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Whole Grains and Weight: 20 Easy Ways to Get More Whole Grains

February 20, 2024
Whole Grains and Weight: 20 Easy Ways to Get More Whole Grains

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In this article:

  • Eating whole grains can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and weight gain.
  • Whole grains retain the nutritious bran and germ along with the endosperm of a grain kernel, unlike refined grains.
  • Whole grains are natural sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
  • 97% of Americans don’t eat enough whole grains, but it’s easy to get more. Whole grain products include whole-wheat bread and pasta, whole-grain cereals, and barley. Gluten-free whole grains include brown rice, quinoa, popcorn, and oatmeal.
  • Watch portions to get enough whole grains while keeping weight in check.
  • Lark can help you lose weight with or without GLP-1s as you log food, get tips for eating healthier, and make small changes that can turn into healthy habits.

Do you want to make one small but significant change in your diet? Try having more whole grains! They may be high in carbohydrates, but they’re packed with nutrients and tied to many health benefits. Plus, they’re easy and delicious to add, even if you follow a gluten-free plan. Keep reading for what you should know about whole grains, plus 20 ways to add them to your day.

What Is a Whole Grain?

Mayo Clinic explains that the “whole” in “whole grain” refers to the grain kernel being “whole.” Whole grains are minimally processed. They include three components:

  1. Starchy endosperm
  2. Nutrient-rich germ
  3. High-fiber bran

Refined grains are more processed, and only include the starchy endosperm. That means they’re high in carbohydrates, but they’re lower in fiber and other natural nutrients compared to whole grains.

Benefits of Whole Grains

Research shows that people who eat more whole grains tend to have some health benefits. Here are some of them, according to Mayo Clinic.

  • Lower risk for heart disease
  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Improved blood sugar control and lower risk for type 2 diabetes
  • Lower risk of being overweight
  • Lower risk for certain types of cancers

Harvard School of Public Health says these benefits may be related to phytochemicals, antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients in whole grains. Many Americans are missing out on health benefits because of low intakes of whole grains.

Whole Grain Recommendations versus American Intakes

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans say that at least half of the grains that you eat should be whole grains. Only 2% of Americans meet these recommendations!

Americans eat plenty of grains, with 74% of American adults having more refined grains than the recommended limits. 98% of people are not getting enough whole grains to maximize their health benefits.

Swap Whole Grains for Refined Grains

It’s easy to get more whole grains. For the average American, swapping whole grains for refined grains can help you reach the recommended whole grain consumption. Many grain products come in whole-grain versions that you can use instead of refined grains.

Here are some examples of whole-grain swaps.

Refined Grain Examples Whole-Grain Swaps
White bread and refined white bread products like hamburger and hot dog buns, tortillas, pita, and English muffins
Whole-grain bread and whole-grain bread products like hamburger and hot dog buns, tortillas, pita, and English muffins
Refined white spaghetti and other pasta
Whole-wheat pasta and pasta made from buckwheat or brown rice
White rice
Brown rice, barley, quinoa, bulgur
Farina or hot wheat cereal or grits
Whole-wheat farina, oatmeal, whole-grain grits
Refined wheat, rice, or corn cereal
Whole-grain versions like shredded wheat, bran flakes, oat O’s, puffed brown rice, puffed wheat, and whole-grain corn cereal
White crackers and pretzels, white rice cakes
Whole-grain crackers and pretzels, air-popped popcorn, brown rice cakes

Whole Grains and Fiber

Most Americans don’t eat enough whole grains, and it’s no coincidence that more than 90% of American adults also don’t get enough fiber. That’s because unprocessed plant-based foods, like whole grains, are among the best natural sources of dietary fiber.

Here are some benefits of getting plenty of fiber.

  • Improved blood sugar control
  • Improved digestive health and bowel regularity
  • Lower risk for coronary heart disease

Plus, many high-fiber foods are filling and nutrient-dense. You can increase your fiber intake by selecting whole grains instead of refined grains. Here are additional sources of fiber.

  • Vegetables
  • Beans, split peas, and lentils
  • Fruit
  • Nuts and seeds

Here’s a meal plan with whole grains and fiber!

Portion Control for Weight and Blood Sugar

Many people worry that adding more whole grains will cause weight gain or blood sugar spikes. Here are some tips to help you.

  • Keep portion size in mind. Examples of smart portions per meal include 1-2 slices of bread, ½ cup of cooked oatmeal, whole-grain pasta, or brown rice, and 2-3 cups of air-popped popcorn.
  • Consider having no more than 1-2 small servings of whole grains at each meal, and 1 serving if you’re including a whole grain with your snack.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest having at least 3 1-ounce servings of whole grains per day if you’re on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Gluten-Free Whole-Grains

You may be wondering how you can eat more whole grains if you follow a gluten-free diet. It’s possible! These are some gluten-free options.

  • Gluten-free oats and oatmeal
  • Brown rice and brown rice products like brown rice cakes, brown rice pasta, and puffed brown rice cereal
  • Buckwheat pancakes and buckwheat noodles
  • Whole-grain corn tortillas and whole-grain corn cereal

Quinoa and amaranth

Wheat, rye, graham, bulgur, and barley are grains with gluten.

Meals and Snacks with Whole Grains

Here’s a list of meals and snack ideas with whole grains.

  1. Oatmeal with fruit and a hard-boiled egg
  2. Cereal with low-fat milk or cottage cheese and some fruit
  3. Scrambled egg whites with vegetables and a whole-grain wrap or tortilla
  4. Yogurt parfait with plain non-fat yogurt, oats, cinnamon, and fruit
  5. Whole-grain toast with peanut butter, mashed avocado, or almond butter
  6. Chicken noodle soup with whole-wheat spaghetti or buckwheat noodles, vegetables, and diced chicken breast
  7. Veggie burger on whole-grain bun
  8. Bean, barley, and vegetable soup
  9. Whole-grain salad with whole-wheat pasta, quinoa, or brown rice salad
  10. Quinoa bowl with quinoa, vegetables, tofu, and avocado slices
  11. Bean and cheese burrito on a whole-wheat tortilla
  12. Whole-grain sub roll with vegetables, low-fat cheese, and mustard
  13. Fish or shrimp tacos on whole-grain corn tortillas or a whole-wheat flour tortilla
  14. Stir fry with vegetables and salmon, chicken, or shrimp over brown rice
  15. Pizza with low-fat cheese, pizza sauce, and vegetable toppings on whole-grain pita or whole-grain English muffin
  16. Bell pepper halves stuffed with brown rice, black beans, and chopped onions and tomatoes
  17. Whole-grain spaghetti with turkey meatballs and vegetables
  18. Brown rice cakes with hummus
  19. Air-popped popcorn and a low-fat string cheese stick
  20. Whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheddar cheese

How Lark Can Help

Weight loss and weight management are easier when you have the foods you need, so it’s important to know how to select the best options. Lark offers additional tools and support. Your Lark coach is available 24/7 for nutrition and physical activity coaching and tracking. Lark can help you make healthy choices and establish habits that fit into your lifestyle so you can lose weight and keep it off with or without GLP-1 medications.

Click here to see if you may be eligible to join Lark today!

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