Bulletin #4392, Eating for Health with MyPlate: Grains

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ChooseMyPlate.govPrepared by Extension Educator Kate Yerxa and Extension Specialist Leslie Forstadt, University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Reviewed by Extension Educators Alan Majka and Jane Conroy, University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

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Like most Americans, Mainers eat too much fat, sugar, sodium, and refined grains. These Eating for Health with MyPlate fact sheets can start you down the path to good health. Each one is about a different part of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate healthy eating guidelines. You can learn what each part is, why it’s important, and how it matters to you and to your family. The MyPlate food groups are Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Dairy, and Protein. This fact sheet explains the Dairy Group.

Which foods are in the Grains Group?

The Grains Group is made up of many different kinds of foods. These include breads, crackers, hot cereals, cold cereals, noodles, pasta, rice, tortillas, pancakes, and waffles.

How much of this food group should adults eat?

The amount of grains needed each day is different for everyone. The average adult needs about 2,000 calories a day. In a 2,000 calorie diet, you need a total of 6 ounces of grains a day. One ounce of grains is equal to one of the following:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 small tortilla (6-inch)
  • 1 cup ready to eat cereal (flakes or rounds)
  • 1 small muffin (2 1/2-inch)
  • 1/2 cup of cooked cereal
  • 5 whole wheat crackers, 7 round or square crackers
  • 1/2 cup of cooked pasta (1 ounce dry)
  • 1 small biscuit
  • 1/2 cup of cooked rice
  • 1 mini bagel (1 large bagel is equal to 4 ounces)
  • 3 cups of popped popcorn

Why grains?

Grains provide energy, fiber, and B vitamins. Half of your grain servings should be from whole grains.

What are whole grains?

Grain foods are made from the seeds of cereal grasses. Some more common grains are wheat, oats, rye, and rice. Often the seeds are ground into flour to make things like bread and pasta. Some seeds are used without grinding, like popcorn and rice.

Some grain foods are made from grain that has had the most healthful parts of the seeds removed. Whole grain foods still have the healthful parts of the entire grain kernel: the bran, germ, and endosperm.

At least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains. Eating whole grains can help reduce your risk of certain diseases. Whole grains can reduce constipation. They can also help you keep your weight down. Foods with labels that say “whole wheat” or “100% whole wheat” are good to eat. Other whole-grain foods include

  • whole-wheat flour;
  • whole- wheat,  or whole rye bread
  • whole-wheat pasta
  • whole-wheat or whole grain crackers;
  • oatmeal, and
  • brown rice.

Great ways to eat more grains

  • Try hot or cold whole-grain cereal for breakfast. A half cup of whole-grain hot cereal, like oatmeal, gives you 1 ounce of grains. Or, 1 cup of unsweetened whole-grain cold cereal gives you 1 ounce of grains.
  • For lunch, make a sandwich on whole-grain bread or a whole-wheat or whole-grain wrap. This gives you 2 ounces of grains.
  • Try serving pasta salad with dinner. Measure servings with a 1-cup measure for 2 ounces of grains. For a whole-grain option, use whole-wheat pasta.
  • Make your snacks whole grain. Try one of the following ideas:
    • Whole-wheat crackers and cheese
    • Trail mix with whole-grain cereal mixed in
    • A small muffin made with whole wheat flour

Kids and grains

Your children can help bring whole-grain foods to your table.

  • Kids can help make rice or pasta. Just be sure to keep them away from the hot water. An adult can pour the water into the pan, and heat it on the stove. The child can fill a measuring cup with rice or pasta. Then the child can pour the rice or pasta into a bowl. The adult can empty the bowl into the boiling water.
  • Children enjoy spreading toppings like peanut butter, jam, butter, or mustard onto bread or crackers. Have older children cut sandwiches into halves and quarters. Talk about the fractions. Four little squares or triangles make a whole sandwich!
  • Roll out pizza dough. Have your child use a cookie cutter to cut it into shapes. Put on sauce and a little low-fat cheese. Add cut-up vegetables like green or orange pepper, olives, or broccoli. Follow the baking directions on the dough package. You can make personalized pizzas for everyone in the house.
  • Children can be grain detectives at the store! When shopping for bread, have your children help to find bread that has “whole wheat” as the first ingredient.

How to build a healthy plate

Balance calories

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.

Eat more of . . .

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Make half your grains whole.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

Eat less of . . .

  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals. Choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.


U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. MyPlate website. 2021. https://www.myplate.gov



Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

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