Today's Clean Eating Mini Challenge is all about 100% Whole grain – All grains consumed must be 100% whole-grain today and for the rest of this challenge (and hopefully from now on).
Whole grains can be one of the most confusing and hard-to-find food products in the supermarket. From misleading buzz words like “multi-grain” and “wheat” to health-claims on the front of food packages that aren’t backed up by the ingredient list, it sure is treacherous out there.
For the most part all grains (wheat, corn, barley, rice, etc.) consist of 3 parts: the bran, germ and endosperm. The bran and especially the germ are where you’ll find most of the grain’s nutritional value. When a grain is highly refined into a product like white flour or white rice both of the most nutritional parts are removed leaving you with only the endosperm. The endosperm is basically a “big packet of starch and protein” that is high in calories and low in nutrients (similar to sugar).
In order to make up for the lost nutrients they have stripped away from the grain, refined grains are often "enriched" or "fortified" with vitamins thought to be lost. Wouldn't you rather just eat them in the first place?
Did you know that one of the main reasons products like white flour were manufactured is because when the key nutrients are stripped away, the flour ends up having a much longer shelf life and is less interesting to bugs since they are looking for nutrients and don't have much interest in refined grains.....
So here is where to start:
** If the front of a food package says it contains “whole-grains” or “whole-wheat” don’t be fooled…always verify by reading the ingredient label to see what a product is really made of. Packages often advertise that a product contains whole-grains even if it is only 20% whole-grain.
**If a product is labeled as “multi-grain” it by no means guarantees those grains are whole-grains. It could be a bunch of different refined grains mixed together. Again, you must read the ingredient list to know for sure what’s in a food product.
**If the ingredient list on a product contains any portion of “wheat” or “rice” then it is not 100% whole-grain. White flour is still technically made from the wheat plant (a refined version) so it is often labeled as “wheat.” It must say something like “whole-wheat” or “brown rice” to be a whole grain ingredient.
**Whether you are shopping at a supermarket or eating at a restaurant, most food products that are labeled as whole-grain are rarely 100% whole-grain. They often contain some percentage of refined grains as well.
**Since it is so hard to find 100% whole-grain foods it is best to avoid grains all together when you are out to eat at a restaurant (unless you can see the ingredient list yourself). Servers and other restaurant employees are often misinformed and will tell you the bread is “100% whole grain” when it is not.
**Finding good 100% whole-wheat sandwich bread is one of the biggest whole-grain challenges of them all. Some stores bring in freshly made bread products from a local bakery. Other stores have a few decent options in their freezer section. Your best bet is to find a local bakery that makes their dough fresh daily (unlike grocery store bakeries that typically bake pre-mixed dough) or make it yourself!
I did a blog series last year on 5 Breads that passed my test at the grocery store and how they tasted, check it out here if you are looking for a place to start today!