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Whole grain finds & frauds.

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Whole grains are good for you. Studies suggest that they lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

But once you get beyond bread and cereal, it's not always easy to find whole grains that are tasty and convenient ... or even 100 percent whole grain, for that matter. That's because the Food and Drug Administration doesn't require labels to say what percent of a food's grain is whole, and most companies aren't talking.

On pages 13 and 14 you'll find a sampling of whole-grain foods that you may want to add to your shopping list. Page 15 contains a handful of whole-grain imposters.

The information for this article was compiled by Amy Ramsay.

THE WHOLE TRUTH

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Healthy Choice, Kashi, and Lean Cuisine have started using whole grains in their frozen entrees. But they're not all equal.

All the Kashis and all but one Lean Cuisine Spa Cuisine (the Butternut Squash Ravioli) use 100% whole-grain pasta or brown rice. Spa Cuisine's pasta is delish. Kashi's is a bit grainy, but at least it's whole.

With Healthy Choice things aren't so simple. The rice in its All Natural and most of its Complete Meal rice dishes is brown. That's good. But the pasta in its pasta dishes is. at most. SO percent whole grain.

What's more. much of Healthy Choice's whole grain what it calls "Ultragrain"--is a whole white flour. Think of it as very finely ground albino whole wheat. That likely makes it less useful for promoting regularity than regular whole wheat. Is it also less likely to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity? No one knows.

(The pasta in the All Natural line also contains a whole-barley flour that Healthy Choice calls "Sustagrain.")

Of course, getting some whole grain is better than getting none. But until labels disclose how much of their grain is whole, go with Spa Cuisine or Kashi. (Like pretty much all frozen entrees, though, most varieties have too much salt.)

COOKIE MAKEOVERS

For years, Nabisco has made 100% whole-grain Fig Newtons. (Yum.) Now Pepperidge Farm has launched a line of almost 100% whole-grain Granola Cookies. (Double yum.) They're rich in chunks of dark chocolate, almonds, raisins, rolled oats, and other ingredients you don't have to look up in a chemistry textbook.

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The only problem: it's hard to stop at one 140-calorie cookie. Whole grains aren't a license to keep chewing.

Kashi's TLC Cookies have no refined grains. They taste a tad less sweet than Pepperidge Farm's Granola Cookies, though the sugar (and calorie) levels are about the same.

Like graham crackers? Trader Joe's Old Fashioned Cinnamon Grahams are whole grain and fabulous. In contrast, Nabisco Honey Maid Graham Crackers ("contains 5 grams whole grain") are mostly white flour. At least Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Grahams have more whole wheat than white flour.

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NO WAFFLING

Trader Joe's Blueberry and Multi Grain Waffles and Van's Organic Waffles (and those that make a "Made with Whole Grain" claim) all contain more whole wheat flour than refined white flour.

That beats Kellogg's Eggo Nutri-Grain Waffles, which have more white flour than whole wheat. And Kashi's GoLean Waffles and Heart to Heart Honey Oat Waffles have more white flour than the "Seven Whole Grains & Sesame" that the company touts.

Of the brands we found, only Nature's Path Organic gets by with no refined grains--in six of its nine flavors, that is. (The Homestyle, Mesa Sunrise, and Buckwheat Wildberry are a mix of whole and refined grains.) The waffles skimp on the berries, figs, and other ingredients that are in their names, but that's another story.

Our favorite: Nature's Path Organic Maple Cinn with Oatbran. They have just enough maple and cinnamon (and less than a teaspoon of sugar per waffle). Two minutes in the toaster and each 90-calorie waffle is ready to roll. No syrup needed.

WHY BUY WHITE?

Truth be told, some 100% whole-grain pastas are more than a tad gritty. Try the wrong brand and you may never try another.

That's why you want to start with Whole Foods 365 Organic Whole Wheat Elbows, Fusilli, Linguine, Penne, Shells, or Spaghetti. You can barely tell them apart from refined pasta. And 365 is Whole Foods' store brand, so you won't need a loan to pay for it.

If Whole Foods isn't on your shopping route, try Barilla Whole Grain pasta. While it's only 51 percent whole grain, at least the label says so. The Linguine, Medium Shells, Penne, Rotini, Spaghetti, and Thin Spaghetti are all dead ringers for refined pasta. Bionaturae 100% Whole Wheat Spaghetti is another winner. Look for it in your supermarket's health food aisle.

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If you're searching for filled pasta, try refrigerated Buitoni 100% Whole Wheat Three Cheese Tortellini.

Each one-cup serving has 330 calories, 3 1/2 grams of saturated fat, and 490 milligrams of sodium. That's in the ballpark of most cheese-filled pastas. And it's a good source of fiber (7 grams) and protein (16 grams).

THE PIZZA CRUST CAPER

If you want 100% whole-grain pizza crust, you may have to look beyond the freezer case.

Amy's and Kashi offer frozen pizzas that are partly whole grain. But the companies won't say how much, and their labels are deceptive.

For example, the first ingredient in Amy's Cheese & Pesto Whole Wheat Crust Pizza is a mix of whole and refined wheat. (How convenient! No one can tell if it's 90% whole or 90% refined.)

Likewise, the first ingredient in all but one of Kashi's Thin Crust Pizzas is a "crust mix" that includes whole grains. But it also includes "oat syrup solids" and non-whole grains. Together, they help make the crust mix heavier than the second ingredient: refined grain "wheat flour."

