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    Archive for the ‘Whole Grains Council Stamp’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer/Perfect Pickings: Cereal

    I love cereal and eat it almost every morning but I often feel like the ones I eat are probably too sugary or not very substantial.

    Can you recommend a cereal or two that you consider healthy and nutritious?

    — Jenna Kozel
    Washington, DC

    Since the cereal market is so vast, I find it easier to recommend particular nutrient values and ingredients to look for in these products.

    The first thing to take note of is the serving size.

    Many brands of granola, for instance, use a quarter cup as their serving size, which is absolutely laughable.

    A lot of cereals, meanwhile, list their serving size as a half cup.

    If you have a measuring cup at home, please pour enough cereal into it to fill it to the brim. Yes, that tiny amount is what many companies use as a “serving.” Unreal!

    What I recommend you do as early as tomorrow morning is pour the amount of cereal you normally eat into a bowl.

    Then, use a measuring cup to determine the exact amount of cereal in that bowl.

    Keep that figure as a reference each time you read a cereal’s nutrition label, as it will help you make smarter choices when shopping.

    Let’s say you eat 1.5 cups of cereal every morning.

    If a cereal using half cup servings delivers 150 calories per serving, while another using 1 cup servings offers 200, you now know which is the better choice for you (in this case, the latter would add 300 calories to your day, while the first one would add up to 450.)

    You also want to pay attention to fiber content.

    I recommend anywhere from 4 to 7 grams of fiber per serving.

    Again, since the average person eats more than one serving of cereal in one sitting, I don’t think it’s necessary to track down cereals offering fiber in the double digits.

    Sugar values are also important. I consider up to 3 grams per serving to be the limit (especially since, again, most people eat two or three servings of cereal at a time).

    Be careful with cereals containing raisins or other fruit, as the naturally-occurring fruit sugars “unfairly” drive up sugar numbers.

    Twelve grams of sugar per serving from a cereal with marshmallows offers less nutrition than twelve grams of sugar from a cereal that contains raisins (which provide antioxidants and phytonutrients.)

    If you enjoy raisins in your cereal, you — and your wallet — are better off buying raisins separately and adding them yourself.

    Finally, take a look at the ingredient list. You want to this to be short and, ideally, be absent of refined grains (i.e.: enriched wheat flour.)

    When in doubt, look for the Whole Grains Council Stamp.


    Not The Whole Truth

    When it comes to determining whether a particular brand of sliced bread, crackers, or cereal is 100% whole grain or not, the popular recommendation is to look at the ingredient list.

    If “whole wheat flour” appears as the first ingredient, the advice goes, you are dealing with a whole grain product.

    Although this is both true and accurate (and I myself have given such a recommendation), food companies are starting to wise up.

    They know consumers are seeking whole grain foods, but they want to continue using refined white flour.

    Their solution? Confuse, confuse, and confuse some more!

    There are now plenty of products on store shelves marketed as “whole wheat” that are not 100% whole grain, but rather a mix of whole wheat flour and white flour.

    A look at the ingredient list reveals that while “whole wheat flour” is listed as the first ingredient, “unbleached enriched flour” (AKA white flour) is second or third.

    A true whole grain product ONLY contains whole wheat (or any other grain) flour. Don’t accept cheap knock-offs!

    A quick way to spot the tricksters? Any product that states it is “made with whole grains” is usually a combination of refined and whole grain flours.

    As you know, I am a big fan of the Whole Grains Council’s stamp system.

    This particular portion of their website
    lists brands displaying their stamp (a “100%” stamp is a guarantee that you are getting a true-to-form whole grain food.)

    Definitely worth bookmarking!


    Props to Papa

    Three cheers to Papa John’s for being the first pizza chain in the country to offer a 100% whole grain crust.

    The new whole wheat variety, available as of May 26, even boasts the Whole Grains Council’s “100% whole grain” stamp.

    Whereas a regular slice of Papa John’s pizza contributes a measly 2 grams of fiber to your day, a slice of a whole wheat crust variety provides a whooping 5 grams — all from whole grains (no sprinkled soy dust here!).

    Keeping in mind that, on average, people have two slices, that adds up to a total of 10 grams of fiber in a meal from the crust alone– almost half of the daily recommendation.

    Of course, it’s worth remembering that we are still talking fast food pizza here.

    I would certainly not list it as my first — or second or third — choice for someone looking to increase their fiber content (after all, two slices of Papa John’s whole wheat Italian Meats pizza add up to 660 calories, three quarters of a day’s worth of saturated fat and a day’s worth of sodium), but I am very happy to see a fast food chain make a real effort to help consumers get their share of whole grains.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    Forty percent of adults in the United States consume a grand total of ZERO whole grain servings every day.

    Not the most encouraging of statistics.

    Although whole grains are increasingly more available, I suspect this has to do with a lack of education and knowledge.

    Many people, for instance, think multigrain bread is a whole grain. It’s not.

