Trying to eat healthier? Read on.

Perri Ormont Blumberg
January 27, 2018
Image Source/Getty Images

New year, new recipes to try out! But for the millions of Americans vowing to eat healthier in 2018, navigating the grocery store aisles can be tough. One common problem? Decoding labels. 

But scanning labels for whole wheat pasta (and bread, too) is actually quite simple. In fact, here's the most important thing to know: The first word on the list of ingredients should be "whole." The full phrase may be "whole wheat flour" or "whole oats" but the word "whole" as the first word indicates the product is "predominately whole grain," according to the Whole Grains Council, which oversees the popular "Whole Grain Stamp," a handy aid that indicates a product's status as either 100% whole grain, 50%, or as containing at least a half serving of whole grains.

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"Eating whole grains is important because research has found that eating whole grains (as opposed to refined and processed grains) substantially lowers total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin levels. This is exactly why whole grains are known to help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes," says Rebecca Lewis, nutrionist for HelloFresh. "[Whole grains] are also full of fiber which keeps you full (and hunger cravings down). In fact, studies show that people who eat more whole-grain foods have a lower Body Mass Index and are less likely to gain weight over time." Lewis also stresses the importance of "whole" being the first word you see on an ingredient list. Products labeled with phrases like "multi-grain" "stone-ground" "seven-grain" and "100% wheat" may contain hardly any whole grains—if any at all.

With this handy rule in mind, now we can get back to our original question: What's for dinner?