Do you find yourself frustrated about the whole grains requirement for the food program? It’s not as hard as you think and this will make it even easier!

CACFP Meal Pattern-Whole Grains

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Do you find yourself beating your head against the wall about the whole grains requirement for the food program? It’s not as hard as you think and this will make it even easier!

CACFP Meal Pattern-Whole Grains

One whole grain food must be served per day. This can be for breakfast, lunch, supper, or snack. This means that you can serve your whole grain item at breakfast and not worry about it for the rest of the day.

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Your food program is allowed to disallow foods at their discretion so check with them and make sure the items you choose from the list are creditable by the program you’re on.

Whole grains bread fresh from the oven in loaf pans cooling on the stove top

Sometimes we get bogged down in thinking that we need to serve whole grains at every meal, but that’s not the case. We just need one. This could be in pasta, bread, buns, muffins, crackers, cereals, etc.

Providers must document their menu showing whole grains are served, such as whole wheat bread, whole grain-rich, etc. So, when you fill out your menus, just put -wg behind the food item and you’re done.

If whole grains are not served, the meal with the lowest reimbursement rate will be disallowed and not reimbursed.

Food program for daycare

All children do not have to be in attendance when the whole grain is served. The rules are once per day for the facility, not per child. If the facility has to close for extenuating circumstances and the planned whole grain meal is not served, the facility will not be penalized for the missed meal as long as it is demonstrated that the meal was planned. For more information from USDA about whole grains, check this out.

Do you find yourself beating your head against the wall about the whole grains requirement for the food program? It’s not as hard as you think and this will make it even easier!

USDA requirements for whole grains

Check out the requirements from USDA on what qualifies as a whole grain:

“1. The product is found on any State agency’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)-approved whole grain food list. Any grain product found on a State agency’s WIC-approved whole grain food list meets CACFP whole grain-rich criteria

  1. The product is labeled as “whole wheat” and has a Standard of Identity issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Only breads with these exact product names conform to an FDA Standard of Identity and can be considered whole grain-rich using this method: • whole wheat bread • entire wheat bread • graham bread • whole wheat rolls • entire wheat rolls • graham rolls • whole wheat buns • entire wheat buns • graham buns Only pastas with these exact product names conform to an FDA Standard of Identity and can be considered whole grain-rich using this method: • whole wheat macaroni product • whole wheat macaroni • whole wheat spaghetti • whole wheat vermicelli.
  2. The product includes one of the following Food and Drug Administration approved whole-grain health claims on its packaging, exactly as written: “Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.” OR “Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods, and low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may help reduce the risk of heart disease.”
  3. The NSLP whole grain-rich criteria apply for all grain products with the exception of grain-based desserts, which are not creditable under CACFP.
  4. The food meets FNS’ Rule of Three, a three-step process for identifying whole grain-rich products in the CACFP. To meet the Rule of Three as a whole grain-rich product, the first ingredient (or second after water) must be whole grain, and the next two grain ingredients (if any) must be whole grains, enriched grains, bran, or germ. Any grain derivatives (by-products of grains) may be disregarded. Any non-creditable grain ingredients (e.g., flours that are not enriched or whole) that are labeled as 2 percent or less of product weight are considered insignificant and may also be disregarded (see below for a list of these ingredients). When applying the Rule of Three to the grain portion of mixed dishes, such as pizza crusts and tortillas for burritos, the first grain ingredient must be whole grain and the next two grain ingredients (if any) must be whole grains, enriched grains, bran, or germ.

When applying the Rule of Three for ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, if the first grain ingredient is a whole grain and the cereal is fortified, the product meets the whole grain rich criteria. In this situation, the second and third grain ingredients, if any, do not need to be considered.

  1. Proper documentation from a manufacturer or a standardized recipe demonstrates that whole grains are the primary grain ingredient by weight. As a reminder, both infant cereals and ready-to-eat cereals must be iron-fortified to be reimbursable in the infant meal pattern. Breakfast cereals must meet the sugar limit and be made from enriched or whole grain meal or flour, or be fortified, to be creditable in the CACFP.

