Brown is Beautiful
What’s all the hubbub about whole grains anyway? The “whole grain” is the seed or kernel of a plant in its complete form. Grains have three parts: the endosperm which contains starch and protein, the bran – rich in fiber, minerals, and phytonutrients, and the germ – full of B vitamins, vitamin E and other antioxidants and minerals.
“White” or refined grains like white flours and white rice are stripped of their most nutritious parts when they take away the bran and sometimes the germ. Also white processed breads and other bakery products can cause blood sugar spikes that bring on cravings because they turn to sugar faster in your system, while whole grains take longer to digest and turn into an even energy source through gradual digestion.
So how can you get more whole grains into your diet? It’s easier than ever before even if you don’t cook. It’s all about choice – and there are so many new, deliciously healthy whole grain products out there. So start swapping out the white stuff and get a whole lot healthier with whole grains!
Most people enjoy bread or grains as part of their breakfast routine. So just opt for whole grain choices like:
- Whole grain cold cereals, some of my favorites come from Nature’s Path.
- Whole grain bagels, English muffins, and waffles
- Whole grain pancakes, including buckwheat, whole wheat, and whole grain with buttermilk
- Granola and breakfast bars mixed with whole grains
Sandwiches are a lunch-time staple! It’s easy, have it on whole wheat next time. There are so many whole grain breads to choose from. If you are watching your carb intake, try whole wheat pita or low-carb whole grain pre-sliced breads. Going out for Japanese? Order the soba or udon noodles that are made from 100% buckwheat.
Dinner and Desserts
I’m a huge pasta fan, but I try to make it whole grain whenever possible. My two favorite brands are Barilla Plus and Farro Pasta by Rustichella d’Abruzzo because they are as soft and tender as white pasta.
Skip the take-out pizza and make your own with a store-bought whole wheat pizza shell that you can store in your freezer. Love your sweets? Bake your favorite cakes, cookies, and brownies with whole grain flours, like wheat and oat flour. Try my zucchini brownies with oat flour: http://skinnychef.com/recipes/chocolate-zucchini-brownies
Can’t help getting Chinese take-out tonight? Opt for steamed brown rice that’s chewy, satisfying, and full of fiber. Can’t avoid the breadbasket? Reach for the whole wheat roll. Having an upscale dining experience? Ask your waiter – I bet they have some whole grain choices on the menu like farro, quinoa, or black rice.
Getting Kids To Eat Whole Grains
Parents want their kids to eat healthy, but no one wants to hear “yuck” or “gross” when they put dinner on the table. Getting kids to eat whole grains is not hard when you start with things that kids know and already like. Try these easy swaps before trying something totally new.
Crazy for Couscous
Coucous is a tiny pasta that comes from Morroco and is also used in Southern French cuisine. Most parents report that their kids really love it, and coussous can be fluffy and light, and totally simple to prepare. You can add whole wheat couscous to your pantry for around $2 a box and the best part is that it looks like the white counterpart and doesn’t taste that much different.
Make the Swap that Matters
Swapping out white bread for whole grain might sound easy – but it’s the one swap that takes some simple nutrition know-how.
Sadly, a lot of so called “whole grain” products out there like breads, crackers, and cereal are made with a mixture of white flour, loads of preservatives and things like high fructose corn syrup. There are three easy ways to make sure your whole wheat bread is sound.
1 – First look at the ingredient list. The first ingredient should have the word “whole” in it like whole wheat, whole oats, whole spelt – the word “whole” plus the type of flour should be the only flour listed. Enriched wheat flour isn’t really 100% wheat – it’s wheat flour that has been partially stripped of bran and then had vitamins added back.
2 – Second look for preservatives Those may be words you don’t recognize, for example things like calcium propionate or sodium propionate. Next, if it has the whole grains councel stamp, then you know it’s make with real whole grains, but you should still check for preservatives. Quality whole grain bread is both soft and tasty for kids.
Sow Your Oats
People might not know that oatmeal is a whole grain. But start with a good brand of rolled oats or steel cut oats that don’t have added sugar or flavorings. Spruce up your morning oatmeal with ground flax – most kids will eat oatmeal, but why not make it even healthier by adding flax?
I’m a huge fan of short grain brown rice because its awesome chewiness works great in stir fries… the grains stick together nicely like white rice, and you can even reheat leftovers without the rice turning to mush. There is a trace amount of oil in all grains so to keep them from becoming rancid, I store all my whole grains (like brown rice) in the freezer until I’m ready to cook them.
Nifty and New
When trying new foods with kids, I always do it the way my granny used to. I make their favorite meal and just add one side of something new. I always take a bite myself so they can see that it’s something I enjoy as well – kids follow by example and learn what to eat from their parents and people around them.
Keen for Quinoa
Sometimes called a whole grain, quinoa is actually the seed grown in South America, but it’s a wonderful whole food that has the health properties of whole grains. Most kids like it because of its mild taste and creamy texture. It also has a fun shape kids love, like a curly q that makes eating fun. Cooking quinoa is as easy as cooking rice, only faster. Rinse it first, under cold water, to help remove a natural compound that can make it bitter. Some brands of quinoa are “pre-washed” so check the label before rinsing. Add a little olive oil, parmesan or just serve plain.
Berry Delicious Wheat Berries
Wheat berries (also called groats), look like short grain brown rice. They have a fabulous, almost “bouncy” tooth feel and make excellent risotto and cold salads. Though they can be a bit costly if you buy them in a health food store, they are really delicious and you can always hunt them down at bargains online.