The Dietitian Challenge: Week 5

January 28, 2014

The Dietitian Challenge Week 5:  Whole Grains

Hopefully you have been enjoying our dietitian challenges to help you kick off a healthy new year.  We would love to hear your success stories with these challenges or other healthy changes you have made. 

The challenge this week is to increase your whole grains, specifically:  consume at least 3 servings of whole grains per day.

Why are whole grains so important?

There has been a lot of research on the health benefits of whole grains.  It is well established that diets high in whole grains help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.  For people who eat at least three servings of whole grains a day, the reduction in risk is really impressive!

  • 25-35% reduced risk of heart disease

    Jessica, Registered Dietitian

    Jessica, Registered Dietitian

  • 37% reduction in stroke
  • 21-27% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
  • 21-43% reduction in digestive system cancers

So what makes whole grains so great?  They are low in saturated fat and loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.  We often think of fruits and vegetables as the nutrition powerhouse food groups, but whole grains contain many similar nutrients, so don’t forget about them in your balanced meal plan.


What are whole grains?

Simply put, whole grains contain all three layers of the grain kernel—the germ, the endosperm, and the bran.

  • Bran:  Tough outer layer that contains fiber, antioxidants, and B vitamins
  • Germ:  Core of the kernel that contains B vitamins, protein, healthy fat (oils), antioxidants, and fiber
  • Endosperm:  Starchy middle layer that provides mostly carbohydrate and some protein

Refined grains, on the other hand, are stripped of the bran and germ, so you are left with only the endosperm.  By removing the bran and germ, you are missing out on most of the fiber, B vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.  Refined grains include foods like white bread, white pasta, white rice, snack cakes, and many crackers.


What are some whole grain foods and how much is one serving?

Whole grain food

One serving

100% whole grain bread 1 slice
Cooked 100% whole grain pasta, quinoa, brown rice, or other cooked whole grain ½ cup
Oatmeal ½ cup cooked
100% whole grain cereal 1 cup

When reading labels, it is important that the first ingredient listed for the specific grain food is “whole.”  Ingredients like “multigrain,” “wheat flour,” or “enriched flour” DO NOT mean you are getting a whole grain product.


Harmons dietitians think whole grains are so important that we’ve posted a few blogs and presentations on the topic in the past.  Here are some links to more in-depth information if you are interested in really committing to the challenge this week:

Sample one-day meal plan rich in whole grains


½ cup cooked oatmeal prepared with 1% or fat free milk

2 tablespoons almonds

2 tablespoons dried fruit

1 low fat or fat free Greek yogurt


Spinach salad with beans, veggies, sprinkle of nuts, oil vinaigrette

1 slice 100% whole grain bread

1 piece of fruit


Stir fry chicken and veggies with quinoa or brown rice


Whole grain crackers (like Triscuits) with hummus or string cheese

½ peanut butter and jam sandwich on 1 slice 100% whole  grain bread