Creditable breakfast cereals for CACFP

There are several ways for centers and day care homes to determine if a breakfast cereal is within the sugar limit. A breakfast cereal must meet only one (not all) of the following methods to determine if a breakfast cereal meets the sugar limit:

1. Use any State agency’s WIC approved breakfast cereal list. Similar to CACFP, all WIC approved breakfast cereals must contain no more than 6 grams of sugar per dry ounce (21.2 grams of sugar per 100 grams).

2. Use USDA’s Team Nutrition training worksheet Choose Breakfast Cereals That Are Lower in Added Sugars (, which includes a chart with common breakfast cereal serving sizes and the maximum amount of sugar the breakfast cereal may contain per serving, which should eliminate the need to perform sugar limit calculations for many operators.

3. Use one of the following methods to calculate the sugar content per dry ounce. Standard Method • First, find the serving size in grams at the top of the Nutrition Facts label, and find the sugars listed towards the middle. • Next, divide the total sugars by the serving size in grams. Regional Directors State Directors Page 10 • If the answer is equal to or less than 0.212, then the cereal is within the required sugar limit and may be creditable in CACFP.

Check labels on these for first ingredient whole grain.”


CACFP-Whole Grains

Here is a list of the items I have found that qualify as whole grain component for the food program. It’s in no way an exhaustive list, but these do all qualify, so you can use it to plan your menu. At the bottom of the article is a pdf you can print out and take to the store with you if that helps.

Whole Grain Cereals

Best Choice

Bran Flakes

Frosted Shredded Wheat

Happy Os

Nutty Nuggets

Wheat Crisps

General Mills

Berry Berry Kix


Honey Kix

Multigrain Cheerios


Corn Chex

Wheat Chex

Rice Chex

Fiber One



Great Value

Bran Flakes

Crunchy Nuggets

Crunchy Oat Squares

Shredded Wheat

Toasted Corn

Toasted Wheat

Toasted Whole Grain Oats

Heart to Heart

Honey Toasted Oat

Warm Cinnamon Oat


7 Whole Grain Flakes

7 Whole Grain Honey Puffs

7 Whole Grain Nuggets

7 Whole Grain Puffs


All Bran

Frosted Mini Wheats

Mini Wheats

Malt O Meal

Bran Flakes

Shredded Wheats

Rollin Oats

Blueberry Mini Spooners

Frosted Mini Spooners

Strawberries and Cream Mini Spooners


Alpha Bits

Bran Flakes

Grape Nuts

Grape Nuts Flakes

Great Grains

Shredded Wheat



Oatmeal Squares Brown Sugar

Oatmeal Squares Cinnamon




Malt O Meal

Cream of Wheat

Cream of Rice


Getting kids to eat healthy food can be a challenge but there are several ways you can make improvements that aren't that hard. 

