BUT WHAT IS A WHOLE GRAIN? AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Whole grains include wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, quinoa, sorghum, spelt, and rye, eaten in their "whole" form. Eating whole grains has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Yet even consumers who are aware of the health benefits of whole grains are often unsure how to find them and prepare them.
WHAT ARE WHOLE GRAINS?
All grains start life as whole grains. In their natural state growing in the fields, whole grains are the entire seed of a plant. This seed (which industry calls a "kernel") is made up of three key parts: the bran, the germ and the endosperm.
The bran is the multi-layered outer skin of the kernel, and is tough enough to protect the other two parts of the kernel from assaults by sunlight, pests, water and disease. It contains important antioxidants, B vitamins and fiber.
The germ is the embryo, which if fertilized by pollen, will sprout into a new plant. It contains many B vitamins, some protein, minerals, and healthy fats.
The endosperm is the germ's food supply, which provides essential energy to the young plant so it can send roots down for water and nutrients, and send sprouts up for sunlight's photosynthesizing power. The endosperm is by far the largest portion of the kernel. It contains starchy carbohydrates, proteins and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Whole grains contain all three parts of the kernel. Refining normally removes the bran and germ, leaving only the endosperm. Without the bran and germ, about 25% of the grain's protein is lost, along with at least 17 key nutrients. Processors add back some vitamins and minerals to enrich refined grains, so refined products still contribute valuable nutrients. But whole grains are healthier, providing more protein, more fiber and many important vitamins and minerals.
Whole grains may be eaten whole, cracked, split or ground. They can be milled into flour or used to make breads, cereals, and other processed foods. If a food label states that the package contains whole grain, the "whole grain" part of the food inside the package is required to have virtually the same proportions of bran, germ and endosperm as the harvested kernel does before it is processed.
Whole grains currently make up about 10-15 percent of grains on supermarket shelves. At a time when health professionals urge consumers to eat at least half of their grains as whole grains, it's a challenge for consumers to find these healthier whole grains in a sea of refined grains.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF WHOLE GRAINS?
Consumers are increasingly aware that fruits and vegetables contain disease-fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants, but they do not realize whole grains are often an even better source of these key nutrients. Moreover, whole grains have some valuable antioxidants not found in fruits and vegetables, as well as, B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber.
The medical evidence is clear that whole grains reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Few foods can offer such diverse benefits.
People who eat whole grains regularly have a lower risk of obesity, as measured by their body mass index and waist-to-hip ratios. They also have lower cholesterol levels. Because of the phytochemicals and antioxidants, people who eat three daily servings of whole grains have been shown to reduce their risk of heart disease by 25-36%, stroke by 37%, Type II diabetes by 21-27%, digestive system cancer by 21-43%, and hormone-related cancer by 10-40%.
HOW MUCH WHOLE GRAIN IS RECOMMENDED?
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that all adults eat half their grains as whole grains - that's 3 to 5 servings of whole grains. The health evidence has also convinced The American Heart Association, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Healthy People 2010 Report to recommend at least three servings of whole grains per day. Yet the average American eats less than one daily serving of whole grains, and over 30% of Americans never eat whole grains at all.
WHAT COUNTS AS A "SERVING?"
The USDA defines a grain serving as a grain product containing at least 16 grams of flour. As a result, three servings would be at least 48 grams of whole grain ingredients.
The USDA recommends meeting the daily requirement by eating three "ounce-equivalents" of breads, rolls, cereals or other grain foods made with 100% whole grains. A slice of bread or a serving of breakfast cereal usually weighs an ounce.
You can also get the whole grains you need from foods made with a mix of whole grains and refined grains. This means you have lots of delicious choices that match your palate preferences.
IDENTIFYING WHOLE GRAIN PRODUCTS
The Whole Grain Council has created an official packaging symbol - the Whole Grain Stamp that helps consumers find real whole grain products. The Stamp started to appear on store shelves in mid-2005 and is becoming more widespread every day.
