Pantry Picks – Whole Wheat Bread

We are excited to announce a new feature on Spend Smart. Eat Smart. called Pantry Picks. Pantry Picks
provide tips on nutrition, storage, and preparation for foods that you might commonly find in your
pantry or cupboard. Each week this month, we are going to look at a different Pantry Pick. We hope you
learn some new ways to use these staple foods.

Today, I am going to introduce you to our first Pantry Pick – whole wheat bread. You can almost always
find a loaf of whole wheat bread in my pantry. Find out why I like whole wheat bread on my post from
last week. We usually use whole wheat bread for sandwiches and toast. If you or your family prefer
another type of bread for sandwiches and toast, fear not!. Here are some other great uses for whole
wheat bread:

Make sure to check out our new Pantry Picks section on our website for more information about whole
wheat bread. Next week Jody will be sharing about tortillas.


Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Top your Toast

Sandwiches with peanut butter and fruits isolated on white background.

It’s September and that means back to school. It can be hard to come up with new healthy options but we have some ideas for you! Whole wheat toast is hearty and healthy and it can be turned into a filling snack or breakfast with some fun toppings. Remember whole grain products pack a nutrient punch and keep you feeling fuller longer, check your label for 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain.

Play around with our system below to make tasty toasts part of a fun back to school routine.

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Toast a piece of 100%
whole wheat bread

Add a spread

  • Peanut butter
  • Mashed avocado
  • Hummus
  • Cream cheese

Add a fruit or veggie

  • Sliced apple
  • Strawberries
  • Banana
  • Raspberries
  • Sliced tomato
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Sliced bell pepper

Make it your own!

  • Cinnamon
  • Chopped nuts
  • Hot sauce
  • Herbs
  • Cooked egg
  • Seeds

Dive in


Here are some of our favorite toast combos.

  • Peanut butter, sliced strawberries and chopped peanuts
  • Mashed avocado, cooked egg, dash of hot sauce
  • Cream cheese, sliced cucumber and sliced tomato
  • Hummus, sliced bell pepper and a bit of cilantro

Happy Snacking!
Kelly Verburgt and Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Oatmeal for Breakfast – A New Way!

Banana Oatmeal Bread WebIn the winter months, I crave a hot bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. I love to sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar, chopped nuts, and sliced bananas. But in the summer, I rarely want a hot breakfast. I like to have something on hand that the children and I can eat quickly so we can get outside and enjoy the day before it gets too hot.

If I have the oven going for supper, I will make up a quick bread or some muffins for breakfast the next morning. This saves on energy costs because I only have to heat the oven up once and I get two meals (or four meals if I plan for leftovers). I feel like it also saves me time because it frees up my mornings to enjoy some time with my children.

Our Banana Oatmeal Bread is a great way to combine my love of oatmeal with my desire for a quick and easy breakfast. The oatmeal in this recipe is a whole grain, which provides fiber to our bodies. Eating enough fiber can help us feel full, ease constipation, and prevent diseases such as heart disease and some cancers. That is a pretty impressive list! I hope you try out this recipe for breakfast this summer.


Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Is Corn a Whole Grain?

corn blog 2

I’ve been asked recently by a few people if corn is a whole grain. According to the Whole Grains Council, fresh corn is usually classified as a vegetable and dried corn (including popcorn) as a grain.

Corn is a whole grain if the bran, germ, and endosperm are all left intact, just like whole wheat. If the corn is milled or degermed to remove the bran and germ, then it is a refined grain.

corn blog

When buying products made with corn, such as corn tortillas, taco shells, or cornmeal, be sure to look for words in the ingredient list like ‘whole corn’ or ‘whole grain corn’ to identify that it is a whole grain. Another way to identify whole grains is to look for the whole grain stamp that was created by the Whole Grains Council and is found on many whole grain products. Some products may also have their own symbol identifying the product is made from a whole grain. However, it is always best to look at the ingredient list to be sure the product is made from a whole grain and that it is the first or one of the first couple ingredients in the product.