Kashi (which is owned by Kellogg) touts its "Seven Whole Grains on a mission," but they apparently brought their refined grains along for the ride.

The good news: Kashi's Thin Crust Pizzas are crisp and light, not doughy or grainy. One bite into a Margherita, for example, and you'd never guess that each 250-calorie serving (a third of a pie) has a low-for-pizza 4 grams of saturated fat. Kashi adds too much sodium (560 to 660 milligrams per serving), though that's still less than many competitors pour on.

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But who knows if Kashi's or Amy's crusts are at least half whole grain ... or just a smidgen? If you want 100% whole grains, look elsewhere.

If you're near a Trader Joe's, $1 will buy you one pizza's worth of refrigerated uncooked 100% whole-grain dough. Just roll out, cover with toppings, and bake. Your local supermarket may have something similar.

MISUNDERSTOOD MUFFIN

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Let's get one thing straight. Muffins have a healthier reputation than they deserve. Most are as sweet as a cupcake without the frosting. And the sprinkling of blueberries or bran doesn't make up for the calories, which can hit 500 at Dunkin' Donuts or Panera.

That said, some muffins are better than others. If you like to bake, Duncan Hines offers six scrumptious 100% Whole Grain Muffin Mixes. (Note: Three flavors contain a smidgen of partially hydrogenated oil, but it adds less than half a gram of trans fat per muffin. And each muffin will set you back some 200 calories and S teaspoons of sugar.)

For non-bakers, Fiber One (frozen) Muffins could be a find. The Banana Chocolate Chip has no white flour, and the Blueberry has more wholegrain than white flour.

Just don't swallow the box's claim that "fiber can help satisfy your appetite and manage your weight."

"Research suggests that people who have higher-fiber intakes tend to have healthier body weights," explains the package. But it forgets to mention that the research studied people who got fiber from whole grains, vegetables, and fruit, not from 200-calorie muffins with 4 teaspoons of sugar.

And no one knows if the results apply to inulin, the isolated fiber that's in Fiber One muffins.

For a better choice, check out Vitalicious 100-calorie whole-grain VitaMuffins and VitaTops, which come in more than a dozen varieties like Dark Chocolate Pomegranate, Deep Chocolate, Banana Nut, AppleBerry, Banana Fudge, and BlueBran.

The Deep Chocolate tastes like cake sans frosting. No surprise there ... since that's essentially what muffins are.

WHOLE GRAIN frauds

Don't fall for the whole-grain claims of these four imposters.

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MADE WITH (A LITTLE) WHOLE GRAIN

"Made with 5g of WHOLE GRAIN per serving," shouts the Cheez-It Cracker box.

That must be part of Sunshine's plan to make its crackers look healthy. But 5 grams of whole grain doesn't mean much when most of each 30-gram serving of (27) crackers is ordinary refined white flour.

Of course, few people know whether 5 grams of whole grain matter. That's probably what Sunshine was banking on. Just sprinkle on a bit of whole grain and create a "NEW!" Cheez-It.

Kellogg (which makes Sunshine Cheez-Its) also sells Krispy Wheat Saltines. Each serving (5 crackers) has less than 2 grams of whole grain. Why are we not surprised?

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HELP!

Hamburger Helper is a tremendous help. Each box helps harried cooks turn a pound of fatty ground beef into salty, fatty ground beef plus pasta swimming in a "naturally flavored cheesy sauce mix." Yum.

So what to make of Wholesome Hamburger Helper? Not much.

It's essentially the same stuff, except that the pasta has 8 grams of whole grain and who-knows-how-much refined grain. (Betty Crocker won't say.) And what about the 800 milligrams of sodium (half a day's worth) in each 300-calorie (one-cup) serving?

At least Velveeta Whole Grain Rotini & Cheese and Kraft Whole Grain Macaroni & Cheese are honest. The front of the packages say "made with 50 percent whole grain" pasta.

They may have too much sodium, but at least they're up front about their grains.

If only Helper would be that helpful.

SUGAR-COATED CLAIMS

"One serving of whole grain," boasts the label of Kellogg's Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts. "20% daily value Fiber."

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Ignore the fiber claim, since some of the Pop-Tart's fiber comes from inulin, an isolated fiber that may not have the same benefits as the intact fiber in whole grains.

And the label fails to mention that the "one serving of whole grain" comes with one serving of refined grain ... and three teaspoons of sugar.

That adds up to 200 calories--roughly half of them from white flour and sugar. Make that 400 calories if you eat both of the pastries in each foil wrapper.

They may be marginally better than ordinary Pop-Tarts. But a healthy breakfast? Not quite.

WHEN WHOLE ISN'T WHOLE

Everyone is getting into the whole-grain act. Even vending-machine king Lance sells whole-grain cracker sandwiches.

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Okay, so they're not exactly 100% whole grain.

Take the Whole Grain Sharp Cheddar Cheese crackers. The first two ingredients are refined white flour and oil. Then comes whole wheat flour, followed by whole-grain oats, dairy whey, sugar, maltodextrin, and a dozen other ingredients.

If you're expecting cheese, don't let the artificial Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 coloring fool you. The crackers have more salt than cheddar.

Each 190-calorie package of six crackers does contain 9 grams of whole grain. But we estimate that each also has about 10 grams of refined grain.

That's not terrible, but it's not whole grain either.
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Title Annotation:BRAND-NAME RATING
Author:Hurley, Jayne; Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2010
Words:1886
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