With the Whole Grain Stamp, finding three servings of whole grain is easy: Pick three foods with the 100% Stamp or six foods with ANY Whole Grain Stamp. The 100% Stamp assures you that a food contains a full serving of whole grain in each labeled serving and that ALL the grain is whole grain, while the basic Whole Grain Stamp appears on products containing half a serving of whole grain per labeled serving.
But until the Whole Grain Stamp is on all foods, how can consumers know if a product is whole grain?
First, check the package label. Many whole grain products not yet using the Stamp will list the grams of whole grain somewhere on the package, or say something like "100% whole wheat." You can trust these statements. But be skeptical if you see the words "whole grain" without more detail, such as "crackers made with whole grain." The product may contain only minuscule amounts of whole grain.
Note that words like "wheat," "durum," and "multigrain" can (and do) appear on good whole grain foods, too. None of these words alone guarantees whether a product is whole grain, so look for the word "whole" and follow the other advice here.
Second, check the list of ingredients. If the first ingredient listed contains the word "whole" (such as "whole wheat flour" or "whole oats"), it is likely, but not guaranteed that the product is predominantly whole grain. If there are two grain ingredients and only the second ingredient listed is a whole grain, the product may contain as little as 1% or as much as 49% whole grain (in other words, it could contain a little bit of whole grain, or nearly half).
If there are several grain ingredients, the situation gets even trickier. For instance, let's say a "multi-grain bread" is 30% refined flour and 70% whole grain, but the whole grains are split between several different grains, and each whole grain comprises less than 30% total. The ingredients might read "Enriched white flour, whole wheat, whole oat flour, whole cornmeal and whole millet" and you would NOT be able to tell from the label whether the whole grains make up 70% of the product or 7% of the product.
A word about fiber: Fiber varies from grain to grain, ranging from 3.5% in rice to over 15% in barley and bulgur. What's more, high fiber products sometimes contain bran or other added fiber without actually having much if any whole grain. Both fiber and whole grains have been shown to have health benefits, but they're not interchangeable. So checking the fiber on a label is not a very reliable way to guess whether a product is truly whole grain.
EASY WAYS TO ADD MORE WHOLE GRAINS
Consumers can easily add whole grains to their meals, often using favorite recipes they've always enjoyed. Try some of the following:
Substitute half of the white flour with whole-wheat flour in your regular recipes for cookies, muffins, quick breads and pancakes. Or be bold and add up to 20% of another whole grain flour such as sorghum.
Add half a cup of cooked bulgur, wild rice, or barley to bread stuffing.
Add half a cup of cooked wheat or rye berries, wild rice, brown rice, sorghum or barley to your favorite canned or homemade soup.
Use whole corn meal for corn cakes, corn breads and corn muffins.
Make risottos, pilafs and other rice-like dishes with whole grains such as barley, brown rice, bulgur, millet, quinoa or sorghum.
Enjoy whole grain salads like tabbouleh.
Try whole grain breads. Kids especially like whole grain pita bread.
Buy whole grain pasta, or one of the blends that's part whole-grain, and part white.
Look for cereals made with grains like kasha (buckwheat) or spelt.
There are also several excellent cookbooks dedicated to whole-grain cooking, with a great many delicious and simple recipes.
CONSUMERS CAN HELP INCREASE WHOLE GRAIN CHOICES
Many in the food industry have provided whole grain products for years without much notice from consumers. When you give Cheerios to your toddler or enjoy a bowl of hot oatmeal, you're probably focusing more on the delicious taste than on the fact that these foods are whole grains.
Now that you're aware of the health benefits of whole grains, however, we urge you to expand your horizons and try some new whole grain products now coming to market. We think you'll discover some great tastes you've been missing out on.
And if you can't find a whole grain version of your favorite foods, do your part to make sure your needs are known. There are several ways consumers can help increase the availability and variety of healthy whole grain foods in food stores and restaurants.