Some products might say ‘limed whole grain corn’ or ‘limed corn’ in the ingredient list. Limed corn is corn that has been soaked in limewater as part of the process in preparing it to be used for food preparation. Some benefits of limed corn are that it is more easily ground, the flavor and aroma are improved, and the food safety of the corn is improved. Limed corn can be a whole grain or refined grain so it is still important to look for products made from whole grain corn.

Popcorn is also a whole grain and is a healthy snack, as long as it isn’t covered in butter and salt!

Jodi Signature

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Whole Grain Bread…The Basics

Half the grain products we eat are supposed to be whole grain. We aren’t there yet, but according to a July study about 55% of us have switched from white bread to whole grain bread.

Whole grains aren’t limited to bread. There are whole grain pastas and brown rice on grocery shelves too. And products made with whole grains such as oats, popcorn, brown and wild rice, buckwheat (or kasha) and cracked wheat (also called bulgur) as the first ingredient carry the “whole-grain” label.

Grains such as quinoa, whole cornmeal (yellow or white), whole barley, whole rye, amaranth, millet, spelt and triticale are less common, but are also whole grains.

breadWhy are we eating more whole grains? Maybe consumers are becoming more aware that whole grains help reduce the risk of bowel disorders, some cancers, heart disease (by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol), stroke and type 2 diabetes. Maybe it is because we like the taste and texture.

Bread is still a staple in our diets. Whole grain bread can cost $3.50 to $4.00 a loaf at the supermarket.  At the day old store I found whole grain bread for $1.00 to $2.00 a loaf. If you have a day-old bread store nearby and have a freezer, it’s worth a trip to stock up.

Check for clues on the label!

Be sure the bread you buy is whole grain and not just brown. Look for the “Whole Grain” stamp or choose foods that name one of the following whole-grain ingredients FIRST on the label’s ingredient list: whole grain stamp

  • brown rice
  • bulgur
  • graham flour
  • oatmeal
  • whole-grain corn
  • whole oats
  • whole rye
  • whole wheat
  • wild rice.

If you see these words listed as the first ingredient, that’s your tip that it is NOT a whole grain product: wheat flour; enriched; multigrain; 100% wheat; stone ground; cracked wheat; seven-grain; bran.

Cheesy Pasta with Summer Veggies

Our yummy Cheesy Pasta with Summer Veggies recipe is filled with vegetables, whole grain, and is low in calories.  Plus it is very versatile, so you can use any vegetable that you have on hand.  In the summer I make it with garden vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, peppers, carrots and fresh tomatoes.  In the winter I use a frozen vegetable mix and drained, canned tomatoes.   If I have some leftover meat or beans in the refrigerator, I add that along with the vegetables.


Notice the pasta we use is whole wheat.   In the past few years the quality of whole grain pastas has increased and is now quite good.  Whole grain pastas take a little longer to cook and the texture is a little different, but the nutritional improvement is definitely worth it.  Check out the great nutritional value you get from the 250 calories in this recipe.

Cheesy Pasta with Summer Veggies

Serves: 6
Serving Size: 1 ½ cups
Per Serving: $1.07


  • 4 cups sliced, assorted vegetables (zucchini, broccoli, peas)
  • 1 cup grape or fresh tomatoes, chopped and seeds removed
  • 8 ounces whole-wheat pasta (rotini, bow tie, penne)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped (about 1/2 medium onion)
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Wash and prepare vegetables.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain water from cooked pasta and save 1/4 cup of water.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet as pasta cooks. Add garlic and onion to skillet. Sauté over medium heat about 1-2 minutes or until soft.
  4. Add any uncooked hard vegetables and cook for 3 minutes. Add soft vegetables and continue to cook. Add Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Add tomatoes last and cook until warm.
  5. Add cooked drained pasta to the vegetables. Add a little of the water from the pasta if needed.
  6. Add cheeses to mixture. Stir until cheese is mostly melted.
  7. Serve immediately.

5 Minute Meal Makeovers

Have you ever started out your week with the best intentions of eating healthier but had the realities of life get in the way? If setting and maintaining healthy habits was simple, we would not struggle with it so much. The realities of limited time, picky eaters and tight budgets create challenges for all of us. Why not build healthy meals around these challenges? Click the links below to find healthy meal makeovers for family favorites that take no more than 5 minutes and a dollar or two.

