News stories keep crossing our radar, piling on the evidence that whole grains are the new norm as we head into 2011.

Last week, for example, New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton named the 15 most memorable dishes he ate during 2010. Three of them featured pasta – a favorite here at Oldways – and one of those was whole wheat tonarelli with spicy cicerchie, rosemary, and shaved bonito at Del Posto, combining chickpeas with “a rich, toothsome pasta.” Pasta was one of the last forms of whole grain to win its way into the hearts of discerning diners, but now look at the positive attributes it garners, in the hands of a good chef.  Whole grain pasta? Sure, it’s normal.

Earlier in December, the U.S. Army’s Soldier Fueling Initiative was in the news. It seems that military leaders have discovered (!) that troops perform their best when they eat high quality, nutrient dense food instead of junk.  As reported in an earlier article in the Army Times, the Army “no longer ‘feeds’ but rather ‘fuels’ the soldier. The goal is to train the soldier to eat and drink healthier items that not only prepare him for strenuous physical activity, but also fuel him throughout the endeavor and aid in his recovery afterward.” A successful pilot program at five Army installations has now lead to a roll-out at hundreds of bases, where soda machines are being replaced by milk and juice, sweet desserts are giving way to fruit – and white bread and white pasta are disappearing, in favor of whole grain options.

Items like these shouldn’t surprise us. Back in July, Nielsen data showed that wheat bread sales had, for the first time, surpassed white bread sales. Sure, the definition of “wheat bread” was a bit loosey-goosey, so we can’t be sure Nielsen only counted products that would qualify for the Whole Grain Stamp. But nonetheless, these data indicate that most consumers are seeking out something other than plain white bread.

We’re going into 2011 with great momentum for whole grains. That’s why our next whole grains conference, at the end of this month in Portland, OR, will be titled Whole Grains: the New Norm. Hope we’ll see you there! (Cindy)

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