Whole Grain Breads

Best Choice 100% Whole Wheat

Bimbo 100% Whole Wheat

Great Value 100% Whole Wheat

Mrs. Baird’s 100% Whole Wheat

Nature’s Own 100% Whole Wheat

Ozark Hearth 100% Whole Wheat

Roman Meal/Sungrain 100% Whole Wheat

Wonder 100% Whole Wheat

Sara Lee Soft and Smooth 100% Whole Grain

100% Whole Wheat Hamburger and Hot Dog Bugs

Country Oven


Fred Meyer

Nature’s Own


Pepperidge Farm

Whole Grain Pasta

Allegra Whole Wheat

Barilla Whole Wheat

Gia Russa Whole Wheat

Hogsdon Mill Whole Wheat

Racconto Whole Wheat

Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat

healthy whole wheat tortillas, bananas, corn tortillas on the table

Whole Grain Tortillas

Best Choice 100% Whole Wheat

Don Pancho Whole Wheat

Guerrero Whole Wheat

La Bandarita Whole Wheat

Mama Lupes 100% Whole Wheat

Mission Whole Wheat

Native Tortilla 100% Whole Wheat

Ortega Whole Wheat

Santa Fe Tortilla Company Whole Wheat

Tia Rosa 100% Whole Wheat

Tio Santi 100% Whole Wheat

Whole Grain Bagels

Thomas Hearty Grains 100% Whole Wheat

Pepperidge Farm 100% Whole Wheat

Crafters WG Bagels

Whole Grain English Muffins

Healthy Life 100% Whole Wheat

Signature Kitchens 100% Whole Wheat

Aunt Millie’s 100% Whole Wheat

Orowheat 100% Whole Wheat

365 Everyday Value Wheat

Bake Crafters WG

Thomas Heart Muffins 100% Whole Wheat

Nature’s Grains 51% Whole Grain

Orowheat Whole Grain and Flax

Udi’s Gluten Free Whole Grain

365 Whole Wheat

Whole Grain Crackers for CACFP

Savoritz Original Thin Wheat

Savoritz Original Woven Wheat


Wheat Thins

Whole Grain Goldfish

Scooby-Doo! Graham Cracker Sticks

Other foods that count as whole grains

Rice Cakes that are made with Brown Rice

Corn Tortillas

Brown Rice


Boboli 100% Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

Sun Puffs

Original Sunchips

Obviously, you can make your own whole grain foods as well. There are a few mixes that will count towards the whole grain requirement when used.

Whole Grain Mixes

Kodiak Cakes Protein Packed Muffin Mix

Aunt Jemima Whole Wheat Blend Pancake and Waffle Mix

Meijer Whole Wheat Pancake and Waffle Mix

Bob’s Red Mill Organic 7 Grain Pancake and Waffle Mix

Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain Pancake Mix

King Arthur Flour Apple Cinnamon Muffin Mix

Peach season is my favorite. I love making this healthy peach cobbler bread, it’s the best peach bread recipe and my kids love it!

Make your own whole grain bread

We make our own bread at Little Sprouts because of my food allergies. We make awesome whole wheat bread, rolls, banana bread, bagels, buns, muffins, pancakes, and pizza dough from freshly milled flour from wheat berries we grind ourselves. You can buy whole wheat flour and make this bread with it as well.

If you’re making bread, pizza, bagels or rolls, you want to use hard wheat and for non-yeast breads like banana bread, pancakes and muffins, you want to use soft wheat. If the recipe we’re using calls for white flour, we just substitute whole wheat flour.

You can use your regular recipe for biscuits, pancakes, muffins, waffles, sandwich bread, rolls, buns, pretzels, quick breads, etc., and just substitute at least half of the flour in the recipe for whole grain flour. If you do less than 100% whole grain flour, the other percentage must be enriched. I grind my own flour for the homemade bread I make.

Here is the grain mill I use to grind my wheat berries into flour. 

We even add whole grains to our meatballs, pizza crust, sausage balls and empanadas. 

child eating whole grain pancake and banana with cup of milk

And remember again, you only have to serve one whole grain item per day, so let the rest of your meals be simple.

CACFP Whole Grain Eligible Products by Brand

Whole Grain PDF

If you have found any other whole grain products that aren’t listed here, I’d love for you to comment and I can add them if they meet the USDA requirements.

My hope is for this article to help simplify the whole grain requirement for you! Thanks so much for checking it out. For more mealtime inspiration, check out cacfp breakfast ideas, lunch ideas, and snack ideas. For help in planning your daycare menu, click on the highlighted text. If you need help with your meat and meat alternates, or fruits and vegetables check this out. 

For more tips to make running your home daycare easier, click here. 

If you’re looking for premade newsletters to communicate with parents monthly that you can edit for your own, these might help!

Don’t forget to pin for later

Do you find yourself frustrated about the whole grains requirement for the food program? It’s not as hard as you think and this will make it even easier!

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  1. I am trying to get ready to apply for the CACFP and it has been grueling trying to get a healthier menu that the children will enjoy. Your article was WAAAYYY beyond helpful!! Thank you so much!

  2. We also serve whole grain goldfish as a snack, and the Scooby snacks graham crackers qualify as well. If the kids like mini wheat cereal there is also a chocolate mini bites cereal my kiddos love.

    1. The whole grain goldfish didn’t qualify according to the USDA formula. I will have to check on the scooby snacks, I was thinking they didn’t either. But I’ll check.

      1. Okay, i just recalculated the formula and the whole grain goldfish DO count but the scooby snacks do not, the first ingredient has to be whole wheat flour or whole grain something and it’s enriched wheat flour.

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