Nutrition-wise blog

Don't go against the grain — Go whole grain

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. September 26, 2012

Did you know that at least half of the grains in your diet should be whole grains? For many adults, this means three to five servings of whole grains daily. (For children, make that two to three servings daily.)

And yet the average American eats less than one serving of whole grains a day. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans reports that:

  • Most Americans eat enough total grains, but the majority are refined rather than whole. And refined-grain foods tend to have more solid fats and added sugars.
  • Less than 5 percent of Americans get the recommended minimum of three servings a day of whole grains. A serving is 1 slice bread; 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta or cereal; 1 tortilla (6-inch diameter); 1 pancake (5-inch diameter) or 1 cup cereal flakes.

This month is Whole Grains Month and the theme is "Whole grains at every meal." If you follow this theme, you'll meet the minimum recommendations.

The best way to increase whole-grain intake is by replacing refined grains with whole grains. Here are some ideas for mealtime selections.


  • Choose whole-grain versions for your toast, bagel or muffin.
  • Make whole-grain pancakes or waffles.
  • Have a bowl of oatmeal, whole-oat cold cereals or those made with kamut, buckwheat or spelt.
  • Add oats to yogurt or look for yogurts that have whole grains already added.


  • Choose whole-grain breads or whole-wheat or stoneground corn tortillas for your sandwich or wrap.
  • At the salad bar, look for brown or wild rice, wheat berries, kasha or whole-grain pasta.
  • Choose whole-grain crackers with a soup that has barley, brown or wild rice.


  • Make sure that one-quarter of your plate contains a whole grain such as barley, rice (brown or wild), whole-wheat pasta, or stuffing made from whole-grain bread.
  • Add variety by adding corn, which is considered a whole grain.
  • Get exotic and try a pilaf made with quinoa, teff or millet.

There's good evidence that diets emphasizing whole grains lead to improvements in blood pressure and gastrointestinal health, and lower risk of cardiovascular disease, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. An added benefit is that whole grains taste great.

What are you doing to go with the whole grain? Are you having at least one serving at each meal? Share your favorites.

- Jennifer

Sept. 26, 2012