Prioritize high-fiber foods. When comparing foods with a “whole grain” label, always chose those with the highest amounts of fiber, Dr. Slavin said. A high fiber count is a good sign that the food has a fair amount of whole grains, Ms. Du added.
Pay attention to ingredient order. For food items with a variety of ingredients, look for whole grains at the top of the ingredients list. If the first few ingredients contain words like “100 percent whole grain,” “whole wheat flour” or “100 percent whole wheat flour,” that’s a good sign that you’re picking a healthier choice, Ms. Du said.
If the food contains mostly refined grains (which don’t count as whole grains) like white flour or cornmeal, Dr. Slavin said, it doesn’t mean it’s automatically unhealthy. If the grains are enriched or fortified with certain vitamins and minerals, they can still add to your overall nutrition. But keep in mind that refined grains will lack fiber, she added.
Start slow and mix things up. To work more whole grains into your diet, you don’t need to fully revamp your eating patterns at once, Ms. Feller said. “I like to encourage folks to think about what small things they can add.” That could mean including a whole-grain based side dish with your dinner, or blending oats into your morning smoothie.
If you’re not used to eating whole grains, start with more approachable ones like oats or corn, Ms. Feller said. If certain grains don’t fit with your food culture, she added, that’s OK. Find what works for you.
If you ever start to get bored with the grains on your plate, mix things up, Ms. Feller said. If you’re sick of brown rice, try wild rice — or swap your whole wheat bread for a whole rye loaf. Variation can keep things interesting and make it more likely that you’ll meet your daily whole grain goals.
“As long as we are trying to be health-conscious when we are doing our grocery shopping” and making slight adjustments over time, those changes will add up, Ms. Du said.