Pushing Whole Grains
By Jane Ayer
By Jane Ayer
I mentioned I was going to be participating in a study…
In one of my editorials a few issues back, I mentioned I was going to be participating in a study looking at the benefits of a diet high in whole grains, fruit and veggies. My blood pressure, weight and cholesterol, along with those of my husband, were measured in order to determine whether or not we were valid candidates for the study. Well it appears we were the right people for the job, and the study commenced a few weeks ago. On a Tuesday afternoon, I opened my door to find a large green bin full of fresh produce and a smaller bin filled with whole grain and vegetable protein products awaiting me, all courtesy of this study. We also received a handbook with information about both whole grains and fruit and vegetables (including such things as the glycemic index), along with recipe ideas. The handbook follows Canada’s current Food Guide recommendations, suggesting five to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables each day and five to 12 servings of grain products.
“Recent studies,” reads a portion of the handbook, “have indicated that combining a range of plant foods in a diet high in fruit, vegetables and whole grains with a special emphasis on plant proteins, viscous fibres, plant sterols and nuts has dramatic effects on serum cholesterol and may reduce the risk of heat disease…by as much as 50 per cent.”
For the first four weeks, a dietician working for the study called me on a weekly basis. She chatted a bit about exactly what whole grains are, what vegetable protein is, why certain vegetables are linked with helping to lower cholesterol levels, what the glycemic index is, and which fruit and grain products carry a low glycemic index. She also asked me what my diet consisted of the day prior. If the day wasn’t particularly strong in one area (whole grain servings, for example), the dietician offered suggestions for how I might more easily incorporate one or more servings into my diet.
Now prior to this study, I thought I was doing pretty well in terms of my diet and reaching the Food Guide’s suggested number of daily servings. I love fruit – it’s always been fairly easy for me to incorporate it without effort into my daily regimen. But everything else – the veggies, and the grain products? This is where I’m finding it really difficult to meet the daily recommended amounts. I love grain products. I also love lots of different kinds of veggies. But they’re not as convenient for me to fit into my day as fruit is. And when life gets busy (which it usually does), I’m not much different than the average consumer: I need food, I need it fast and I need it with as little preparation as possible.
This is where you can come in. With the Grains They’re Essential campaign pushing the consumption of grain products, with the release of the updated Canadian Food Guide expected this fall (specifically emphasizing whole grain consumption), and with the recent consumer interest in whole grain products, the time is right for you to not only be touting the health benefits of eating grain products, but also to be offering ways for consumers to work more grain products into their daily diet. My weekly chat sessions with the study dietician, along with the handbook and recipe ideas, were really helpful for me to plan ahead and really focus on ways to more easily work grain products into my diet. Most consumers don’t have weekly chat sessions with a dietician. But they do have you. Include meal ideas along with your bread products. Offer your customers tips for how they can incorporate your products in different parts of their diet throughout the day. Whether it be with posters hanging in your bakery, a printed handout you include with their purchases, or simply a few offered words of advice while you’re ringing in their purchase, you can be your customers’ own unofficial dietician (www.grainsessential.ca has resources that may help).
Consumers are looking for assistance in making healthy food choices. It’s time for you to step up to the plate.