Everyone knows we are supposed to be eating our grains whole, but it’s not as easy as it should be. You’d think it would be cheaper to get your grains whole, but no, we as a society are so into the white fluffy stuff that it’s now cheaper to get your grains stripped, refined, and then “enriched” than to just get it the way it originally comes. Not only does it cost more to get whole grains, but it’s often tricky. Bread companies are sneaky and do things like put coloring in bread and call it “wheat” (white bread is “wheat” too, just not whole wheat), hoping nobody will notice.
Here are some whole grains and how I use them to feed my family:
Wheat–When buying wheat products (breads, pasta), check the ingredients. Is the first ingredient whole wheat? Do the nutrition facts show that there are a few grams of fiber? (Go for 3 or more grams per serving.) Fortunately, with the push for more whole grains, whole grain pasta is becoming more common and thus more economical. You can buy several different shapes at Walmart for a buck a box.
In baking, I love using flour made from Whole White Wheat. It is quite light and I use it almost exclusively. Because grains start losing nutrients once they are ground, I grind my own wheat and keep it in the refrigerator until I’m ready to use it.
Rice–Like whole wheat, brown rice is the whole rice kernel. White rice is basically the starch of the grain without the vitamins or fiber of the hull and germ. Brown Rice takes longer to cook, so plan ahead. It’s more expensive, but hopefully it will pay off in the long run. I use it regularly as a side or in casseroles, Hawaiian Haystacks, and now burritos (since my teenagers are pushing me to be more like Chipotle.) Wild Rice is also a whole grain.
Corn–Whole Corn Meal is harder to come by. I had been buying regular corn meal at the store for years and only recently thought, “Hey! Degerminated? I’m not getting the whole kernel here, am I!?” I started reading their labels and asking health food store employees, and researching online and clearly, this grain has been neglected. It has more health benefits than its reputation admits, but how to get the whole grain? I found it at Whole Foods, but now it’s been discontinued, so clearly people are not using it enough! I gave in and got a little expensive bag of Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Corn (medium grind was the finest they had), but that seemed more coarse than I liked in our cornbread. I’m not going for the whole grain feel necessarily, just the nutrition benefits. I will have to keep looking.
The good news: popcorn is whole grain!
Oats–Oats can’t be separated easily from their bran and germ, so virtually everything with oats is whole grain. Hooray! (That’s why all those kids’ cold cereals that brag about being whole grain are whole grain–they are made of oats.) You can easily make your own oat flour by putting your own rolled oats in your blender. Then store in your refrigerator and use in any recipe that calls for white flour. Pancakes, muffins, rolls, cookies. You may want to experiment with your recipes first by replacing a quarter or half of the wheat or white flour with oat, as it does have different properties (oat flour is nice and soft, but doesn’t have the gluten wheat does to hold things together).
Check out the Whole Grain Council for info on all kinds of grains. They also put this stamp on whole grain products, which makes it easier to recognize what you’re looking for.
Good luck replacing your empty calories with whole grains, and let me know any great ideas you come up with!