Dietitians at a number of retailers marked Whole Grains Month this year by introducing customers to new and enticing whole grain items.
Lynda Murray, registered dietitian at a Burlington, Iowa, unit of Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee, conducted a whole grains tour for pre-schoolers and showed them that even such goodies as cookies made in the in-store bakery can qualify as whole grain healthy items.
The children were accompanied by parents and, in some cases, grandparents.
“These kids were super tasters. Nobody made faces at anything, and they showed big interest in our fresh, oatmeal blueberry cookies, made with whole wheat flour,” Murray told SN. “Whole grain Quaker Oatmeal squares were favorites, too.”
Murray pointed out to them that, among other things, popcorn is also whole grain.
“They didn't know that. In fact, a lot of people don't realize popcorn is a whole grain and a good source of fiber.”
Murray took the occasion, too, to talk up healthy eating in general, handing out “Eat the Rainbow” baggies with fruits and vegetables of different colors, and coloring books depicting different fruits and vegetables.
At Bashas', registered dietitian Barbara Ruhs conducted a whole grains tour at one store for the participants in a local Biggest Losers weight-loss group.
“I let them choose products they thought were whole grain and high fiber, and then we talked about the product,” Ruhs said. “When we got over to the bakery, I asked them to pick up what they thought was the healthiest bread. Then we lined them up according to fiber content.”
The Biggest Losers were still in a competitive mood, and wanted to have chosen the healthiest product, Ruhs pointed out. They were competing against each other.
“During the tour, we looked for products with the whole grain stamp. Our in-store bakery offers many whole grain products. And our multi-grain, whole grain, whole wheat bread is the bakery's best seller,” she said.
Ruhs also said Bashas' lets customers know that hydrogenated oils are out. None are used in any of the Chandler, Ariz., chain's bakery products.
“We are the only grocer in town that bakes its own bread. Bashas' wants to help customers be as healthy as they can be,” she said.
Ruhs regularly conducts healthy-eating tours, and with urging from parents, she is planning a schedule of tours for kids for next year.
Ruhs said she got the idea when she was in undergraduate school in the East. “My advisor did kids' tours in Wegmans stores.”
At Hy-Vee this year, many of the chain's dietitians got into the swing of things for Whole Grain Month [September] with tours and cooking classes.
Carrie Nielsen, registered dietitian at an Omaha, Neb., unit of Hy-Vee, had a store tour planned for near the end of the month and Cathy Gehris, registered dietitian at an Iowa City Hy-Vee store, was planning to introduce a little known grain, quinoa, in a scheduled children's cooking class at the store.
“It's no wonder whole grain consumption has increased 20% since 2005,” said Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies for Oldways and the Whole Grains Council.
“More than 2,800 products now use the whole grain stamp.”
The Boston-based Whole Grains Council, in addition to naming September Whole Grains Month, initiates events throughout the year to raise awareness of whole grain products and their benefits.
“Each year, more retailers are participating with events of their own that call attention to whole grain products,” Harriman told SN last month.