How can you tell if a product is really a whole-grain food? Stick to the ingredient list for the answer, and find 10 common products here and see if they pass our whole-grain test. By Sidney Fry, MS, RD
Walk through any supermarket and you'll find an array of whole-grain claims on packages. But how can you tell if a product is really a whole-grain food? We've done the homework for you, and we've learned to always focus on the ingredient list, and not on the often-confusing health claims on the front of the package. We've selected some common products-crackers, chips, popcorn, cereal, baking mixes, breads, and more-and evaluated whether they're a whole-grain food or not. Our explanations for each will help you to evaluate some of your favorite products yourself to see if they pass the whole-grains test.
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Wheat Thins Original Cracker
YES: Touting 11 grams of whole grains per serving, these crispy thins are made with whole-grain wheat flour as the starting ingredient, and offer a generous 16 crackers per serving. Watch the sodium levels, which will creep up if you enjoy more than a serving of these crispy, salty crackers.
Ritz Whole Wheat Crackers
NO: The word "whole" is deceiving on this box of buttery snack crackers, which is made from enriched flour. Labeled as Whole Wheat and made with 5 grams of whole grains, whole-grain wheat flour is half way down the ingredients, followed by partially hydrogenated oil (a source of trans fat). You'd have to eat over 200 calories and 360 mg sodium (and likely a few grams of trans fats) to reach a full serving of whole grains.
Ryvita Sesame Rye All Natural Crispbread
YES: This 100% whole-grain cracker is hard to identify without any type of a front-of-label stamp of approval. Three simple ingredients: Whole-grain rye flour, sesame seeds, and salt make this cracker an excellent source for whole grains. Choose whole grains with fewer ingredients for more natural, authentic goodness.
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Vinta - Baked with 8 grains and seeds
NO: Though the claim "made with whole grains" decorates the front of the box, the first ingredient in these crackers is Enriched Flour. Whole grains and seeds come in as the third ingredient. Though visually appealing with a nice dusting of whole-grains seeds, these crackers offer zero fiber, and even less promise as a whole grain.
Wheat Thins Vermont White Cheddar Artisan Cheese Baked Snacks
NO: Nestled right next to the Original Wheat Thins variety, these Artisan Snacks are made from unbleached enriched flour. While whole-grain wheat flour comes in at a close second on the ingredient list, this cheesy variety only has 5 grams of whole grains per 11-cracker serving, and quite a lengthy list of ingredients.
Tostitos Stone-Ground White Corn Hint of Lime Tortilla Chips
YES: With whole-white corn as the first ingredient, this salty snack offers half a serving of whole grains (8 grams) per 1 ounce, enough for the Whole Grains Council stamp of approval. While these tempting chips are able to call themselves whole, with at least 51% of these grains come from whole grain, there are only 6 chips in a serving, which can add up fast, along with the calories and sodium.
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Sun Chips Garden Salsa Multigrain Chips
YES: A better whole-grain option than the Tostitos, these savory chips have 18 grams (a full serving) of whole grains per ounce. With whole corn as the first ingredient, these chips also contain a blend of whole wheat, whole oat flour and rice flour for whole-grain bulk. You get about 15 chips per serving and 3 grams of fiber, which is not a bad bang for your snack buck.
Flavorite Yellow Kernel Popcorn
YES: As the sole ingredient, this yellow popcorn is 100% whole grain, and an excellent source for your 48 grams of whole grains per day goal. Often not labeled as "100% whole" or even "whole," popcorn is a true whole grain. If choosing the bagged variety, read the ingredient list, as many of the marketed brand names have added salt, butter, and sugar.
Popcorn Indiana Sea Salt Popcorn
YES: This pre-popped crunchy snack is 100% whole grain, another example of an "unclaimed" whole grain. With 22 grams of whole grain per 3 cup serving, this is an excellent whole-grain snack choice. With popcorn, canola oil, and salt as the three simple ingredients, you know exactly what you are getting in this bag of kettle popped goodness.
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All Bran Wheat Bran Cereal Bran Buds
NO: Unfortunately, this super high fiber option is not a whole grain. The cereal has been striped from the germ and endosperm, which removes it from the category of whole grains. While the bran is an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants, and B vitamins, it is not a true whole grain. Don't scratch this choice off your grocery list though. Instead, mix these Bran Buds into a 100% whole grain cereal for a healthy, low-calorie fiber boost.