The Savvy Shopper – Made With Whole Grains

We all know that we should be eating more whole grains. Fibre is critical to a healthy digestive system and whole grain carbs like whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa or oatmeal help to slow digestion and provide longer-lasting energy.

It would seem that processed food manufacturers are excited to be helping us out – so many products now tout labels that say “Made with Whole Grain”. Isn’t it wonderful that we can eat a handful of cookies and be getting our daily recommended amount of fibre at the same time?

Not so fast. Just because there are some whole grains in the cereal, bread or cookies you’re buying doesn’t mean they’re necessarily good for you. Check the nutritional labels of your purchases. Ingredients on processed foods are listed by quantity, so we’re looking to see that the first ingredients include the term “whole grain”. In the case of a cereal, we want to see “whole grain oats” or “whole grain wheat”, and we want those ingredients to be the first ones on the list, not down with the preservatives we can’t pronounce. Unscrupulous manufacturers may continue to make their products with refined white flour and toss in a small percentage of whole wheat flour as well. Technically that product is “made with whole grain”, but it’s not 100% whole grain.

However, in Canada, flour manufacturers are allowed to remove 5% of the kernel to reduce rancidity and prolong shelf-life, so not all breads listed as 100% whole wheat are actually whole grain, although they are still a healthier option than regular white bread.

Also, watch for the term “multi-grain”. This term makes the product sound as if it is loaded with whole grains, but in reality it simply means that more than one type of grain or flour was used. There is no guarantee that the grains used were whole grains, or that they were among the first ingredients (and the highest in quantity) in the product.

Another trick is to check the nutritional info for the amount of fibre per serving. In most conventional breakfast cereals or snack foods, 3 grams of fibre per serving is considered a high fibre product, but many cereals sold in health food stores can reach up to 10 grams of fibre per serving. And while whole grain bread seems like the best way to get your daily fibre intake, check out this list from the Mayo Clinic and you’ll see that the best sources of fibre are still legumes and good old fruits and vegetables.

One final note about whole grains and processed foods – just because they’re made with whole grains, even 100% whole grains, doesn’t balance out the fact that they may contain transfats or sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup. Generally, food that comes in boxes is going to be less healthy than anything that is freshly made.