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Whole Grains in the Teen Diet

Better health for your teen could be as close as your breadbox. The more whole grains teenagers eat, the leaner they are and the less likely they are to develop diabetes, a recent University of Minnesota study found. With obesity and diabetes rising among children, that's a slice of good news.

Why are whole grains healthy?

"They provide protein, complex carbohydrates, several vitamins and are good sources of iron and zinc (important to sexual development),” says Connie Diekman, R.D., the 2007-2008 president of the American Dietetic Association. Whole grains may also help prevent heart disease and some forms of cancer.

What’s the difference between whole and refined grains?

Whole grains consist of the entire kernel, inside and out. In refined grains, the milling process removes the kernel's outer layer and the fiber.

How many servings per day?

Most teens and adults need at least six servings of grains daily. If you can, make sure three of them are whole grains. To start adding whole grains to your teens’ meals, try a few simple tips on recharging your meals:

Gaining grains

Nutritionists offer some simple ways to add whole grains to your teen's diet:


  • Serve whole-wheat toast or multigrain muffins instead of pastries.

  • Try oatmeal, barley or other whole-grain cereals.

Lunch and snacks

  • Make sandwiches on whole-grain bread or a whole-grain bagel.

  • Mix whole-grain cereals together for a snack.

  • Bake or buy cookies made with oatmeal or whole-grain flour.

  • Make popcorn.


  • Serve brown or wild rice instead of white rice.

  • Use whole-grain bread in stuffing and meatloaf

  • Try whole-wheat pasta.

  • Sub whole-grain flour for refined white flour when you bake.

  • Add barley to soup.

  • Use corn—not flour—tortillas.

For more nutritious recipes, visit the American Heart Association’s site: http://www.deliciousdecisions.org. Search for "wheat" or "grain.”