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Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Are You Whole? Understanding Whole Grains

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Whole grain Bread
One of the big buzzes in nutrition seems to be all about whole grains and fiber. As a result, there’s a lot of confusion about the two subjects. For example, just because something is high in fiber doesn’t necessarily mean it has whole grains. Some foods have fiber added but the jury is still out as to whether added fiber as healthy for you as fiber that is naturally occurring in foods (I tend to think not).

And the opposite can be true: just because something is whole grain doesn't necessarily mean it is high in fiber. Read food labels carefully!

Choosing Whole Grains

Whole grain pastas, breads, rice and cereal are usually higher in fiber and vitamins (and thus provide more nutrients) than white and refined grains. Make these simple grain switches to add more whole grains into your life:

  • Choose high fiber, whole grain cereals such as shredded wheat and oatmeal for breakfast.
  • Switch from white pasta and bread to the whole wheat varieties.
  • Choose brown rice over white rice.
  • Try whole wheat pancake and waffle mixes.
  • When baking, use whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose.
  • Have popcorn as a snack—it’s a whole grain!
  • Try unique and tasty whole grains such as quinoa, bulgur, millet and buckwheat.

To ensure a product is whole grain check the ingredient list to make sure the first ingredient reads “100% whole ______ or whole ______ flour.” Watch for products that claim to be whole wheat but have enriched or white flour as the first ingredient.

Getting Used to Whole Grains

Whole grains have a distinct flavor that some may have trouble getting used to. If this is the case for you, slowly incorporate whole grains into your diet through these techniques.

  • When making a sandwich, use one slice of white bread and one slice of whole wheat.
  • In rice dishes combine a mix of brown and white rice; in pasta dishes, combine white and whole wheat pasta.
  • Add some excitement to your oatmeal with delicious add-ins such as fruit, nuts, almond extract (my fave) and spices (like nutmeg, cloves, or cinnamon).
  • Add whole grains to soups and salads:—experiment with barley, quinoa, brown rice.

With these easy tips you’ll be eating whole grains in no time, and will benefit from the natural nutrition that they provide! When you’re out at dinner, or eating with friends, just ask for whole grains!

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Tags: Healthy Eating , Nutrition , Whole Grains

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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