Is It Really Whole Grain Check the Label

  • Does the package claim link whole grains to a reduced risk for heart disease or some cancers? If so, the food must contain at least 51 percent whole grain by weight and meet specific levels for fat, cholesterol, and sodium. A new FDA labeling guideline: a "whole-grain food" must contain the bran, endosperm, and germ in natural proportions.
  • Is the first ingredient on the ingredient list whole grain? That's the ingredient in the greatest amount. That said, even if a refined grain is listed first, the sum of several whole grains listed next add up. To address this issue, the package may have a voluntary Whole Grain Stamp sponsored by the Whole Grain Council, indicating whether one label serving of the food contains at least 8 grams of whole grain. To meet MyPyramid advice, you'd need to eat at least 48 grams of whole grain daily. Some food companies have their own whole-grain symbol, too.
  • Buy herbs and spices in the amounts you need. Fresh herbs last in the refrigerator for only a short time. Dry herbs can be stored for up to a year to retain their peak flavors. Tip: Ethnic food stores often sell herbs and spices in bulk at lower prices.
  • Know that seasoned salts are high in sodium. This includes garlic salt and onion salt. As an alternate, look for garlic powder and onion powder. To check the sodium content, read the Nutrition Facts.
  • Look for salt-free herb blends. Italian herb blend or herbs de Provence (typical in French cooking) take the guessing out of seasoning.
  • Be adventuresome—buy seasonings that may be new to you: perhaps sage for chicken soup, tarragon with peas, fresh ginger for sweet potatoes, or cumin in chili.
  • Try liquid smoke. It adds the smoky flavor of cured meat without the salt that's added during curing.

See "A Pinch of Flavor: How to Cook with Herbs and Spices " in chapter 13; check "Salty Terms " in chapter 7 for more about types of salt.

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