Download all three makeovers

Christine Hradek, MPH
Social Marketing Coordinator
Iowa Department of Public Health

Healthy Homemade Gift

Are you searching for a healthy gift for a senior, camper, traveler, college student? Consider Crispy Granola, our featured recipe this month. It’s a good snack or breakfast cereal, and makes a great topping for fruit, yogurt, or  ice cream.

Unlike most granolas, this one has no added fat and only about 1 tablespoon of honey per serving. Oatmeal is a whole grain and provides soluble fiber (helpful in lowering blood cholesterol levels). The dried cranberries and nuts add fruit and flavor.

I use old fashioned oats when I make this granola, but any oatmeal will work. I often double or triple the recipe and freeze some of it in freezer containers. If you are making gifts, be sure to package granola in a plastic bag or something airtight before you put it inside a holiday tin or box.

Crispy Granola


  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Dash salt
  • 3 cups uncooked rolled oats
  • Optional: 1/2 cup chopped pecans or other nuts 1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries, or other dried fruit.
    *Either old fashioned or quick cooking oats work – both are whole grains.


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray a large shallow baking pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Put egg whites in large bowl and use a whisk or fork to mix until frothy. Stir in honey, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt.
  3. Add oats plus nuts and/or dried fruit, if desired. Stir until oats are coated with egg mixture. Spread oat mixture evenly on prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake about 25 to 30 minutes until golden borwn; stir mixture carefully every 5 or 6 minutes to prevent overbrowning.
  5. Remove pan to wire rack and cool completely until crispy and crunchy. Store in airtight container. Freezes well.

Snack Idea: Crispy granola, Yogurt, Sliced fruit or berries

Cereal Cost Comparison

I usually have ready-to-eat cereal for breakfast. In fact, my family eats a lot of cereal. We not only have it for breakfast but also for between meal snacks, bedtime snacks and when we are really lazy, we eat it for supper. Over the years it has been my most common response to my children’s complaint of “I’m hungry, what’s to eat around here?”

I’ve always considered cereal to be an economical choice, but cereal prices have been going up, so I thought I’d actually check and see what a bowl of cereal costs. I checked prices on whole grain oat cereal. (I usually try to eat whole grain cereal for breakfast—it’s the main way I meet the recommendation to eat some whole grains every day.)

Here’s what I found out:

Name brand toasted

oat cereal (little rings)

$3.12 for 18-ounce box = 18 cups

$.17 per cup

$2.78 for 14-ounce box = 14 cups

$.20 per cup

Generic/store brand toasted oat cereal

$1.58 for 14-ounce box = 14 cups

$.11 per cup

I don’t like spending over $3.00 for a box of cereal, but in this case, the larger 18-ounce box is less expensive per cup, so worth forking out the money. The generic brand is the best deal at 11 cents per cup. Unfortunately, my family only likes the name brand of this particular cereal.  (Yes, I’ve tried putting the off brand in the name brand box—it didn’t work!)

What about oatmeal? It is also a whole grain cereal and a favorite of my 15-year-old son. The larger containers of oatmeal are 42 ounces and they make 31 one-cup servings of cooked oatmeal.

Here’s the cost breakdown:

Name brand oatmeal

$2.98 for 31 servings

$.096 per 1 cup cooked

Generic/store brand oatmeal

$2.24 for 31 servings

$.07 per 1 cup cooked

So, cooked oatmeal is about 7–10 cents per 1 cup bowl, an even better deal than the ready to eat cereal.  (Fortunately my family is fine with the off brand oatmeal!)

Lastly, I decided to look at prices of the instant oatmeal that comes in the individual packets:

Name brand oatmeal packets

$2.86 for 10 packets

$.286 per packet

Generic/store brand oatmeal packets

$2.00 for 10 packets

$.20 per packet

Note that the packets only make ½ cup of cooked oatmeal. (Check out our recipe for Make Your Own Instant Oatmeal Packets…kids love to make them and they will save you money.)

Even though prices have gone up, I still think cereal is a good deal. Oatmeal is the most economical choice, so I’m glad my family likes it.

-contributed by Renee Sweers

[Updated April 17, 2009
See also: Don’t be ‘trixed’ in the cereal aisle…]

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