* Seek out the bright-yellow Whole Grain Council stamp. It was launched by the WGC in 2005 and states exactly how many grams of whole grains are contained in a serving of the product. Found on more than 600 packaged items, the stamp isn't an official standard and isn't endorsed by the FDA. But it's a clear, legitimate indicator of just how much whole grain you're getting.
* Beware of buzzwords. Even though breads and crackers may be labeled as multigrain, 9-grain, and 12-grain, there's no guarantee that any of them are whole grain. These foods may contain highly processed grains-stripped of much of their fiber and nutrients-rather than whole grains. The best way to verify that a product has whole grains is to scrutinize the ingredients panel carefully. If an item is whole grain, the word whole will typically precede the grain's name, i.e., whole rye or whole cornmeal. Which is why a loaf that's labeled 100% wheat bread, or that lists wheat flour in the ingredients, falls short.
* Go easy on the sweet stuff. Manufacturers are slapping the words whole grains on newly reformulated foods that are marginally nutritious at best. Yes, some cookies, for instance, contain whole-grain flour, but that doesn't offset all the sugar, fat, and calories. Remember: Whole-grain junk food is still junk food.
A Grain Glossary
Whole grains are the most minimally processed versions of any grain. All the edible parts-the bran, the endosperm, and the germ-are intact, just the way the grain grows in the field. The majority of the grains that we eat today are refined, a process that strips away many of the nutrients. Whole grains, in contrast, retain all their fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Nearly every supermarket now stocks even the exotic varieties like quinoa and wheat berries (see the glossary below for info on these once obscure whole grains). Store in tightly covered containers, and refrigerate during the warmer months.