Tell the manager at your local grocery and your favorite restaurant that you would like to see more whole grain choices in the store and on the menu.
Write letters or call the customer service department at major food companies urging them to use the Whole Grain Stamp so you can clearly identify whole grain foods.
In the meantime, vote with your fork (or spoon!), by shopping at co-ops or larger health-oriented grocers who already stock a delicious selection of whole grains.
WHOLE GRAINS, FROM A TO Z
Amaranth (Amaranthus spp.)
Amaranth was a staple of Aztec culture, until Cortez, in an effort to destroy that civilization, decreed that anyone growing the crop would be put to death. Seeds were smuggled out of Asia, where local dialects referred to Amaranth as "king seed" and "seed sent by God" as a tribute to its taste and sustenance. Amaranth kernels are tiny; when cooked they resemble brown caviar.
Today amaranth is making its way back, thanks to a lively, peppery taste and a higher level of protein (16%) than most other grains. In South America, it is often sold on the streets, popped like corn. Amaranth has no gluten, so it must be mixed with wheat to make leavened bread. It is popular in cereals, breads, muffins, crackers, and pancakes.
Health bonus: Amaranth has a high level of very complete protein; its protein contains lysine, an amino acid missing or negligible in many grains.
Barley (Hordum vulgare)
Barley is one of the oldest cultivated grains. Egyptians buried mummies with necklaces of barley, and centuries later Edward I of England standardized the inch as equal to "three barley seeds." It is a highly adaptable crop, growing north of the Arctic Circle and as far south as Ethiopia.
Barley has a particularly tough hull, which is difficult to remove without losing some of the bran. Hulled barley, available at health food stores, retains more of the whole-grain nutrients, but it is very slow cooking. New varieties of hull-less barley are starting to become available. Lightly pearled barley is not technically a whole grain (as small amounts of the bran are missing), but it's full of fiber and much healthier than a fully refined grain.
Health bonus: The fiber in barley is especially healthy; it may lower cholesterol even more effectively than oat fiber.
Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum)
Buckwheat goes way beyond the pancakes mixes we associate with it. Japan's soba noodles, crepes and Russia's kasha are all made with buckwheat. Botanically, buckwheat is a cousin of rhubarb, not technically a grain at all and certainly not a kind of wheat. However, it's nutrients; nutty flavor and appearance have led to its ready adoption into the family of grains. Buckwheat tolerates poor soil, grows well on rocky hillsides and thrives without chemical pesticides.
Health bonus: Buckwheat is the only grain known to have high levels of an antioxidants called rutin, and studies show that it improves circulation and prevents LDL cholesterol from blocking blood vessels.
Bulgur (Triticum ssp.)
When wheat kernels are boiled, dried, cracked, then sorted by size, the result is bulgur. This wheat product is sometimes referred to as "Middle Eastern pasta" for its versatility as a base for all sorts of dishes. Bulgur is most often made from durum wheat, but in fact almost any wheat, hard or soft, red or white, can be made into bulgur.
Because bulgur has been precooked and dried, it needs to be boiled for only about 10 minutes to be ready to eat. About the same time as dry pasta. This makes bulgur an extremely nutritious fast food for quick side dishes, pilafs or salads. Perhaps bulgur's best-know traditional use is in the minty grain and vegetable salad known as tabbouleh.
Health bonus: Bulgur has more fiber than quinoa, oats, millet, buckwheat or corn. Its quick cooking time and mild flavor make it ideal for those new to whole grain cooking.
Corn (Zea mays mays)
Fresh corn on the cob. Popcorn. Corn cakes. Polenta. Tortillas. Corn Muffins. Though it is sometimes dismissed as a nutrient-poor starch (both a second-rate vegetable and a second-rate grain) corn is lately being reassessed and viewed as a healthy food. Traditional Latin cultures learned how to treat corn with alkali, creating masa harina. Eating corn with beans creates a complementary mix of amino acids that raise the protein value to humans.
