Identifying whole grain products can be confusing, and there are many ways manufacturers deceive consumers, as we explain in our Whole Grain Labeling section. Maggie Moon, MS, RD in Today’s Dietician highlights key points about whole-grain labeling:1
You may already be eating whole grains – like popcorn and oats – without consciously labeling them as such. You don’t need to reinvent your diet to enjoy whole grains. Here are some easy swap suggestions (modified from Denise Webb, Ph.D., RD in Today’s Dietician:2
Further, here are some actionable intentions (from the Whole Grains Council3 you can set for yourself:
You can enjoy whole grains in your diet without consuming whole wheat. You may dislike the taste or texture of whole wheat or that you have a gluten allergy, wheat intolerance, or Celiac disease. The Whole Grains Council has put together helpful lists of whole grains common to consumers and gluten-free whole grains. For more information about the flavor of grains, click here.
Time, price, and taste are all common barriers to eating whole grains. Listed below are some ideas to help address these barriers.
Time. You can still eat whole grains if you’re short on time or have a busy schedule. Double the amount and freeze half for future use when cooking rice, bulgur, or other grains. When eating out at fast restaurants, look for:
For quick cooking at home:
Cost. Many people perceive whole grains to be more expensive than refined grains, and this perception is sometimes accurate, sometimes not. Members of the Whole Grain Council explored whole-grain offerings in a Boston supermarket. They found that while many name brands price-matched refined flour and whole-grain products, the cheaper store brands showed less equality, with a premium for the whole grain option.5 This is problematic, especially for consumers with tight budgets. The good news is that as retailers become more aware of this inequity, the price gaps appear to be shrinking.6 In the meantime, here are some suggestions for staying on budget:
Taste. It can take some time (usually a couple of months) to adjust to the nuttier flavor and firmer texture of whole grains, primarily if you are used to eating exclusively refined grains, so try to be patient. The Dietary Guidelines for America set the goal at 50% of grains to be whole, so you do not need to cut out refined grain foods altogether, and you can slowly work up to a higher proportion of whole grains in your diet.9 Valerie Machinist, RD at Community Servings, emphasizes the importance of flavor: “Experimenting with flavor is important, but not being afraid to mix whole and refined grains until you can get used to the flavor and texture is important.”