1. To determine whether a product is made from a whole grain, always look for the word "whole." Check the ingredient list for the words "whole grain" or "whole-wheat." Look for "100 percent whole-wheat" on the package when buying bread and other whole-wheat products.
2. Foods labeled with the following words are usually not whole grain products: "multi-grain," "stone-ground," "100 percent wheat," cracked wheat," "seven-grain" or "bran." "Multi-grain" only means that the product contains more than one grain, and "wheat" only means that it is made with wheat.
3. Color is not an indication of a whole grain. For example, molasses or other added ingredients can cause a bread to be brown. Always read the ingredient list to see if it is a whole grain.
4. When buying a refined grain product, check the ingredient list to make sure that the word "enriched" is included in the grain name. This ensures that at least some of the nutrients lost in refining have been added.
5. Use the Nutrition Facts label to select products with a higher percent Daily Value for fiber. The percent Daily Value (% DV) is a good clue to how much whole grain is in a food. If the product provides at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving, it is a good source of fiber. If it contains 5 or more grams of fiber per serving, it is high in fiber and can make that claim on the package.
6. Choose a whole grain breakfast cereal (hot or cold) that provides at least 3-4 grams of fiber per serving, no more than 8 grams of total sugar, and less than 3 grams of fat.
7. Substitute whole-wheat or oat flour for up to half of the flour in pancakes, waffles, muffins and other flour-based recipes. More leavening may be needed.
8. Stock your pantry with staple items made from whole grains: whole-wheat cereals, brown rice, low fat whole-wheat crackers, breads and rolls.
9. At least once a week, try a low-fat meatless meal or main dish that features whole grains. Examples: vegetable stir-fry, red beans over brown rice or spinach lasagna.
10. Eat brown rice rather than white rice. Use brown rice in stir fry or to make stuffing for baked green peppers or tomatoes.
11. Make macaroni and cheese or spaghetti and vegetables with whole-wheat pasta.
12. Use whole grains in mixed dishes, such as barley in vegetable soup or stews, and bulgur wheat in casseroles or stir fries.
13. Make meatloaf with whole grain bread or cracker crumbs.
14. Rolled oats or a crushed, unsweetened whole grain cereal makes a delicious breading for baked chicken, fish, veal cutlets or eggplant parmesan.
15. Need a quick, delicious snack? Try a whole grain snack chip, like baked tortilla chips or a ready-to-eat, whole grain cereal, such as toasted oat cereal. Another healthy whole grain snack is popcorn, but it should be eaten with little or no added salt and butter.
16. When making cookies or other baked treats, add whole grain flour or oatmeal. Up to 1/3 of the flour can be replaced with quick or old fashioned oats.
17. Many teenage girls and women of childbearing age have iron-deficiency anemia. To prevent anemia, it is helpful to eat foods high in heme-iron (meats) or other nonheme iron containing foods like whole and enriched refined grain products. The absorption of nonheme iron is improved by eating foods rich in vitamin C along with it.
18. Whole grains fill you up, not out. This may help with weight management because they are rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates yet low in fat. Go lightly on added oils, butter, margarine, sugars and syrups.
19. Gradually add fiber-rich whole grains to your diet so that your digestive system can adjust. Too much fiber all at once may cause bloating, flatulence (gas), diarrhea, and/or cramping. Drink plenty of liquids and chew foods slowly to break down the fiber and enable the digestive system to work smoothly and comfortably.
20. Have a positive attitude toward your diet change. You can do it! By increasing your intake of fiber you may be reducing your risk for: coronary heart disease, high blood cholesterol, certain types of cancers, type 2 diabetes, constipation and diverticulosis, being overweight (when eating at least 3 ounce equivalents of whole grains daily) and birth defects for women having a baby with a spinal cord or brain defect.
Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.