Think of food for your body like gas for a car. That's how Linda Bartholomay explains healthy food choices. She works for Sanford Health in Fargo, N.D. She helps kids learn to eat healthfully. What happens "if you fuel your body with potato chips and snack cakes all the time?" she asks. "You're not going to go very well."
Your body runs best when you give it quality fuel. The trick is to know which foods rev your engine and which make you feel like a beat-up car.
One way to feel well-fueled is to pick whole grains. How do you know which foods are whole grains or have whole grains in them? You can look on a food's ingredient list. Look for the word "whole" high on the ingredient list. Examples are "whole wheat" or "whole oats."
Want another super-easy way? Look for the Whole Grains Council stamp.
The Whole Grains Council stamp is a yellow rectangle, like the picture above. It has ragged edges like a stamp. And it has a picture of a wheat stalk with the words "Whole Grain" on it. The stamp is found on some bread, cereal, and cracker packages. You usually see it on the package near the nutrition facts box.
Foods that have the stamp must have at least a half-serving of the whole grains you need in a day. (Your body needs 3 to 6 ounces of whole grains every day.) Whole grains have nutrients that keep your heart and body strong.
Foods with whole grains also have fiber. Fiber keeps you feeling full longer. So when you eat foods with whole grains you won't be hungry an hour after you eat, explains Sarah Hampl, MD. She is medical director at Children's Mercy Hospitals in Kansas City, Mo. She works with a program called Promoting Health in Teens and Kids.
Now go look in your pantry and see what you can find. Do any of your crackers, breads, or cereals have the whole grains stamp? Or do they have a whole grain like "whole wheat" or "whole oats" listed in the ingredients?
Next time you're at the grocery store, do some investigating. See how many items you can find with the stamp or "whole" listed in the ingredients. If something looks tasty, ask your parents if maybe they'll add it to the cart!