Project EAT highlights gaps in whole grain intake

by Eric Schroeder
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MINNEAPOLIS — A new study released by researchers from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota has found several factors — including home availability and preference for taste — are holding back consumption of whole grain products by teenagers and young adults.

The research, published in the February issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, examined written responses from 792 adolescents and 1,686 young adults who participated in Project EAT (Eating Among Teens) – II, a population-based study designed to examine determinants of dietary intake and weight status among young people.

The researchers examined the influencers, modifiable factors and interventions that may be critical to addressing the gap between the recommended daily servings of whole grains — 3 — and actual consumption of whole grains by young people — 1.

What the researchers found was that several factors, across many eating occasions, may be to blame for the lack of whole grain consumption.

“The findings of this study indicate that interventions designed to promote improvements in whole grain intake should address confidence to consume whole grains, taste preferences for whole grain products, and the availability of these foods in settings where youth frequently eat meals (schools, home, restaurants),” the researchers, led by Nicole I. Larson, research associate with the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, wrote in the JADA article. “Nutrition interventions should provide opportunities to taste a variety of whole grain foods, including newly developed products such as white whole wheat bread. Recent national data from the third School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study suggest there is a great opportunity for improving the availability of whole grains in schools as only 5% of school lunch menus were found to include whole grain breads or rolls.

“To improve the availability of whole grain breads and other products at home, parents as well as youth may need to be provided additional tools to help them identify and prepare whole grain products. The observation of an inverse relationship between fast-food intake and whole grain intake further suggests there is a need to improve the availability of whole grain products in restaurants. While a growing number of restaurants serve some whole grain products, many restaurants offer only a limited number of options.”

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