The 2000 edition of Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans is the first to include a specific guideline for grain foods, separate from fruits and vegetables, and recognize the unique health benefits of whole grains. This paper describes and evaluates major tools for assessing intakes of total grains and whole grains, reviews current data on who consumes grain foods and where, and describes individual- and market-level factors that may influence grain consumption. Aggregate food supply data show that U.S. consumers have increased their intake of grain foods from record low levels in the 1970s, but consumption of whole-grain foods remains low. Data on individual intakes show that consumption of total grains was above the recommended 6 serving minimum in 1994-1996, but consumption of whole grains was only one third of the 3 daily servings many nutritionists recommend. Increased intake of whole-grain foods may be limited by a lack of consumer awareness of the health benefits of whole grains, difficulty in identifying whole-grain foods in the marketplace, higher prices for some whole-grain foods, consumer perceptions of inferior taste and palatability, and lack of familiarity with preparation methods. In July 1999, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized a health claim that should both make it easier for consumers to identify and select whole-grain foods and have a positive effect on the availability of these foods in the marketplace.