Whole Grains

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Before you eat, think about what and how much food goes on your plate or in your cup or bowl. 

Over the day, include a variety of foods from all 5 food groups using MyPlate as your guide to assure you get the nutrients you need:

  • Vegetables & Fruits: Make half your plate vegetables and fruits
  • Grains: Make at least half of your grain servings, whole grains
  • Dairy: Move to low fat or fat free milk and yogurt
  • Protein: Vary your meats and use dry beans, nuts, or fish
MyPlate Food Guide:
Vegetables Fruits Grains Dairy Protein Foods
Eat more red, orange, and dark-green veggies like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli in main dishes. Use fruits as snacks, salads, and desserts. At breakfast, top your cereal with bananas or strawberries; add blueberries to pancakes. Substitute whole-grain choices for refined-grain breads, bagels, rolls, breakfast cereals, crackers, rice, and pasta. Choose skim (fat-free) or 1% (low-fat) milk. They have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and calories. Eat a variety of foods from the protein food group each week, such as seafood, beans, peas and nuts as well as lean meats, poultry, and eggs.
Add beans or peas to salads (kidney or chickpeas), soups (split peas or lentils), and side dishes (pinto or baked beans), or serve as a main dish. Buy fruits that are dried, frozen, and canned (in water or 100% juice), as well as fresh fruits. Check the ingredients list on product labels for the words “whole” or “whole grain” before the grain ingredient name. Top fruit salads and baked potatoes with low-fat, plain yogurt. Twice a week, make seafood the protein on your plate.
Fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables all count. Choose “reduced sodium” or “no-salt-added” canned veggies. Select 100% fruit juice. Choose products that name a whole grain first on the ingredients list. If you are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or fortified soymilk. Choose lean meats and ground beef that are at least 90% lean.
Trim or drain fat from meat and remove skin from poultry to cut fat and calories.
For a adult 2,000-calorie daily food plan, you need the amounts below from each food group. To find amounts personalized for you, go to ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Eat 2 ½ cups every day Eat 2 cups every day Eat 6 ounces every day Eat 3 cups every day Eat 5 ½ ounces every day
What counts as a cup? What counts as a cup? What counts as a ounce? What counts as a cup? What counts as a ounce?
1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or 100% vegetable juice; 2 cups of leafy salad greens 1 cup of raw or cooked fruit or 100% fruit juice; ½ cup dried fruit 1 slice of bread; ½ cup of cooked rice, cereal, or pasta; 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal 1 cup of milk, yogurt, or fortified soymilk; 1½ ounces natural or 2 ounces processed cheese 1 ounce of lean meat, poultry, or fish; 1 egg; 1 Tbsp peanut butter; ½ ounce nuts or seeds; ¼ cup beans or peas

What is a Whole Grain?

A food is a whole grain if made with all three parts of the grain:

  • Starchy inside (Germ)
  • The middle (Endosperm)
  • Outer shell (Bran)

Whole grains are a good choice because they are full of important nutrients that work together to keep you healthy. When you only eat part of the grain you are missing out on the benefits of whole grain.

Whole Grain benefits

  • Reduce chance of developing: coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers 
  • Lower cholesterol because of higher fiber content
  • Help maintain a healthy weight
  • Provides energy, vitamins (folate, vitamin E and B), and antioxidants

What to look for on food labels

Look for “whole grain” as the first ingredient and the Whole Grain stamp on products.

  • Not all brown bread is 100% whole grain. 
  • Look at the food label, not at the color of the food!

Be aware of tricky food labels

  • “Made with whole grain” means it contains some whole grain, but not much. 
  • “100% wheat” does not mean 100% whole wheat. This just means the only grain used is wheat. 
  • “multigrain” means it contains more than one kind of grain but they may not be whole grains. 
  • A “whole grain” (wheat, oats, corn, etc.) should be listed first on the ingredient list to qualify.

Examples of Whole Grain foods

  • 100% whole wheat breads, tortillas, bagels and pita pockets 
  • Popcorn
  • Brown rice cakes 
  • Whole wheat pasta and crackers 
  • Brown rice
  • Oats (whole, rolled), oatmeal
  • Barley
  • Whole cornmeal
  • White whole wheat bread

Why am I getting whole grains in my WIC Food Package?

  • It is recommended that you get half of your total grains from whole grains each day for the best health! Shoot for at least 3 servings of whole grains a day for adults. 9 out of 10 people do not eat enough whole grains.
  • Whole wheat bread, oatmeal, whole wheat or corn tortillas, whole grain pasta, and/or brown rice are WIC Approved Foods.

10 Tips to Make Half Your Grains Whole Grain

  1. Make simple shifts: To make half your grains whole grains, choose 100% whole-wheat bread, bagels, pasta, or tortillas; brown rice; oatmeal, or grits.
  2. Whole grains can be healthy snacks: Popcorn, 100% whole-wheat or rye crackers, Frosted Mini Spooners, and Cheerios are whole grains.
  3. Save some time: Cook extra brown rice or oatmeal when you have time. Refrigerate half of what you cook to heat and serve later in the week.
  4. Mix it up with whole grains: Use whole grains in mixed dishes, such as barley in vegetable soups or stews and bulgur wheat in casseroles or stir-fries. Try a quinoa salad or pilaf.
  5. Try whole-wheat versions: Change up your favorite meal with whole grains. Try brown rice stuffing in baked green peppers or tomatoes, and whole-wheat noodles in lasagna.
  6. Bake up some whole-grain goodness: Experiment by substituting buckwheat, millet, whole wheat, or oat flour for up to half of the flour in your favorite pancake, or waffle, cookie, or muffin recipes. 
  7. Be a good role model for children: Set a good example for children by serving and eating whole grains every day with meals or as snacks.  Try Wheat Chex, All Bran Complete, or Whole Grain Cream of Wheat WIC cereals.
  8. Check the label: Most refined grains are enriched. This means that certain B vitamins and iron are added back after processing. Check the ingredients list to make sure the word “enriched” is included in the grain name.
  9. Know what to look for on the ingredients list: Read the ingredients list and choose products that name a whole-grain ingredient first on the list. Look for “whole wheat,” “brown rice,” “bulgur,” “buckwheat,” “oatmeal,” “whole-grain cornmeal,” “whole oats,” or “whole rye.”
  10. Be a smart shopper: The color of a food is not an indication that it is a whole-grain food. Foods labeled as “multi-grain,” “stone-ground,” “100% wheat,” “cracked wheat,” “seven-grain,” or “bran” are usually not 100% whole-grain products, and may not contain any whole grain.

Source: ChooseMyPlate

This post was last updated on November 7th, 2022 at 5:49 PM

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