Whole grains have been in the healthy food spotlight for years, but many Americans still don’t get enough. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. residents should be getting anywhere between three to eight ounce equivalents of grains per day depending on their sex, age and activity levels, and at least half of those grains should be whole grains. But there’s a lot people don’t know about whole grains, which makes them more likely to skip these foods in favor of more familiar ones. Here’s what you need to know to successfully take advantage of whole grains in your clinical nutrition management duties.
What are whole grains?
The Whole Grains Council noted that whole grains contain all of the original components and natural nutrients of the entire grain seed. This means that a grain’s bran, germ and endosperm need to be completely present in order to be considered a whole grain. Some examples of grains that can be consumed whole include barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye and wheat.
What are the benefits?
Whole grains have many health benefits, but the Whole Grains Council stressed the fact that they’re most potent when included as part of an overall healthy diet. While any amount of whole grains is beneficial, a person will be most influenced by them if he or she eats the recommended daily servings and consumes plenty of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins.
According to the source, studies have shown that whole grains can reduce the risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, asthma, inflammatory disease, colorectal cancer, high blood pressure and gum disease, among others. This is exactly why a hospital menu in particular should offer plenty of whole grain options, as patients can greatly improve their health with proper servings, potentially reducing the risk of further complications and health issues.
How to get patients to eat more
To get patients to eat more whole grains and keep patient satisfaction scores high, there are a few ways you can make whole grain products more appealing. However, you should keep in mind that many whole grain products these days have improved tastes and textures – especially pasta, according to FoodService Director magazine. Still, you can get patients to eat more by easing the transition with whole-white-wheat products, recommended Cooking Light magazine. These products contain all of the nutrients of darker whole grains, but look similar to white wheat products, which many people are more familiar with.
The magazine also suggested including whole-grain pizza crust, tortillas and wraps on menus, as well as whole grain crackers, pastas and rice. Served with fresh fruits and vegetables, these foods become even more appetizing.
Other tips to keep in mind
When you’re stocking up on whole grain products for your food service management operation, there are a few things to note to ensure that your products are healthy and remain fresh. The USDA suggested looking at food labels closely to choose options that are low in sugar, sodium and saturated fat. After all, just because something is made from whole grains doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy.
You should also make sure that the packages that the whole grains come in are tight and sealed properly. Store the products in secure containers and keep them in a cool, dry space to prevent spoilage. It’s also a good idea to make yourself aware of the shelf life of each product, and store them in a refrigerator or freezer accordingly.
Lastly, keep in mind that some patients require gluten-free diets. While some whole grains aren’t suitable for these people, whole grain options like quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice and popcorn are perfectly okay.