Whole Grain Stamp of Approval
Wednesday, September 6, 2011
Have you had your whole grains today? That’s a good question to ask yourself every day—but especially now that it’s September, aka Whole Grains Month.
We caught up with Whole Grains Council program manager Karen Mansur to get her take on everything from misleading packaging to how to get white-flour-loving kids to appreciate whole grains.
RM: What are some common misperceptions people have about grains vs. whole grains?
Karen Mansur: Packaging and labeling can be misleading; a product labeled wheat or multigrain doesn’t always mean it was made with the whole grain. People also get confused by the term “enriched” flour—which actually means simply that a few key nutrients have been added back in after scores of vitamins and minerals have been largely removed in milling. That’s why we created the Whole Grain Stamp, so consumers can be confident about their food choices.
For teenagers who don’t get much in the way of whole grains, what are some easy intros to them? What about little kids who think white bread is the only way to go?
Teens will be happy to hear that popcorn is a whole grain! Other great options are whole-corn tortilla chips and oat-based granola bars. Checking the labels, they might be surprised to find out just how many foods they are already enjoying contain whole grains. For those kids convinced there’s nothing better than their beloved white bread, there’s whole white wheat breads, a delicious alternative.
Are there any surprising whole grain products out there?
We are seeing more and more food companies and restaurants step up and introduce whole grains to their consumers. It’s not just breads; it’s chicken nuggets coated in a whole grain breading or pasta made with whole wheat or quinoa. Chefs are getting creative and we are reaping the nutritious and tasty benefits! McDonald’s, Burger King, Arby’s, and many other chain restaurants have now joined the whole grains revolution!
Should/can we do anything to get more food producers to go with whole grains, or is there enough of an existing market that we can make do with what there is?
There’s always room for more whole grains! It’s simply supply and demand; the more whole grains are asked for and purchased, the more will be incorporated into our everyday foods. Whole grains are quickly becoming the new norm. However, with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines advising all of us to “make at least half our grains whole” there’s still room for more good whole grain products, until we can walk down every aisle in the supermarket and see whole grains more prevalent than refined ones.
Do you have advice for consumers when it comes to evaluating labels/ingredients for whole grain information?
By looking for the Whole Grain Stamp, consumers can be assured the product they are selecting has at least 8 grams (half a serving) of whole grains. If there isn’t a stamp, check the ingredients list and make sure you see “whole [name of grain]” among the top ingredients.
Aside from health, are there any other benefits to eating whole grains?
How about taste? Whole grains bring layers of flavors and textures to the plate. They also keep you fuller, longer, so that vending machine down the hall won’t seem so tempting.
What’s your favorite kind of whole grain/what’s your favorite way to enjoy it?
If I can only choose one, I think I’d have to say oats. Especially as the mornings get cooler this time of year, I love to make a hot bowl of oatmeal with dried cranberries, almonds, vanilla and a touch of cream. Loaded with fiber, iron and potassium, it’s a great way to start the day!