Great Grains

August 21, 2014

This is the first in a series covering MyPlate food groups. Each article will cover healthy options and serving suggestions.

Grains often get a bad rap due to the low carbohydrate craze, but they don’t deserve it! Grains can certainly be a part of your family’s quest for healthy eating. When it comes to choosing grains, you have two options: whole and refined. You’ve heard “whole grain” many times, but what exactly makes a grain whole?

Whole Grains
Whole grains contain the “whole” grain kernel: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole grains are touted for being rich in B vitamins and everyone’s favorite: fiber! Make sure “whole” is listed in the ingredients section – simply “wheat” or “multigrain” does not mean whole grain! Examples include oatmeal, bulgur, brown rice, popcorn, quinoa, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, and wild rice.

Refined Grains
Refined grains lose the bran and germ in the milling process. Oftentimes, nutrients are added back after processing and labeled “enriched.” Keep in mind that fiber isn’t added back into enriched products. Examples of refined grains include white rice and white bread.

Swapping Refined for Whole
Whole grains sound great, but will your child eat them or eat around them? They do have a nuttier taste, so it may take a few tries to acquire a taste. Here are a few options to get you started!

  1. When pasta night arrives, try grabbing a box of whole wheat pasta. These days there are a ton of varieties from penne to spaghetti. If you’re afraid to make the full jump to all whole grain, mix with some regular pasta.
  2. Make your child’s favorite blueberry muffins healthier! Try substituting half (or all) of all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. In other baked goods, such as bread, whole wheat flour is a great option to increase fiber in your child’s favorite sandwich.
  3. When its Friday night movie time, pop a bag of popcorn in the microwave and in less than a few minutes you’ll have a healthy whole grain snack. Make sure to practice your label reading skills by comparing fat and salt contents and choose the option with lower levels. Look for the single serve bags that make a great kid friendly serving!

How much?
The general rule of thumb is to make half your grains whole. Recommended daily intake varies by age, gender, and activity levels. Click here for detailed amounts. Keep in mind servings are measured in ounces. For comparison, one ounce is equivalent to one bread slice and ½ cup of cooked pasta or rice.

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