Is the new year inspiring you to ponder an “eating healthier” resolution? Here’s a food-specific resolution that is easy on the budget and easy to put on your plate.  

Make ½ of your grains whole. 

Grain-centered foods include bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, rice, crackers, tortillas, muffins, baked goods, pretzels, etc.

The most common whole-grain foods are made from wheat, oats, and rice in their whole form. This includes the bran and germ that Mother Nature gave it which enhances the grain’s nutritional value. According to the Whole Grains Council, “without the bran and germ, about 25% of the grain’s protein is lost and is greatly reduced in at least 17 key nutrients”, including fiber and healthy fats.

Refined grains have been milled to remove the germ and bran, giving them a finer texture and improved shelf life, like white flour. While processors add back some B vitamins and iron to enrich refined grains, whole grains are healthier overall. 

Switching to whole grains has been found to improve blood cholesterol levels, blood sugar control, as well as lower inflammation, plus are linked to a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Some grain foods are available in both refined and whole-grain varieties, such as pasta and bread.  Some grain foods have a mixture of whole and refined grain ingredients. To become a whole grain sleuth, check the label’s ingredient list.

Foods that are always a whole grain include all forms of oats, quinoa, and popcorn (yes, popcorn!)

3 quick tips for identifying a whole grain food:

  • Words “whole”, oats, or brown rice on the packaging or in the ingredient list
  • 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grains on the package label (multi-grain is not necessarily whole grain)
  • Whole grain, oats, or brown rice listed first on the ingredient list when both whole and refined grains present

4 quick & easy areas to begin the switch: 

  • Breakfast cereal – all forms of oatmeal, Kind granola, Cheerios, shredded wheat, raisin bran, Kashi cereals, Oatmeal Squares
  • Bread – 100% whole wheat (soft bread available)
  • Rice – Minute Instant brown rice, Uncle Ben’s Boil-in-Bag brown rice (brown rice takes longer to cook)
  • Pasta – 100% whole wheat 

There is no reason to give up your favorite “white baguette”.  Resolve to experiment with whole-grain varieties of breakfast cereals or pasta instead. Remember, the goal is: make ½ your grains whole.

About Mary Lynne Hixson, MA, RD:
Mary Lynne, a registered dietitian, helps others enhance their health through the advocacy of nutrient-rich food choices and safe food-handling practices. Her expertise also includes counseling patients who have Type 2 diabetes and advising those who are in medically-managed weight loss programs. After her 35+ year career, she retired and became involved with the launch of Harvest of Hope Pantry in 2012 as a Board of Directors member. Mary Lynne is a weekly volunteer with Cultivate’s Carry-Out Caravan program, shopping and delivering groceries to seniors in the Boulder area, and also a frequent volunteer with Harvest of Hope.