February 7, 2013
Is it Whole Grain... is it Healthy?

This story from the Harvard Gazette reminded me of how confusing it can be as a consumer looking for healthy foods now-a-days. Whole grain can be especially confusing. Many products look healthy, seem healthy. But in fact, are they healthy? Follow these label-sleuthing rules to find out:


The 101 of being a label sleuth: Whole Grain

Your criteria for a winning grain, per 100 calorie (equal to 15-20 grams carbohydrates) serving:

1. The word "whole"

The process of refining (changing) a grain from its original form can mean nutrition (vitamins, minerals, fiber) are lost. Read the list of items under "Ingredients" on the food label. What you want: Whole (i.e. Whole wheat flour). What you want to avoid: Enriched (i.e. Enriched, unbleached wheat flour).

2. At least 3 grams of fiber

Grains in their whole form are high in fiber. High fiber foods like whole grains help keep you full, help keep you regular and some can help lower your cholesterol (like oat bran). Note: cooked grains, like brown rice or quinoa, are naturally lower in fiber so you can aim for 2 g per serving for a healthful choice.

3. No more than 3 grams of sugar

Sugar is a common ingredient added to processed grain products. Due to its lack of nutritional value, I recommend no more than 3 g sugar per serving of whole grains. Note: It can be challenging to find cereals this low in sugar, so for cold cereal look for no more than 9 g sugar per serving.

4. Whole grain ingredients first 

The ingredients in a food label are listed in order of weight, with the first ingredient being the highest weight. Aim to have whole grain ingredients, like whole grain wheat flour, oat flour, etc. as high on the list as you can. Aiming to keep sugar, cane sugar, corn syrup, etc. low on the ingredients list is great as well!

 With these four criteria in mind, you can now confidently shop the cooked grain, tortilla, breakfast cereals, cracker, bread, chip, etc. aisles of the grocery store for healthy choices!

 If you need a little more coaching and support check out our new Ask an Expert Feature, where you can receive on the spot advice for nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle coaches in 5 minutes or less. Or stay on track with a weekly progress review by one of our registered dietitians. Learn more here.

Written by Erika Brown

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