Nutrition and MyPlate: Grains

Tortillas, muffin, bread, pasta, cereal, bagels, multi-grain hot cereal. `

Grains (also known as starches) make up foods such as bread, pasta, rice, cereal, and tortillas. Grains provide iron, B vitamins, and other nutrients the body needs to function. And they give your body fiber, which helps digestion. Fiber also helps you manage your weight, because it's low in calories but fills you up.

Nutrient-rich choices

Whole grains are chock full of fiber. And they're not processed much, so they keep most of their nutrients. Make at least half the grains you eat whole grains. Good choices include:

  • Any bread or breakfast cereal that lists a whole grain (such as whole wheat or whole rolled oats) as the first ingredient. Ingredients are listed from most to least. So if a whole grain is first, you know the food has a lot of it.

  • Foods made with whole grains, such as oatmeal, barley soup, wild rice pilaf, and buckwheat (soba) noodles.

  • Air-popped popcorn, corn tortillas.

What makes grains less healthy?

  • As grains are processed (refined), they lose fiber and nutrients. White grains are often refined. This means white bread, white rice, and flour tortillas are not as healthy as whole-grain versions, such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice, or whole-grain tortillas.

  • Claims made on food packages can be misleading. Even if a package says the food is a whole-grain product, check the ingredients. Unless a whole grain is listed first, the food isn't as healthy as the package makes it sound. Here's a hint: Wheat bread isn't a whole grain, but 100% whole-wheat bread is. Make sure to read the fine print!

  • Added fat, salt (sodium), and sugar also make grains less healthy. This means cookies, pastries, donuts, snack cakes, sugar cereals, buttered popcorn with lots of added salt, pretzels and crackers made with refined grains… you get the idea.

One small change:

Find a whole-grain bread or cereal that you like. Have a better idea? Write it here:


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