Most of the corn grown in the U.S. is used to feed cattle and to make sweeteners, but some finds its way into the grocery store. Avoid labels that say, "degerminated" when you're looking for whole-grain corn.
Health bonus: A new study shows that corn has the highest level of antioxidants of any grain or vegetable - twice the antioxidants of apples!
Emmer/Farro (Triticum turgidum dicoccum)
Emmer, an ancient strain of wheat, was one of the first cereals ever domesticated in the Fertile Crescent, and centuries later, it served as the daily ration of Roman legions. But over the centuries, emmer was gradually abandoned in favor of durum wheat, which is easier to hull.
By the beginning of the 20th century, higher-yielding wheat strains had replaced emmer almost everywhere, except in Ethiopia, where emmer still constitutes about 7% of the wheat grown.
In Italy, emmer is known as farro or grano farro and is staging a comeback as a gourmet specialty. Semolina flour made from emmer is still used today for special soups and other dishes in Tuscany and Umbria, and farro is thought by some aficionados to make the best pasta.
Grano (Triticum turgidum durum)
When durum wheat kernels ("wheat berries") are lightly polished, they become grano, a side-dish full of nutty flavor and al dente texture. Those who have tried wheat berries know that they require soaking and then cooking for an hour. But the minimal processing given to grano means that some of the thick outer casing of the grain is removed, sacrificing a small amount of bran in order to cut cooking time to about thirty minutes.
Grano is in fact the Italian word for grain, a name that evokes its origin. In Italy, grano pre-dates pasta (also made from durum wheat) but is still enjoyed in traditional dishes, especially in Sicily and Apulia. Because it is missing some of its bran, grano is not technically a whole grain, but is still a healthier choice than a totally refined grain.
Kamut Grain (triticum turgidum turanicum)
Kamut grain is another example of an heirloom grain, once pushed aside by an agricultural monoculture, but now returning to add variety to the food supply. Brought back as a souvenir, said to be from an Egyptian tomb, this wheat variety was peddled without much success at the Montana State Fair in 1960 as "King Tut's Wheat."
Years of selecting, testing and propagating eventually brought this grain (now called Kamut, an ancient Egyptian word for wheat) to prominence. Today, millions of pounds of rich, buttery-tasting wheat are grown on organic farms and made into over 450 whole-grain products around the world.
Health bonus: Kamut grain has higher levels of protein than common wheat, and more vitamin E.
Millet (panicum miliaceum)
Millet is rarely served to humans in the United States; here, it's the grain most often found in bird feeders. Yet it's the leading staple in India, and commonly eaten in China, South America, Russia and the Himalayas.
Millet has a mild flavor and is often mixed with other grains or toasted before cooking, to bring out the full extent of its delicate flavor. Its tiny grain can be white, gray, yellow or red.
Oats (Avena sativa)
Oats have a sweet flavor that makes them a favorite for breakfast cereals. Unique among grains, oats almost never have their bran and germ removed in processing. So if you see oats or oat flour on the label, relax, you're virtually guaranteed to be getting whole grain.
In the U.S., most oats are steamed and flattened to produce "old-fashioned" or regular oats, quick oats, and instant oats. The more oats are flattened and steamed, the quicker they cook and the softer they become. If you prefer a chewier, nuttier texture, consider steel-cut oats, also sometimes called Irish or Scottish oats. Steel-cut oats consist of the entire oat kernel (similar in looks to a grain of rice), sliced once or twice into smaller pieces to help water penetrate and cook the grain. Cooked for about 20 minutes, steel-cut oats create a breakfast porridge that delights many people who didn't realize they love oatmeal!
Health bonus: Scientific studies have concluded that, like barley, oats contain a special kind of fiber called beta-glucan found to be especially effective in lowering cholesterol. Recent research reports indicate that oats also have a unique antioxidant, which helps protect blood vessels from the damaging effects of LDL cholesterol.
Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa)
Quinoa (keen-wah) comes to us from the Andes, where the Inca had long cultivated it. Botanically a relative of swiss chard and beets rather than a "true" grain, quinoa cooks in about 10-12 minutes, creating a light, fluffy side dish. It can also be incorporated into soups, salads and baked goods. Commercially, quinoa is now appearing in cereal flakes and other processed foods. Though much of our quinoa is still imported from South America, farmers in high-altitude areas near the Rockies are also beginning to cultivate quinoa.
Quinoa is a small, light-colored round grain, similar in appearance to sesame seeds. But quinoa is also available in other colors, including red, purple and black. Most quinoa must be rinsed before cooking, to remove a bitter residue.
Health bonus: The abundant protein in quinoa is complete protein, which means that it contains all the essential amino acids our bodies can't make on their own.
Rice (Oryza sativa)
White rice is refined, with the germ and bran removed. Whole-grain rice is usually brown, but unknown to many, can also be black, purple, red or any of a variety of exotic hues. Around the world, rice thrives in warm, humid climates; almost the entire U.S. rice crop is grown in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas.
Converted rice is parboiled before refining, a process which drives some of the B vitamins into the endosperm so that they are not lost when the bran is removed. As a result, converted rice is healthier than regular white rice, but still is lacking many nutrients found in brown rice. Brown rice is lower in fiber than most other whole grains.
Health bonus: Rice is one of the most easily digested grains, one reason rice cereal is often recommended as a baby's first solid. This makes rice ideal for those on a restricted diet or who are gluten-intolerant.
Rye (Secale cereale)
Long seen as a weed, rye eventually gained respect for its ability to grow in areas too wet or cold for other grains. For this reason it is a traditional part of cuisine in Northern Europe and Russia. Rye was also widely grown in colonial America; some historians believe a fungus, rye ergot, triggered hallucinations leading to the Salem witch trials.
Rye is unusual among grains for the high level of fiber in its endosperm, not just in its bran. Because of this, rye products generally have a lower glycemic index than products made from wheat and most other grains, making them especially healthy for diabetics.
Health bonus: The type of fiber in rye promotes a rapid feeling of fullness, making rye foods a good choice for people trying to lose weight.
Sorghum/Milo (Sorghum spp.)
Farmers on the Great Plains from South Dakota to Texas appreciate that sorghum thrives where other crops would wither and die; in drought periods, in fact, it becomes partially dormant. Worldwide, about 50% of sorghum goes to human consumption, but in the U.S., most of the crop is fed to animals, made into wallboard or used for biodegradable packing materials.
That's a shame, because sorghum also called milo and believed to have originated in Africa, can be eaten like popcorn, cooked into porridge, ground into flour for baked goods, or even brewed into beer.
Health bonus: A gluten-free grain, sorghum is especially popular among those with celiac disease.
Spelt (Triticum aestivum spelta)
Spelt is a variety of wheat widely cultivated until the spread of fertilizers and mechanical harvesting left it by the wayside in favor of wheats more compatible with industrialization. Spelt can be used in place of common wheat in most recipes.
Twelfth-century mystic St. Hildegard is said to have written, "The spelt is the best of grains. It is rich and nourishing and milder than other grain. It produces a strong body and healthy blood to those who eat it and it makes the spirit of men light and cheerful. If someone is ill, boil some spelt, mix it with egg and this will heal him like a fine ointment." Today, the German abbey she founded still sells spelt products and even spelt liquor.
Health bonus: Spelt is higher in protein than common wheat. There are anecdotal reports that some people sensitive to wheat can tolerate spelt, but no reliable medical studies have addressed that issue.
Teff (Eragrostis tef)
It is estimated that teff is the principal source of nutrition for over two-thirds of Ethiopians. Teff grains are minute (just 1/150 the size of wheat kernels) giving rise to the grain's name, which comes from teffa, meaning "lost" in Amharic.
This nutritious and easy-to-grow type of millet is largely unknown outside of Ethiopia, India and Australia. Today it is getting more attention for its sweet, molasses-like flavor and its versatility; it can be cooked as porridge, added to baked goods, or even made into "teff polenta." Teff grows in three colors: red, brown and white. All are whole-grain, because the kernel is simply too small to mill easily.
