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Feature Articles: Eating Well


Finding a Grain of Truth

Susan Mills-Gray, Nutrition & Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


There you are in the grocery aisle, surrounded by rows and rows of bread products claiming to be a whole grain source. Deceiving package claims and photos on labels, can make it hard for most of us to find a healthy product. Ta-da! The Whole Grains Council has created a simple stamp of approval to help shoppers identify a whole-grain food at a glance!

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend that all adults should eat at least three servings of whole grain each day – or 48 grams. All grains start out as whole grains. If, after processing, they retain all three parts of the original grain — the germ, the bran and the endosperm — in their original proportions, they still qualify as whole grains.

The traditional way to make sure that a bread, cereal or cracker is really a whole grain product is to read the ingredient list and look for words such as “whole wheat”, “cracked whole wheat”, “rolled oats”, or “whole rye” listed at the beginning of the ingredient list.

The closer to the beginning of the list you find whole-grain ingredients, the more whole grains a product contains. Best of all, are the words “100% whole grains” on the front of the package.

To help consumers, the Whole Grains Council has created a new whole-grain stamp. This black and gold stamp can be anywhere on the package. It's easiest when the stamp is on the front, of course, but some manufacturers choose to put the stamp on the side or the back of the package. Each "Stamped" product guarantees you at least half a serving of whole grains. With the Whole Grain Stamp, consumers won't need to study ingredients or count grams and ounces. The stamp makes it easy to get your recommended three servings or more of whole grains each day. Eating three whole grain food products labeled "100% Whole Grain" does the trick – or six products bearing ANY Whole Grain Stamp.

Forty-eight (48) grams of whole grains can sound like a lot, but it’s easier than you think. Sixteen grams (one serving of whole grain) is just over half an ounce – about two tablespoons of flour. So a small amount of whole grain can really make a big difference in health. Here are a few products available today that supply about 16 grams ( or 1/3 of the daily recommendation) of whole grain:


  • 4 Triscuit® crackers
  • 2/3 cup of Cheerios®
  • 1/3 cup of Wheat Chex®
  • 2/5 cup of cooked oatmeal
  • one slice of whole grain bread
  • 1/2 a whole-grain English muffin
  • 1/3 cup cooked whole-wheat pasta
  • 1/3 cup cooked brown rice, bulgur, barley or other cooked grain


All sorts of products can use the stamp — bread, cereal, cake, cookies, crackers, granola, soups, stuffing, pie crusts, tortillas, chips, energy bars, pretzels, popcorn, pasta, flour, bagels, veggie burgers, mixes, wraps and more — as long as they contain at least half a serving — 8 grams — or more of whole grain.

What if a product does NOT have the Whole Grain Stamp, can it still be a healthy whole grain product? Yes, but it may be difficult to be sure. The Whole Grains Council stamp is a voluntary program, so many great whole grain products do not yet use the stamp, in which case you'll have to look at the ingredient list to try to figure out how much whole grain is in the product. While the ingredient list will give some clues, it rarely identifies whole grain products clearly.

Shopping is much more simple, all you need to do is look for the distinctive black and gold stamp on the packaging. And if you enjoy knowing just how much whole grain is in the products you're eating, the Whole Grain Stamps tell you specifically– while also reminding you to aim for at least 48g of whole grain overall, each day!


For more information contact your local University of Missouri Extension Center or this faculty member directly at


Sources: Environmental Nutrition, Whole Grains Council.





Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009








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