Eating Whole Grains
Eating more whole grains is a concept I struggled with at first; the taste and texture is something that takes a bit of getting used to, especially for someone who’s gone through life without really taking the time to think about what they’re eating. Once I got used to it, though, it’s not a struggle anymore to choose whole grain products over their less-healthy counterparts: in fact, it’s easy!
Whole grains are a necessary part of a healthy life: they help prevent illnesses such as stroke, diabetes, heart disease, gum disease, and even cancer. Eating whole grains also helps to maintain a healthy weight, and aids in portion control; whole grains are less processed, therefore more filling than other common over-processed foods. Nutrients such as protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and other minerals can be found in whole grain products.
The recommended daily consumption of whole grains is 48 grams. A reasonable serving size is about 16 grams, so in reality it shouldn’t be too difficult to squeeze 3 servings of whole grains into every day, should it? The problem is, most people don’t know what they should look for, and aren’t sure how to determine if something is indeed 100% whole grain, or an imitator. Serving size is also a cause for confusion among many, including myself. Knowing some key things to look for will ease a lot of the hesitation, I know from experience. First things first: look at the front, back, and side label of the products you’re considering. The claim ‘100% whole grain’ means that all of the grains in the product are whole grains, so, accordingly, each serving will include a minimum of 16 grams. If the box merely says ‘whole grain’ or ‘made with whole grains,’ you aren’t getting 16 grams per serving; to be able to put that label on the package, the product must only contain a minimum of 8 grams of whole grains per serving. These are still good alternatives to non-whole grain products, but it takes a lot more servings to make it to the optimum 48 gram daily goal than it would with 100% whole grain items. If it doesn’t say either of these things on the front or back of the product, don’t forget to check the label; the first ingredients on the label are the most prevalent, so if the ingredient list starts with ‘100% whole grain ____’ then it’ll have the 16 grams per serving that you’re looking for. Also keep your eyes peeled for the Whole Grains Council stamp, which indicates a 100% whole grain status.
Some foods that people eat regularly are 100% whole grain, without us even realizing it. For example, popcorn is actually made with 100% whole grains, it hasn’t been processed; another good example would be wild rice. Some products are easily substituted with a whole grain version, such as pasta; whole grain pasta is delicious! It adds a whole new depth of flavor, and it’s priced pretty close to the regular, processed pasta most of us are used to. There are also whole wheat breadcrumbs, baking mixes, tortillas, crackers, and even pizza crust. A great trick to incorporate some whole grains in baking is to try whole wheat flour; it’s great when partially substituting all-purpose flour in muffins, cupcakes, cookies, etc. Any other tips, tricks or product examples that I’ve left out? Leave ‘em in the comments!