Health bonus: Teff has over twice the iron of other grains, and twenty times the calcium; one cup of cooked teff contains more calcium (387 mg) than a cup of milk.
Triticale (x triticosecale rimpaul)
Triticale (trit-i-kay-lee) is the new kid on the block, a hybrid of durum wheat and rye that's been grown commercially for only 35 years. Rye and wheat have long cross-bred in nature, but the resulting offspring were sterile, until a French scientist, in 1937 discovered how to induce fertility.
Triticale was over-hyped as a miracle crop in the 1970s, but initial interest faded when crops were inconsistent and acceptance was slow. Today about 80% of the world's triticale is grown in Europe. It grows easily without commercial fertilizers and pesticides, making it ideal for organic and sustainable farming.
Health bonus: The bio-availability of triticale protein is slightly higher than soybeans and much higher than wheat.
Wheat (Triticum aestivum; Triticum turgidum)
Wheat has come to dominate the grains we eat because it contains large amounts of gluten, a stretchy protein that enables bakers to create satisfying risen breads. It's almost impossible to make an acceptable risen loaf without at least some wheat mixed in.
Two main varieties of wheat are widely eaten. Durum wheat (Triticum turgidum durum) is made into pasta while bread wheat (Triticum aestivum vulgare) is used for most other foods.
Bread wheat is described as "hard" or "soft" according to its protein content; as "winter" or "spring" according to when its sown; and as "red" or "white" according to color of the kernels. Hard wheat has more protein, including more gluten, and is used for bread, while soft wheat creates "cake flour" with lower protein.
Winter and spring wheat differ largely in their growing areas, with northern areas supporting spring wheat and more southerly climates able to plant winter wheat, which is actually planted in the fall and harvested in the spring. Red wheat has more strong-flavored tannins than milder white wheat; in this case the word "white" does not mean that the grain has been refined.
Like the other grains above, wheat can be enjoyed in many different forms than baked goods and pasta. Bulgur and grano (see above) make excellent side dishes. Wheat berries (whole-wheat kernels) can also be cooked as a side dish or breakfast cereal, but must be boiled for about an hour, preferably after soaking overnight. Cracked wheat cooks faster, as the wheat berries have been split open, allowing water to penetrate more quickly. Some stores also sell wheat flakes, with an appearance similar to rolled oats.
Wild Rice (Zizania spp.)
Wild rice is not technically rice at all, but the seed of an aquatic grass originally grown by indigenous tribes around the Great Lakes. Today some commercial cultivation takes place in California and the Midwest, but much of the crop is still harvested by Native Americans, largely in Minnesota.
The strong flavor and high price of wild rice means that it is most often consumed in a blend with other rice or grains. Wild rice has twice the protein and fiber of brown rice, but less iron and calcium.
WHITE VS. WHEAT BREAD
Most kids, even those who are picky eaters, like bread. And that's good because bread, and grains in general, make up a big part of the Food Guide Pyramid. In fact, younger children, age 2-6, should eat 6 servings from the grain food group, while older children should eat 6-11 servings each day.
But what kind of bread should you offer your child? There are so many choices, including white bread, wheat bread, honey wheat bread, etc.
For many kids, taste will be the determining factor of what bread they will eat.
After that, you should look at the nutritional values of different breads when you decide which bread to buy for your family or day care. Although many things are similar for different types of bread, such as...
Calories - usually about 40 - 70 calories per slice
Total fat - 0.5 - 1g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 90 - 130mg
Protein - 1.5 - 3g
Iron - 4 - 8%
... there can be big differences in the amount of fiber and calcium that different breads have. Whole wheat breads usually have more vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium, folic acid, copper, zinc and manganese. However, many white breads are fortified with these vitamins.
