Decoding the MyPlate Messages: Make half your grains whole

Have you seen “MyPlate,” the replacement of the old food pyramid? It’s a much easier way to help families make healthier food choices. Along with MyPlate, the USDA offers some clear and simple tips to ensure that your family is getting more of what they need and less of what they don’t!

One of the key MyPlate messages is to “make half your grains whole.” Whole grains provide more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than refined grains, which helps your body break down their energy more slowly and keeps you fuller longer (which can prevent you from taking in extra calories, and helps to maintain a healthy weight).  Look for whole grain products such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, popcorn, barley, quinoa and oats.

Whole grains’ counterpart, refined grains, have been processed or altered to remove some of the nutrition from the food. Refined grains are digested more quickly and can cause you to be hungry again shortly after eating them. Limit foods such as white bread, white pasta, sugary breakfast cereals, and most packaged snacks.

How do you know if your grains are whole? Just flip over the box or bag to find the ingredients listed below the Nutrition Facts Panel.  If the first ingredient listed contains the word “whole” (such as “whole wheat flour” or “whole oats”), the product is likely a whole grain. Watch out for words such as “multigrain,” which can mean that the product contains several different grains, but doesn’t tell you whether any of them are whole.

You can work towards the “make half your grains whole” recommendation by making a few simple changes on your dinner table this holiday season.

  • Try swapping whole grain rolls for white rolls
  • Substitute brown rice for white rice in side dishes
  • Use half whole wheat and half white flour when baking
  • Substitute 1 cup of rolled oats for 1 cup of white flour in cookie recipes

(And don’t forget to check out Healthy Family Fun’s Whole Wheat Pizza recipe for a healthier take on a family favorite!)

Follow these simple substitutions, and your family will be on its way to making half your grains whole! Let us know other ways your family fills up on whole grain foods in the comments section!


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