- Don’t be fooled by fancy language
Words and phrases like: “Whole bran,” “Multi-grain,” “Made with whole grain,” “A healthy source of whole grain,” and “Made with wheat,” don’t ensure a healthy pick. These terms aren’t regulated by the government so they don’t actually mean anything.
- Read the nutrition label and ingredients list
The first ingredient on the label should be “whole grain” or “whole wheat,” but don’t stop scanning there. If sugar or partially hydrogenated oil is the second or third ingredient, it’s better to skip it. The higher up an ingredient is on the list, the more of it is present in the food. If water is listed first, the whole grain should be listed second.
- Follow the 10:1 ratio (or less) rule
Check the dietary fiber content and the total carbohydrate count. For every ten grams of total carbohydrates, there needs to be at least one gram of fiber. For example, a cereal listing 36 grams of total carbs and 4 grams of fiber (a ratio of 9:1) would get a thumbs up, but one listing 42 grams of carbs and 3 of fiber (14:1) would not. If you aren’t nimble with numbers, here’s a shortcut: multiply the fiber grams by 10; the result should be more than the grams of total carbohydrates.
- White whole wheat
This is still whole wheat, but from a variety called “hard white winter wheat” instead of the usual “red winter wheat.” Hard white wheat flour is softer than flour, made from red winter wheat, so it’s being used in many baked products for the softer texture and lighter color.
- Wild rice is also a whole grain, though it’s technically a wild grass and not a rice.
- Substitute oats for white bread crumbs in meatloaf, meatballs and casseroles, and add oats to batter or dough when baking muffins, bread and cookies.
- Pick up popcorn, which counts as a whole grain.
- Check out wheat germ. It’s not the whole grain but is nutrient rich. Add wheat germ to batters for baked goods and pancakes. You can also mix it into yogurt or sprinkle it over cereal.