In general, 100% whole wheat/whole grain breads have more fiber than white bread or other breads made with wheat flour, although some white breads, such as Iron Kids and Iron Kids Crustless bread, have almost as much fiber as many kinds of wheat bread.
A high fiber diet is recommended for most people, and is especially helpful for children who are constipated.
Remember that "wheat" breads that do not say that they are "whole wheat" are a mixture of enriched white flour and whole-wheat flour, and will likely have less fiber than whole wheat breads. "Whole wheat" will be listed as the first ingredient if the bread is made from 100% whole wheat.
White breads often have more calcium, especially if they are made with milk, than wheat breads. However, many different kinds of wheat bread are now fortified with calcium too. Bread as an extra source of calcium is good if your children don't drink much milk or eat other dairy products.
So what kind of bread should you choose?
Whether it is white bread or wheat bread, find one that is high in calcium (at least 10-15% per slice), high in fiber (at least 1 - 1.5g per slice), and which tastes good.
The American Academy of Pediatrics does state, "whole-wheat bread offers a nutritional advantage over white bread." So if your child likes it, a 100% whole wheat bread (Remember to check the ingredients.) that is fortified with calcium would likely be the healthiest choice.
Reading the nutrition label can help you find a healthy bread. Just be careful when comparing labels that you check the serving size. Some breads list two slices as the serving size, while others list just one. Since the amount of calcium and fiber is listed per serving size, two grams of fiber may be for two slices or just one.
GRAINS/BREADS CREDITABLE ON THE FOOD PROGRAM
CACFP regulations require that breakfast, lunch and supper contain a breads/grains serving in the amount specified for each age group served. A bread/grain item may also be served as one of the two components for a snack.
Breads/Grains may be credited when the products are whole-grain, bran, germ or enriched or made with whole-grain, bran, germ and/or enriched meal or flour. If it is a cereal, the product must be whole, grain, bran, germ, enriched or fortified. If the product is enriched, the item must meet the Food and Drug Administration's Standards of Identity for enriched bread, macaroni and noodle products, rice, cornmeal or corn grits. The breads/grains item must contain enriched flour, bran, germ and/or whole-grain as specified on the label or according to the recipe or must be enriched in preparation or processing and labeled "enriched."
The breads/grains item must serve the customary function of bread in a meal. For a lunch or supper, this means that the item must be served as an accompaniment to the main dish (i.e. dinner rolls), or as a recognizable integral part of the main dish (i.e. taco shells, pot pie crust or spaghetti).
Breads/Grains items have been divided into nine groups. The required weight for each group is based on the key nutrients in one slice of bread (25 grams or 0.9 oz) or an equal amount (14.75 grams) of whole-grain, bran, germ or enriched flour. Within each group, all bread items have approximately the same nutrients and grain content in each serving. Items with fillings, toppings, etc. require larger serving sizes to meet minimum grain content.
When planning menus, the practicality of the serving size for the age of the child being served should be taken into consideration. Also, it is recommended that no more than two dessert-type items be served as a snack each week. Examples of dessert-type items can be found in the breads/grains chart. To view this breads/grains chart, click here.
To receive a certificate of training hours you must complete a quiz based on the material above. You are required to get all questions correct. If you do not get 100% on the quiz the first time, you may take it over again. The results of the quiz will be emailed to Mid Michigan Child Care Food Program. When we receive the results of your quiz, a certificate of training completed will pop up that you can print. A copy of the certificate will also be emailed to you.
Words you may see on packages:
whole grain (name of grain)
whole (other grain)
stoneground whole (grain)
What they mean:
Yes - Contains all parts of the grain, so you're getting all the nutrients of the whole grain.
Words you may see on packages:
multigrain (may describe several whole grains or several refined grains, or a mix of both.
What they mean:
Maybe - These words are accurate descriptsions of the package contents, but because some parts of the grain MAY be missing, you are likely missing the benefits of whole grains.
What they mean:
No - These words never describe whole grains.
Words you may see on packages:
degerminated (or corn meal)