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Grains better than expected


Are you getting enough grains?

According to the Wheat Foods Council, Americans say they're eating about three servings of bread and grain foods daily. The Food Guide Pyramid recommends six to 11 servings a day for better health, vim, vigor and vitality.

So, what's the hang-up?

Lots of people still believe that breads, grains and starches make you fat, so they avoid them. But here's the real skinny on grains. A serving of grains provides just 80 calories.

Those calories come mostly from carbohydrates, your body's favorite fuel. In addition, products made from enriched flour provide iron (for richer, energy-boosting blood), three B vitamins, and some soluble fiber that helps lower your cholesterol.

What a nutritional bargain!

But what exactly is a serving?

* 1 slice of bread

* 1/2 hot dog or hamburger bun

* 1/2 cup cooked pasta

* 1 small pita pocket

* 1/2 small bagel

* 1/2 cup cooked rice

* 1 corn or flour tortilla

* 1/2 English muffin

* 1/2 cup cooked barley

* 1 oz. cold cereal

* 1/2 cup cooked cereal

* 1/2 cup cooked bulgur

* 1/2 oz. crackers

That's not really very much. Check out the size of your cereal bowl, or measure the amount of pasta you usually eat. You may be closer than you think to 6-11 a day.

Maybe it's time to expand your repertoire, and get some grains in new and different ways.

For an easy, cool, carefree summer grain salad, try taboule. You'll find several brands right in the grocery store.

All you do is dump the contents of two inner packages (whole grain bulgur wheat and seasoning mixture) in a bowl, add a cup of cold water and a little olive oil and let it stand for 30 minutes while you get into comfortable clothes and check out the mail. Then add some chopped fresh tomatoes and lemon juice, and you're there.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant at the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

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