Looking For Whole Grains? Think Outside the Cereal Box

| Posted On Sep 25, 2013 | By:

whole grains.shutterstock_117473245Are you trying to eat more whole grains?  Chances are, even if you’re not trying, you are eating more, and that’s a good thing.   A few years ago, the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines advised everyone to eat more whole grains by replacing at least half of our refined grains with whole grains.  As a result, food manufacturers, food service providers, and even fast food restaurants have gotten on board to create more whole grain options and help inch us toward that goal.

Why Whole Grains?

Look around at what we’re buying at the grocery store, or most times when we go out to eat.  The American diet has become unbalanced and far too full of refined grains like white bread, pasta, donuts, muffins, and packaged cookies and treats.  Refined grains are milled and stripped of both the bran and germ to give them a finer texture and extend their shelf life.   However, the refining process also removes many nutrients, including fiber. Research indicates that diets full of refined grains are leading to an epidemic of obesity and diabetes.

Whole grains on the other hand, are just that –  grains that are whole,  unprocessed, unrefined, and just as nature intended them.  Whole grains are excellent sources of fiber, B-vitamins, antioxidants, and iron.  Substituting a few of your refined grains for whole grains can have tremendous health benefits for most people.

Which Foods Are Whole Grains?

A big tipoff is the word WHOLE in the label, but just to be sure, check the package for the Whole Grain Stamp, which is on over 8,600 different products.

Whole Grain Stamp

Most of us are aware that whole wheat breads, bagels, English muffins, and cereals are whole grain, but there are lots more to explore. Whole grains also include oats, popcorn, brown rice, and rye, as well as those in the not quite as well known, but worth exploring category, like barley, colored rice, buckwheat, bulgur and wheat berries.

Want to really show off your awesome foodie-ness?  Try some of the “new and exciting” ancient grains. These are actually grains that have been around for thousands of centuries, but have only recently been rediscovered as delicious and healthy alternatives to “white starches and grains.”  Ancient grains include amaranth, einkorn, farro/emmer, kamut, and quinoa.  Read about ways to eat these  and the history of these and all grains on the Whole Grains Council website.

Many whole grains are also gluten free, so individuals with Celiac disease can enjoy them.  Gluten free grains include amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millett, quinoa, rice, sorghum, teff, and certified gluten free oats.

According to data just released by the USDA, Americans are eating more whole grains: 23.4% more between 2008 and 2010 (and market factors indicate the trend has continued since 2010) but we still have more work to do.  It seems that even though whole grain consumption is going up, refined grain consumption is staying the same.  Ideally, we need to swap whole grains for our refined grains, instead of eating them in addition to refined grains.  The Dietary Guidelines are looking for us to get at least 3 servings of whole grains each day.

Not sure where to start, or how to eat them?  Never fear – check out my Whole Grain Recipe Roundup, which has lots of wonderful ideas from around the web!

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About Anne Danahy, MS, RD, LDN

Anne Danahy, MS, RD, LDN has been a Nutritionist with Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates for the past 15 years, and she currently works as the “Virtual Nutritionist." Her professional interests include weight management, heart disease, and women’s nutritional issues. When she isn’t working, you can usually find her in the kitchen testing recipes that are healthy AND delicious.


  1. While whole grains may be better than regular refined grains for a non-diabetic, any grain at all will raise the bg of a diabetic, particularly mine. This is never mentioned by the medicos or nutritionists. One can be perfectly healthy without them & I am.

    Comment by carole paulis on September 25, 2013 at 8:42 pm
  2. last week i finished off a bag of bob’s red mill grande grains and suddenly realized i could make that combo in bulk, since i had all the types of berries in my grain refrigerator. i made a jug of mixed berries (wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut) and simmered one cup for 50 minutes in 2 c. broth. great. chewy, flavorful, and filling at 1/2 c. of finished product. then i realized it was the same as my rolled-grain breakfast but in different form. could also do it in pressure cooker in 1/3 the time.

    Comment by nancy on October 9, 2013 at 12:20 pm

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