.

Here are 10 ways you can incorporate whole grains into your CACFP child care menus.

The following recipes are all provided by the USDA and can be found here.

Porcupine Sliders “are healthy, mouth-watering turkey burgers, high in protein, with just the right amount of spices and a kick of sweet cranberries, all served on small whole-wheat rolls. The addition of brown rice to the burger mixture created a prickly look like little porcupines – thus their name. Porcupine Sliders are a delicious, nutritious, and appetizing new way to get kids to eat healthy. The simple ingredients and easy preparation makes them a favorable choice for a quick menu idea that kids will enjoy!” Click here for the recipe.

Chic’ Penne “Not found at your local fast food restaurant, Chic’ Penne has a little hint of black pepper and is anything but ordinary. By combining the best ingredients, this recipe produces a dish that not only looks good, but tastes good too! This main dish will be an instant hit with your children.” Click here for the recipe.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad is a “tasty side salad featuring a nutritious whole grain called quinoa, mixed with a colorful variety of vegetables, including red peppers, parsley, and cherry tomatoes. Feta cheese and a light lemon dressing complete the Mediterranean Quinoa Salad. What a party of flavor!” To give this recipe a try, click here.

Aztec Grain Salad “combines a South America, high-protein gran called quinoa with aromatic roasted butternut squash, crisp apples, and dried cranberries to make a delicious and colorful side dish. Learn how to make this dish here.

Chicken Alfredo With a Twist “saves on fat and calories by using fat-free half and half, and boosts the fiver content by incorporating whole grains. Whole-wheat rotini noodles are used to replace traditional fettuccine noodles. These “twists” make this a healthy alternative to the classic chicken alfredo. Pair a serving with a refreshing vegetable side dish to give your kids a meal that is sure to please!” Click here for the recipe.

Chicken Curry Casserole is a “traditional, spiced Indian dish [with] tender chicken strips, fresh carrots, diced celery, and brown rice…tossed in a creamy curry sauce and baked until golden. Chick Curry Casserole is a dish to warm the heart and please the soul!” Learn more about this recipe here.

Oodles of Noodles is a “colorful, whole-wheat pasta dish…accented with grape tomatoes and Swiss chard, and delicately flavored with basil and garlic for an oodles of noodle delight!” Click here for this delicious recipe.

Peppy Quinoa features “quinoa as its key ingredient. From South America, this versatile whole grain can be prepared in many different ways. As a light and fluffy alternative to rice or couscous, children are sure to enjoy quinoa – a nutty-flavored whole grain. This surprisingly peppy side dish combines spicy green chilies, cilantro, and toasted pepitas with the nutty flavor of quinoa, giving this dish a Latino flair that will spice up any menu.” Try out this whole grain-rich recipe here.

Rainbow Rice is a “colorful rainbow of healthy vegetables, wholesome grains, and protein. Rainbow rice is certainly a wonderful way to introduce children to a variety of grains that they are sure to enjoy: brown rice, wild rice, barley, quinoa, and bulgur wheat. …once you have tasted “Rainbow Rice”, you will feel like you’ve gone over the rainbow! Packed with whole grains and colorful vegetables, this recipe is a sure winner for those wanting a healthy dish without sacrificing taste.” Learn more about this colorful recipe here.

Stir-Fried Green Rice, Eggs, and Ham consists of “North Carolina ingredients and Asian-inspired flavors. Stir-Fried Green Rice, Eggs, and Ham is a beautifully presented and colorful dish that will be an instant kids’ favorite, not only due to the recipe’s name, but also its taste! …This hot main dish creatively combines brown rice, spinach, eggs, and turkey ham to create a great wholesome meal that satisfies the pickets of eaters.” Read the recipe here.

Don’t let whole-grains intimidate you! Try out these recipes and see which ones your children love. For more CACFP-creditable recipes, click here.