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Publication #FCS8917

Healthy Grains Choices for MyPlate1

Claudia Peñuela2

The Grain Group includes foods such as bread, tortillas, rice, pasta, and breakfast cereals made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or other grains. Foods from this group provide B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folate), minerals (iron), and fiber. Grains are divided into two subgroups. They are whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel: bran, germ, and endosperm. In refined grains, the germ and bran has been removed-resulting in the removal the fiber, iron, and B vitamins. Refined grains replace the B vitamins and minerals by a process called enriching. It is usually impossible to recover fiber. It is recommended to eat whole grains instead of refined grains. The MyPlate message is "Make half of your grains whole."

Recommended Grain Intakes

MyPlate recommends eating between 3 to 10 ounces of grains every day depending on age, sex, and level of physical activity.

Go to to personalize your plan.

Table 1 shows the recommended ounces of grains per day for a person who gets less than 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity in addition to daily activities. Those who are more physically active are able to consume more while staying within calorie needs.

Table 1. 

Age (Years)































What is "one ounce" from the Grains Group?

  • 1 slice of bread

  • 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal

  • 1/2 cup cooked pasta, rice, or cereal

  • 3 cups of popcorn

  • 1 small bagel

  • 1 small cornbread

  • 1 small tortilla (6-inch)

Common portions:

  • 1 large muffin = 3 ounces

  • 1 cup cooked rice = 2 ounces

  • 1 large tortilla = 4 ounces

  • 2 slice of bread = 2 ounces

Nutrients and Key Points about their Benefits

Fiber reduces the risk of heart disease and promotes regular bowel movement. Whole grains contain more fiber than refined grains. Some examples of whole wheat produce are whole wheat flour and products made with it, whole oat, whole grain corn, popcorn, brown and wild rice, whole grain rye, whole grain barley, buckwheat groats, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, quinoa, and sorghum.

B vitamins release energy within the body, help play an important role in the metabolism, and help the nervous system properly work. Many refined grains are enriched with these B vitamins.

Folate produces red blood cells and reduces a woman's risk of having a child with a brain or spinal cord defect.

Iron carries oxygen in the blood. Low iron or iron deficiency may cause anemia. Anemia causes fatigue, weakness, and poor concentration.

Selenium is part of an antioxidant system and helps the immune system be healthy.

Magnesium builds strong bones and helps the muscles release energy.

Check the Labels

Being brown in color does not mean a product contains whole grain! This can be caused by the addition of molasses or caramel coloring! Products labeled with phrases such as "multi-grain," "100% wheat," or "all-bran" frequently are not made with whole grain. Read the label carefully and follow these tips:

  • Ingredients are listed in order from most to least in terms of amount. So, watch for one of the first ingredients being whole grain or the name of a certain grain (whole wheat, brown rice, rye).

  • Look at the ingredient list for added sugars (corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, and molasses) and oils (partially hydrogenated vegetables oils) that add extra calories.

  • Look at the Nutrition Facts panel and choose products with 3 grams or more of dietary fiber and 3 grams or less of fat. 2.5 to 5 grams of fiber per portion means foods that are "good sources of fiber;" 5 or more grams per portion means "high-fiber" food.

Tips for Eating More Whole Grains

  • Add whole grains to casseroles and meatloaf.

  • Try brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, bulgur or barley as a side dish.

  • Use unsweetened whole-grain cereal as breading for baked foods, as croutons for salads, or as crackers with soup.

  • Substitute at least half of the amount of white flour for whole-wheat flour in recipes.

  • Try whole-grain bread, pitas, or tortillas.


United States Department of Agriculture, MyPlate Basics [Online].

United States Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and promotion. Dietary Guidelines for Americans [Online].



This document is FCS8917, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date August 2010. Reviewed with minor revisions August 2011. Visit the EDIS website at


Claudia Peñuela, EFNEP assistant in nutrition; Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences; University of Florida; Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.