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MHC for Seniors: Whole Grains


February 10, 2021 - Author: Erin Powell

Making Healthy Choices for Seniors: Week 5

Whole grains

In general, grains are the seeds that you can eat of cereal crops such as wheat, barley, oats and corn. As you can tell from the name, “whole” grains still have all of the grain kernel. This means that all of the grain’s nutrients are still there.

Whole grains can be cooked, cracked, crushed and rolled without losing their nutritional value. When whole grains are milled, the process removes the bran and the germ, which are parts of the kernel. Milling creates “refined” grains such as white flour and white rice. Refined grains lack many of the nutrients, such as iron and fiber that whole grains have.

Daily grain recommendations for older adults

Men 5.5 ounces
Women 5 ounces

Go for whole grains

The grain food group includes whole and refined grains, whole-grain products and refined-grain products. Foods such as bread, pasta, tortillas and cornbread can all be made with whole grains or refined grains. Because a whole-grain product is made using whole grains, it will have more nutrients than if the same product was made using refined grains. When making healthy choices from the grain food group, choose whole grains and whole-grain products more often than refined grains and refined-grain products.

The recommendations for this food group are in ounce-equivalents. Think of an ounce-equivalent as one serving. Serving sizes are not the same for all types of foods because different foods contain different amounts of nutrients. (For more information on what equals an ounce-equivalent, visit

For example, one slice of whole-wheat bread is one serving, but one serving of oatmeal is ½ cup. With this in
mind, meeting a daily recommendation of five servings could look like this:

1 cup of oatmeal, 1 (6-inch) whole-wheat tortilla, ½ cup of
cooked brown rice, 3 cups of cooked popcorn
1 cup cereal, 2 pieces of whole-wheat bread,
1 cup of cooked whole-wheat pasta

Did you know?

You can find out if a product is made from whole grains by reading the ingredients list. Look for 100% whole grains to be the first or second ingredient. If you see the words “enriched” or “refined” next to the grain, then it is not a whole grain. Look for the Whole Grains Council stamp to help you find whole-grain products.

Weekly Recipe

Remember to wash your hands and prepare food safely.

Overnight Oatmeal (serves 1)

  1. Put ½ cup of rolled oats in a sealable container. Cover with enough water so that all the oats are covered.
  2. Seal container with a lid or plastic wrap, and place in the fridge overnight.
  3. In the morning, drain away any extra water.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt (try low-fat!) and stir.
  5. Top with fruit such as blue-berries or strawberries and try adding a
    few nuts like almonds.
  6. Also consider adding a pinch of spice, such as cinnamon and nutmeg.


MSU Extension programming

Michigan State University Extension helps people improve their lives by bringing the vast knowledge and resources of MSU directly to individuals, communities and businesses.

To help you be healthy at every stage of life, MSU Extension delivers affordable, relevant, evidence-based education to serve the needs of adults, youth and families in urban and rural communities. Programs focus on helping you gain the skills you need to buy and prepare nutritious, budget-friendly foods, increase your physical activity and stretch your food dollars.

MSU Extension’s children and youth programs address needs and issues from birth through age 19, providing parents with educational resources related to your child’s development and giving youth the opportunity through 4-H programs to build leadership and teach practical life skills.
With a presence in every Michigan county, Extension faculty and staff members provide tools to live and work better. From a personal meeting to information online, MSU Extension educators work every day to provide the most current information when people need it to ensure success – in the workplace, at home and in the community.

For more information or to join a class, visit To find your local county office, visit


Adapted by Krystal Avila, Heather Dyer, Ashly Nelson, Yolanda ThrashAmanda Huletand Karen Barbash from the original family newsletter set developed by Erin E. Powell, MS, RDN; Tom Cummins; Elizabeth Dorman and Denise Aungst, MS; for MSU Extension. Based on a concept created by Denise Aungst and Layne Schlicher for MSU Extension. Originals were produced by ANR Creative for MSU Extension. Adaptations for the senior series were produced by the MSU Extension Educational Materials Team.

This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP.


Tags: food, food & health, making healthy choices, mhc senior newsletter, nutrition, snap-ed, supplemental nutrition assistance program (snap-ed)

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