How To Add Whole Grains To Your Meals
"Whole grains have more protein, fiber, and antioxidants than refined grains. So they keep you feeling fuller longer, help you build muscle, improve your digestion, reduce your risk of heart disease, and lower your cholesterol."
If you’re thinking of transitioning into a healthier lifestyle by improving your diet, then you should probably consider adding more whole grains to your meals. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends making at least half of your grains whole. Refined grains like white flour and white rice should be replaced with whole grains like oatmeal, 100% whole-grain breads, and brown rice.
Grains are a simple way to fuel your daily routine, as they’re a good source of energy. But whole grains have more protein, fiber, and antioxidants than refined grains. So they keep you feeling fuller longer, help you build muscle, improve your digestion, reduce your risk of heart disease, and lower your cholesterol.
Convinced? Here’s how you can start incorporating whole grains to your everyday meals.
Don’t be fooled
You’ve probably seen, and maybe, occasionally bought breads labeled “nine-grain,” “multi-grain” or “wheat.” Don’t be fooled, they’re probably just white bread in disguise. And don’t be fooled by colors too. Brown flour doesn't make the bread whole-wheat, and white may not mean that the bread’s made with just refined white flour. Make sure to check the ingredient list if it starts with “whole” grain, such as whole-wheat flour. Always look for 100% “whole” grain breads.
So you’ve decided to replace your white bread with whole-wheat for your PBJs. Well, you don’t stop there. There are many other whole grains to try and fill your daily preparations. Start with more common ones like oatmeal, popcorn (instead of chips!), and brown rice. Good Housekeeping has a good list you can easily kick off with. Eventually, you move to the more exotic ones like sorghum (which can be served like rice or popped like corn), quinoa, barley, and more. Just keep trying new ones that work well with your taste.
Don’t Give Up
Not all people who decide to try whole grains will immediately like them. If you’re one of them, and you didn’t like your first, say, whole-wheat pasta, don’t give up right away. Go back to the common whole grains, look for what works with your taste, and stick to that first. Or you can start slow, say, 50% refined and 50% whole grains. Then again, it could just be a brand issue. So, just keep trying other brands.
Save Time, Cook More
Once you get the hang of making whole grains a part of your day, why not save time and energy, and make some for an entire week? Many health and fitness enthusiasts like prepping their healthy meals during the weekend so they can just take them anytime and heat them easily wherever they go. It’s pretty easy to batch-cook your whole grains with your trusty rice cooker. Just cook up a large pot of brown rice or quinoa, and store what you can’t eat that day in the refrigerator to heat up and eat for the rest of the week ahead.
Unless you plan to repurpose it for fried rice or a quick pudding, the key to enjoying soft, fluffy rice a second time around is knowing the right way to reheat it. Just break up the clumps with a fork and add a splash of water, before reheating in a microwave, steaming in a saucepan, or even baking in an oven. Just make sure to divide your weeklong batch into different containers so you can reheat each one only once.
Mix and Match
Take the experimenting up a notch, and start mix-and-matching. Pair cooked quinoa with a veggie salad. Make sushi using brown rice. Or cook up crunchy whole-grain cereal in your wok (great for post-workouts, as recommended by Kate Taylor!). Where’s the fun in cooking if you don’t mix things up? And it’s much better if you keep it healthy with whole grains.
Written By: Jennifer Birch
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