Nutrition: Getting Children to Eat Vegetables – is Wheatgrass a Viable Alternative?

Although wheatgrass has been on the Mum radar for quite some time, until recently, I never really gave it much in depth thought. What really got my notice was an ad at a BoostJuice Bar that claimed “one shot of wheatgrass is equivalent to eating a bowl of vegetables”. When you have a child that projectile vomits if you try to sneak even the tiniest piece of lettuce into a mouthful of his favourite noodles, an ad like that is bound to capture your notice.

I’ve had plenty of remarks about all the things I should have done with Gavin when he was little (which apparently would have prevented his food fussiness if I had just done it when he was younger) but believe me, I tried them all and then some (see Annabel KarmelThe Sneaky ChefPediaSure and Probiotics). It wasn’t until I had Gareth who is much more open to trying new flavours that I finally came to terms with the guilt that has plagued me for over two years and accepted the fact that Gavin’s food fussiness is largely inherited and possibly very little to do with my management of him. After all, how do you sneak food into a child’s mouth when he can smell you coming from a mile away (and I mean that literally because Gavin’s keen sense of smell is like that rat in Ratatouille who could detect rat poison in food just by smelling it)? You can’t feed a child anything if he won’t open his mouth – we tried force-feeding him medicine once only to end up with vomit all over him and me. We also tried “a spoonful of sugar”, but in his case, it didn’t make the medicine go down.

Okay, I’m digressing…  Back to wheatgrass.

Although the claims for wheatgrass benefits include its ability to treat numerous medical conditions, there isn’t much of the scientific literature to support these claims. Then again, neither is there any scientific literature to debunk these claims either which suggests there is room for more research. However, these aren’t the reasons for my interest in wheatgrass. What I wanted to know is whether a shot of wheatgrass really does provide the equivalent nutrition as a bowl of vegetables.

According to Health Psychology, there isn’t sufficient information to answer the question whether one shot of wheatgrass is equivalent to a kilogram of vegetables. The nutrition table on Wikipedia, however, seems to suggest that the nutrient content of wheatgrass is comparable to the equivalent amount of broccoli or spinach, while the Nutrition Supplements Center states that:

“Wheat grass has nearly a gram of protein per teaspoon, but contains no cholesterol or fat. It provides eight of the essential amino acids, and thirteen of the non-essential amino acids.  It contains Vitamins A, B1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, and 12; C, E and K, as well as 15mg of Calcium, 8mcg Iodine, 3.5mcg Selenium, 870mcg Iron, 62mcg Zinc, and many other minerals.”

The American Cancer Society warns that because wheatgrass falls under the category of nutritional supplements which is unregulated (unlike pharmaceutical products), there is a lot of variation between different wheatgrass preparations.

What I found particularly interesting were the historical experiments with wheatgrass conducted by Charles Schnabel on chickens. He fed fresh cut grass to dying hens to nurse them back to health and discovered that not only did they recover, they were also able to produce eggs at a higher rate compared to the healthy hens. Later studies found that hens supplemented with wheatgrass were able to double their egg production.

So are there benefits from taking wheatgrass? It would appear that wheatgrass consumption has its benefits. The extent of those benefits, though, are unconfirmed. Is it better than eating vegetables? The American Cancer Society still advocates consuming a “balanced diet that includes 5 or more servings a day of vegetables and fruit, choosing whole grains over processed and refined foods and limiting red meats and animal fats. Choosing foods from a variety of fruits, vegetables and other plant sources such as nuts, seeds, whole grain cereals, and beans is healthier than consuming large amounts of one particular food.”

Is wheatgrass safe for children to consume? Wheatgrass is generally safe for consumption by children (although you should be aware of the potential for allergic reactions which have been reported in a few individuals). Additionally, since wheatgrass preparations vary in quality, it is important to check the individual product to determine whether it is safe your your child to consume. Some wheatgrass preparations may contain other ingredients that are not suitable for children to consume.

Coming back to my particular case – since Gavin isn’t eating vegetables, it would appear that if we can get him to take wheatgrass, it would definitely be better than nothing. Although it would be advisable to check the nutritional content of the wheatgrass preparation first due to the variation in quality between different brands.

Have you given your children wheatgrass? What are your experiences?

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

2 thoughts on “Nutrition: Getting Children to Eat Vegetables – is Wheatgrass a Viable Alternative?

  1. i give wheatgrass juice to my 7 year old nephew and he loves it. the trick is to add freshly squeezed orange juice to it to mask the taste. now he reminds me every day to make his green juice. he even looks for oranges just to make it.

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