Friday, June 5, 2009

Still confused about whole grains?

A recent news article from ScienceDaily caught my eye today. It reports than many school food service workers are confused about how to identify whole grains and also lack the resources for obtaining whole grain products to serve to school children. I think that this is also true of your average American, since as a rule, Americans are still not getting as many servings of whole grains in a day as they should.

As you may know, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines encourage us to "make half of our grains whole". In other words, half of the bread or grain servings a child is eating in a day should be whole grains. Unfortunately, we know that the average American child only gets about one serving of whole grains in a day. This is unfortunate because they are missing out in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber found in whole grains.

Do you know how to identify whole grains in the store to serve to the children in your care?
There are a couple of easy steps that you can follow to make sure you are buying nutritious whole grains for your kids. First of all, when food shopping, you can look for the whole grain "stamp". This stamp was developed by the Whole Grains Council, and products that have the stamp on their label must contain at least 8 grams of whole grains per serving (equal 1/2 of 1 of your whole grain servings for the day). So, eating 6 servings of one of these products would equal 3 total servings of whole grain. There are also variations of the stamp (such as the picture below on the right) that indicate a product contains more than 8 grams per serving and that will be indicated on the stamp. Keep in mind that food manufacturers must pay to have this stamp placed on their product. Products that don't have the stamp can still be whole grain.

No stamp? The next best way to determine if a product contains whole grains is to check out the ingredient list. Remember, ingredients are listed with the most predominant ingredient first. So make sure that the first ingredient is a whole grain! For example, look for a bread label that has whole wheat flour as the first ingredient. "Wheat" flour is essentially white flour and is not the same thing. The word "whole" should precede the name of the grain.

Finally, consider cooking up your own whole grains. You can buy grains at the store such as quinoa, teff, amaranth, brown rice, millet, or barley and cook them (it's even cheaper to buy them in bulk at stores such as Whole Foods or Sunflower). By doing this you will know for sure you are getting the whole grain and nothing has been removed!

If you missed our whole grain workshop last year, check out the recipe section on our website ( for some of our favorite whole grain recipes.

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