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Feature Articles: Eating Well


different types of whole grainsThe whole grain story

Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist in Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension


You’ve probably heard the slogan, “Make half your grains whole grains.” Based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, we’re encouraged to get plenty of fiber, B vitamins and other nutrients by selecting whole grain options over refined grains. The challenge for some might be in finding, preparing and eating these healthy whole grains. 


Some whole grains are common and easy enough to know how to fit into an eating plan. There are the obvious, like choosing a bread that lists “whole wheat” or “whole wheat flour” as its first ingredient. Ingredients are listed by weight, with the ingredient used most by weight listed first. Muffins with “whole corn flour” listed first would be another whole grain option.


Some whole grains may not have the actual word “whole” listed in the ingredient list. For example, oatmeal, popcorn and graham flour are themselves whole grains. Don’t be taken in though, by labels claiming “made with whole grain” or “source of whole grain.” Check the first ingredient in the ingredient list to know for sure if it is a whole grain food or not.


We can fit whole grains into a healthy eating plan in more subtle ways too.


  • Rolled oats or rolled barley can be added to ground beef (with an egg and seasonings) to make hamburgers or meatloaf with a whole grain boost.
  • Take whole wheat English muffins or bagels, top with tomato sauce and cheese and warm in the microwave or oven for quick and easy mini-pizzas with a little added whole grain.
  • For an easy snack, try mixing whole grain cereals, nuts and dried fruit. (Be sure to check the ingredient list to make sure the grain is whole.)
  • Brown rice, hulled barley, cracked wheat, millet or sorghum can be added to soups and casseroles for a more wholesome whole grain main dish.
  • Or mix brown rice, millet, bulgur wheat or your favorite whole grains and pour a sauce over it for a delicious and filling meal.


Preparing these whole grains is very similar to cooking brown rice, though some small variations may be needed in the water to grain ratio and cooking time. Check the package instructions or a good cookbook for exact cooking times and the amount of cooking liquid needed for each grain.


If you have kids, send them on a scavenger hunt – at the grocery store or in the store flyer – for other tasty options that include whole grains. And see if they can make half their grains whole grains!


For more information, you can contact Janet Hackert at 660-425-6434 or or contact your local Extension office.


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Last update: Thursday, June 21, 2012