Study sees benefits to gradual whole grain intake

by Eric Schroeder
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MINNEAPOLIS — A new study from the University of Minnesota suggests that elementary school students will eat more whole grains when healthier bread products are gradually introduced into their school lunches.

The study, which was conducted over the course of a school year, involved incrementally adding whole grain flour to products fed to kindergartners through sixth graders at two elementary schools in Hopkins, Minn.

As part of the study, whole red and white wheat flour content of buns and rolls served twice weekly was increased from 0% to 91% in 16 and 7 incremental levels, respectively, over the school year. Red wheat products were served in one school and white wheat products in the other, with plate waste methods used on a whole school basis to estimate consumption. The bread products were baked by Great Northern Bakery, Minneapolis.

Researchers found that students did not throw away more bread products until the percentage of whole grain flour in the bread and rolls reached about 70% (72% level for red, 67.5% level for white wheat), a finding that Len Marquart said suggests a gradual approach to improving children’s overall diets may be successful for both parents and school food service workers. Mr. Marquart is an associate professor at the University of Minnesota and was one of the study’s authors.

"As the content of whole wheat flour was gradually increased in bread products over the course of the school year, the mean grams of whole grain consumed per child increased from 0 to 12.9 grams and 10.7 grams for red and white wheat products, respectively," the researchers said. "These results indicated that whole grain consumption per child met almost one full serving of whole grain according to the school food service requirement."

Although noting that additional research is needed to assess the influence of taste masking by accompanying food items, the researchers concluded that whole grain bread products for school meals may be more acceptable with a total whole grain flour content approaching 75% than an approach to serve bread products made with 100% whole wheat flour.

Full details of the study are available on-line in the fall 2008 issue of the Journal of Child Nutrition and Management (www.schoolnutrition.org).

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