Grain Game

When choosing foods that contain grains, like bread or crackers or cereal, I always look at the package to see if a seal from the Whole Grains Council is there. If you see such a seal, you can be assured the food contains at least half of a serving of whole grains in one serving of the product.

But sometimes, such as on a box of the new Lightly Cinnamon Wheat Thins, there is a whole grains claim that is not from the Whole Grains Council. On this package there is a small green box that says "Sensible Solutions" that proclaims these crackers have "5g Whole Grain."

Great! I bought the crackers; they cost $ 2.18 for a 9.5-ounce box with nine 15-cracker (30g) servings. They taste terrific, like bite-size crispy graham crackers.

But when I looked at the nutrition facts and ingredients, I was disappointed.

A serving has 140 calories, 5g fat (1 scheduled), zero cholesterol, 125mg sodium, 21g carbohydrate (1 fiber, 5 sugars) and 2g protein.

What bugs me about that is there is only one gram of dietary fiber in a serving. The front of the box bragged it has five grams of whole grains, so should not it have more fiber?

I called Kara Berrini, program manager for the Whole Grains Council, and asked her how it's possible a product with five grams of whole grains in one serving could have such a small amount of fiber.

Kara had me read to her the crackers' ingredient list, and she quickly unraveled the mystery. The first ingredient is enriched flour, followed by whole wheat flour. Since whole grain flour is not listed first, the product does not contain a significant amount of whole grains.

So 5 grams per serving is not significant?

No, it is not.

"A daily servicing of whole grains is at least 16 grams," Kara said.

And the Whole Grains Council does not let a company put the WGC stamp on their product until it contains at least half a serving of whole grains per serving of product. Half a serving is 8 grams, so the 5 grams in the Wheat Thins is not enough to get the WGC approval.

We need three to five servings of whole grains every day, Kara reminded me. Since one serving is 16 grams, that means we need 48 to 80 grams of whole grains every day.

If enriched flour is the first ingredient listed, the food probably is not a significant source of whole grains, no matter what the front of the box claims.

For goodness' sake: Despite my grain confusion, I'm not saying Lightly Cinnamon Wheat Thins is an unhealthy food. We just need to understand the company's promotion of "5g Whole Grain" does not mean these crackers are a rich whole grain source. Look for stamps from the Whole Grains Council; you can trust those, and they're easy to understand.

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