Our Focus Areas

HE-11: Feeling Fibrous

HE-11: Feeling Fibrous

TIME: 20 minutes
SUMMARY: Children will compare a whole grain and refined grain as part of a snack.


Grains in their whole form are a healthier choice, yet most grain foods we eat are refined, meaning that fiber and other important nutrients have been removed.


  • Crackers made with refined white flour (for example Saltines, one for each child)
  • Crackers made with 100% whole grain flour (for example Wasa bread, ak-mak, or some other whole grain cracker, one for each child)
  • Plastic sandwich bags, two for each child
  • Magnifiers optional
  • Water
  • What are Whole Grains? sheet (provided)


Please be sure to have all those involved in the activity properly wash their hands.

If a new food is being consumed, please make caregivers aware and receive permission before doing this activity.

  1. At least one hour before doing this activity, put one cracker in each bag so each student will have one Saltine in one bag and one Wasa in another bag.
  2. Put three to four tablespoons of water in each bag and let the crackers soak for at least an hour prior to this activity. Seal the bags so they won’t leak.
  3. Review the function and parts of a grain (See Key Talking Points below).
  4. GGive each child a soaked refined cracker (Saltine). Have them squish it to feel how soft it is. Have them look carefully at the squished cracker and ask: “What do you notice?” (Examples: squishy, white, loses its shape, etc.)
  5. Give each child a soaked whole grain cracker (Wasa). Have them mash it up and ask: “What difference do you notice?” (Examples: color, grainy texture, etc.)
  6. Explain that the different texture is because of the grain’s seed coat and germ, which is where the fiber (nature’s broom) and nutrients are in grains. This is the part that’s been removed to make the Saltine.
  7. Handout and discuss the What are Whole Grains? sheet.
    (For Grades 3-5):
  8. Look at the labels from these crackers. Look at fiber content, %DV, grams of nutrients, and ingredients (see Key Talking Points below). You may also want to hand out and discuss the Family Tip Sheet TS-4: Great Grains.
    (all ages)
  9. Wash hands.
  10. Now make a snack with each kind of cracker. Add cheese, or peanut butter and raisins, etc.
  11. CCompare the taste of the crackers. (This is a good opportunity to do the Tasting Chart.) Do the crackers taste different?


  1. Grains are the largest part of a healthy diet.
  2. Whole grains are grains that have all the parts of the grain or seed. Refined grains have had parts of the grain or seed removed, meaning that some of the nutrients have also been removed.
  3. For grades 3-5 activity, %DV stands for Percent Daily Value. This is the amount of that nutrient that should be included in a healthy diet for an average size person. A whole grain food should contain at least 5% DV of Dietary Fiber as listed on the Nutrition Facts panel.


  1. Identify the difference between refined and whole grain crackers.
  2. Recognize the importance of whole grains for their higher fiber, vitamin and mineral content than refined grains (Grades 3-5).


  1. Challenge students to eat at least one whole grain product at home, and try to bring in the label.
  2. Make a collage of whole grain labels, or a bulletin board.
  3. Do activity MM-8: Are They Whole Grains?
  4. Send home Family Outreach Tip Sheet TS-4 Great Grains. This sheet explains the healthful aspects of eating whole grains, how to read nutrition information to figure out if a food contains whole grains, and gives some hints of how to get children to eat and try whole grain foods.

SOURCE: Boston Medical Center, Nutrition and Fitness for Life Program, 2010.

What are Whole Grains?

What exactly is a “whole grain”?

Whole grain foods contain all three parts of the grain: the bran, the endosperm and the germ. Each part of the grain is healthful, but eating the entire grain allows all three parts to work together. Whole grains provide energy for daily activities and can reduce the risk of developing many major diseases.

When all three parts of the grain are present in processed foods, they are considered whole grain. Other examples of common types of whole grains include:

How do you find whole grains in food products?

There are a few simple steps you can take when trying to find whole grain foods.

  1. Look for the words “whole grain” or “100% whole wheat” in large letters on the food package.
  2. Look for the list of ingredients on the package. Look for the word “whole” in front of a grain to be listed first on the ingredient list (for example: “whole wheat”).

Why are whole grains important?

Whole grains provide your body with the nutrients you need to stay fit! Whole grain foods are rich in fiber. Fiber helps to keep our bodies well by reducing our risk of heart disease and helping us maintain a healthy weight. Whole grains are rich in special chemicals that help prevent cancer. They also provide carbohydrate, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals for overall health and energy.