Tara Gidus

Whole Grains For Runners

With the month of September in the books, the road races are back up to speed and it is officially “National Whole Grains Month.” But what exactly is a whole grain? For a product to be considered as whole grain, 100% of the original kernel – with the bran, endosperm and germ – must be intact.


We see ‘whole wheat’ and ‘whole grain’ labeling in the bread aisle and athletes often ask me what is the best choice. The truth is, they are both great runner fuel. ‘Whole grain’ refers to the entire grain family such as wheat, oat, rye, corn, millet, quinoa, etc. The product might be labeled whole grain if it has a blend of different grains. ‘Whole wheat’ refers to the specific grain, wheat, and that the wheat grains are intact. To ensure the most whole grains, choose 100% whole grain or 100% whole wheat products since these confirm that all of the grains in the product are whole and it’s free of refined grains.


It is recommended that all adults eat at least half their grains as whole grains – that's at least 3 to 5 servings of whole grains per day or at least 48 grams of whole grains daily. Whole grains have been shown to lower diabetes risk, reduce inflammation, and have a greater fiber content than refined grains. Here’s a sneak peek of how to incorporate whole grains into your daily routine.


  • Oats. Start heating up your oatmeal in the morning to increase your protein and complex carbohydrates all while lowering your LDL “bad” cholesterol. Choose plain steel-cut oats, old-fashioned oats or rolled oats as they have the entire oat kernel with no added sugar that’s sure to satisfy. You can sprinkle oats on yogurt, smoothies and even mixed with breakfast muffins!


  • Bread. Consuming whole grain bread is one of my favorite ways to get my recommended daily allowance of 48 grams because the slices are packed with them. If you’re looking for a lighter option, try out sandwich thins as a great alternative with only 100 calories.


  • Popcorn. Corn is a whole grain. Thus, popcorn = healthy, without greasy butter, that is. Air-pop 1-2 cups of your own corn kernels and dash with some Parmesan cheese for a little flavor as a go-to afternoon snack. When looking for corn kernels, steer away from labels with “degerminated” because the entire germ of the kernel has been removed!

  • Brown or Colored Rice.  White rice is refined, where the germ and bran are removed so opt for brown rice or any other colored rice like red, black or wild rice. Pair rice as a side dish or mix it into a veggie stir-fry one night. Cooked brown rice can even be stored in the freezer for several months so it’s easy to warm it up for a quick dinner with the family.


Do you get enough whole grains in your diet? Tweet me@DietDivaTara to share your special recipes or snacks that are packed with whole-grain goodness.

Known as the "Diet Diva," Tara Gidus is a nationally acclaimed nutrition expert and the official nutritionist of runDisney.