Whole grains inspire horror in some people. Images of grandma stirring a bubbling pot of tasteless goop on the stove for two hours or hippies munching on granola in fields of flowers come to mind. Well, forget your trauma. Whole grains taste a lot better today than they did during the natural foods movement of the 1970s.
“Just about anybody can find something out there they like in every category (of whole grains),” says Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition for the Whole Grains Council, a nonprofit group in Boston dedicated to educating the public about healthy eating. “Things that don’t taste like cardboard and feel like a brick.”
Whole grains came back into vogue two years ago when the USDA’s revamped dietary guidelines called for Americans to consume three to five servings of whole gains daily. Since then, sales of whole grain products increased 18 percent, according to the Whole Grains Council.
“I always try to get whole grains,” says Rene Brackney, a Pilates instructor from Mesa. “The less processed, the better. In our house we try to eat a balanced diet.”
Whole grains help you feel fuller faster, encourage healthy blood flow, reduce your chance of developing type 2 diabetes and keep you regular — and now they taste better. But consumers like Brackney are still in the minority. Most consumers have yet to buy into whole grains.
“I don’t know that the consumer has fully embraced it,” says Vaughan, who points out that 85 percent of salad dressing is still the full-fat variety, even though there are a lot of low-fat dressings on the shelves that taste just as good. “Manufacturers have been able to produce very palatable products, but it has not yet been total demand.”
“The perception is if you eat all these things you really don’t like anyway, maybe 40 years from now you’ll have a 3 percent chance of getting some obscure cancer,” says Harriman. “As an incentive to change eating habits, that doesn’t work.”
Making a quality product does work, says Greg Farr, owner of Breadsmith Bakery in Mesa. Half of the breads on Farr’s menu are whole grain, and they sell out quickly.
“People out West are more interested in eating healthy,” says Farr. “It’s a combination of nice weather and the fact that we’re more active. As a result, people want more whole-wheat breads.”
Wheat is by far the most popular whole grain, and many people think it’s the only one. Rice, oats, corn — yes, popcorn is a whole grain and a healthy snack in its purest form — barley, quinoa, sorghum, spelt and rye are all whole grains.
To help consumers muddle through all their choices, the Whole Grains Council has devised a stamp featuring a shaft of wheat. If you see the stamp on a product, you know you’re getting whole grains.
“I think it’s important for people to realize how easy whole grains can be,” says Harriman. “This is all about choices. I think if there were more choices, people would take them.”
Resources Breadsmith, 2831 N. Power Road, Mesa, (480) 981-7600 or
Whole Grains Council,
266 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02116, (617) 421-5500 or www.wholegrainscouncil.org.
Out with the grains
Staying true to a diet rich with whole grains is tricky when you eat out, especially when you can’t see the ingredients. More restaurants are offering whole-grain options. Here’s a sample of East Valley restaurants with whole grains on the menu:
Blimpie: Whole-wheat roll is an option on any sandwich; 12-inch roll contains 33 g of whole grains; 6-inch roll has 17 g.
Bruegger’s Bagels: Whole-wheat bagel and whole-wheat wrap can be used on any sandwich.
Fazoli’s: 100 percent wholewheat penne as an option in any pasta dish.
Great Harvest Bread Co.: Wide variety of whole-grain breads, plus whole-grain soups.
McDonald’s: Premium Chicken Sandwiches have a bun containing 17 g of whole grain.
Noodles & Co.: 100 percent whole-grain fettucine is available as an option in any pasta dish.
Olive Garden: Whole-grain linguine available as an option in any pasta dish.
Panera: Now selling a wholegrain baguette, a whole-grain loaf and a whole-grain miche.
PF Chang’s: Offers brown rice as an option with all meals.
Romano’s Macaroni Grill:
Whole-wheat penne available on request in any pasta dish or as a substitute for orzo or potatoes.
Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill:
HealthMex grilled chicken or grilled veggie burrito on wholewheat tortilla.
Ruby Tuesday: Smart Eating Menu includes Brown Rice Pilaf, Chicken or Cheese Quesadillas in whole-grain tortillas, and three whole-grain wraps: the
Veggie Burger, Turkey Burger and Grilled Chicken Wraps.
Taco Time: Veggie burrito is available in a whole-wheat tortilla.
Whole Foods: It’s a store, not a restaurant, but Whole Foods’ deli offers a range of whole-grain choices for lunch or dinner.
Source: Whole Grains Council