Get a healthy start to the day with a whole grain cereal

Make half your grains whole first thing in the morning by choosing a high quality cereal.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled MyPlate as a way to illustrate the building blocks of a healthy diet. It illustrates the five food groups using a familiar image – a place setting for a meal. Each of these food groups provide you with important nutrients. One area of the plate that Americans eat plenty of is grains, but most of the grains eaten are refined grains rather than whole grains. One of the key recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, is to consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. For the average American, this equates to three whole grain servings out of six grain servings each day.

Whole grains are a good source of nutrients like iron, magnesium, B vitamins and dietary fiber. As noted by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, there is evidence indicating that eating whole grains may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and is associated with a lower body weight.

All grains start out as whole grains. In their natural state growing in the field, whole grains are the entire seed of a plant. The seed has three parts: Germ, bran and endosperm. To be labeled whole grain, a food has to have the same proportion of the three components of the intact grain. When a grain is refined, the healthy part of the seed (the germ and bran) are removed. This process creates a product that is ideal for baking but lacks the powerhouse punch of nutrients present in whole grains. Some examples of whole grains include wheat, oats, corn and cornmeal, popcorn, brown and wild rice and barley.

Many individuals get a portion of their daily grains through breakfast cereal. Cereal is a quick, breakfast that is a staple in many households. But on the shelves at our local stores, there are many cereals that are swimming in sugar and lack whole grains. It can be confusing to pick the best cereal with so many mixed messages and misleading labels. The best way to figure out if a cereal meets the standard of whole grain is to read the ingredient list on the label. Look for the words 100 percent whole grain. If the word “whole” doesn’t appear before each grain, it is likely refined. The ideal cereal will have whole grains listed as the top two ingredients. Cereal can also contain a lot of added sugar or fillers. Read the nutrition facts and look for cereals with eight grams or less of sugar per serving.

To eat more whole grains, start by reading food labels. Check out the cereal in your cabinet and see if it makes the grade. If not, next time you shop, switch to a whole grain, low sugar option. Michigan State University Extension reminds us about the importance of a healthy lifestyle which plays a part in maintaining a healthy weight and disease prevention. Making half your grains whole is a simple step. For more information on how to make healthy food choices, visit ChooseMyPlate.gov for more details on serving sizes based on your activity level and age.

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