    Additionally, the overwhelming majority of new whole grain products come in the shape of sugary cookies or cereals “made with whole grains,” which can mean that as little as 5% of the total wheat flour used is whole.

    Not the best approach.

    If your whole grain consumption isn’t up to par, here are some ideas.

    — Whether at home or at a restaurant, opt for brown rice. Kitchen-phobes have no excuse. Many companies now offer brown rice that cooks in 10 minutes in the microwave. Nutritionally, it is equal to regular, longer-cooking varieties.

    — Enjoy whole wheat pasta, like DeCecco whole wheat fusilli (pictured at right). If you are brand new to it, make your dishes with half regular pasta and half whole wheat.

    — Eat whole grain bread (at least 3 grams of fiber per slice and ‘whole wheat flour’ as the first ingredient).

    — Experiment with alternative grains like quinoa and whole wheat couscous (they cook the exact same way as rice. All you need is a pot and water).

    — Add barley to your soups.

    — Start your morning with plain oatmeal (sweeten it up with fruits; add fiber and protein with walnuts or almonds)

    — Make sure your morning cereal is whole grain (again, look for whole wheat or oat flour as the main ingredient).

    — Snack on popcorn (air pop it or make it at home in a pot with a little bit of olive oil).

    — Make waffles and pancakes with whole grain mixes. If you buy frozen varieties, make sure they are whole grain.

    Remember, whole grains offer more health benefits than non-whole grains with extra added fiber.

    If you need more assistance, check out the Whole Grains Council’s amazing and extensive list of whole grain products. It’s the perfect supermarket assistant!


    More Numbers, More Problems

    Behold the latest curveball thrown at supermarket shoppers — “grams of whole grains”.

    When this trend first started in early 2007, I inwardly cringed and hoped for its quick disappearance.  Far from it — I keep seeing it on more and more products!

    It is my suspicion that with whole grains and fiber being the latest hot topics, food manufacturers hope to confuse shoppers looking to increase fiber intake by boasting about the grams of whole grains in their foods — two very different concepts.

    Consider this your “advertising-proof” tutorial on whole grains.

    Let’s start at the beginning.

    According to MyPyramid (also known as 2005’s “food pyramid 2.0”), adults who ate 2,000 calories per day should consume 6 servings of grains.  The USDA defines a serving of grains as one ounce (28 grams). Remember that figure, it will come in handy very shortly.

    MyPyramid distinctly called for half of those 6 grain servings to be whole (i.e: oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat cous cous, barley, etc.), rather than enriched (i.e.: white bread, white rice, etc.).  Strangely, the recommendation wasn’t “at least three whole grain servings,” but simply “three.”

    This is where it all starts to get confusing.

    If one ounce equals 28 grams, and we are asked to make three grain servings (AKA three ounces) whole, then the recommended daily intake of whole grains adds up to 84 grams (28 grams x 3 servings).

    Alas, if you look up whole grain serving recommendations, you’ll see a daily suggestion of 48 grams per day.  Some simple math (48 grams divided by 3 servings) tells us, then, that one serving of whole grains equals 16 grams.

    “But I thought one serving of grain equaled 28 grams.  Why isn’t a serving of whole grains also 28 grams?” you may wonder.

    Well, most whole grain products contain a variety of ingredients; not just flour.  It turns out, in fact, that a one-ounce serving of whole grains contains, on average, approximately 16 grams of flour (the other 12 grams are other ingredients, including yeast, salt, oils, etc).

    Although food labels do not list grams of whole grains, you have two ways of finding this information out.

    One is by claims on the packaging (such as the “Now with 5 grams of whole grains per serving!” stated on boxes of Teddy Grahams).

    Usually, though, these claims are made by products that sprinkle a little whole wheat flour on top of a product that is virtually refined grains.

    Considering that you need at least 48 grams a day, 5 grams is a pretty pathetic figure to bother writing about in such large font.

    The other is via the Whole Grains Council stamp (pictured at top left), which specifically lists the grams of whole grains per serving in a product.

    Some companies are still using old versions of the stamp, which classified foods as “good” (8 – 15 grams of whole grains per serving) or “excellent” (16 or more grams of whole grains per serving).

    What about fiber? How does it tie into all this?  An item high in whole grains is high in fiber, but products high in fiber are not necessarily high in whole grains.

    An Atkins chocolate peanut butter bar, for instance, contains a whopping 10 grams of fiber.  Since this is a low-carb bar, you certainly won’t find whole grains flour anywhere on the ingredient list.

    So how is this value achieved? Thanks to a polysaccharide known as cellulose.  Keep in mind that while this kind of fiber helps keep things moving, there are specific substances in whole grains that have been targeted in nutrition research as helpful in reducing the risk of several diseases.

    So, how do you put all this together without going insane?  Simple. Try to consume 25 – 30 grams of fiber from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds every day.  Generally, the foods that boast “x grams of whole grains per serving!” claims are wolves in sheep’s clothing.


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