Eating More Whole Grains

Grains have gotten a bad reputation these days. While refined grains may contribute to weight gain and health problems, eating more whole grains can help you lose weight and reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer.

All grains started as whole grains with the whole part of the seed intact: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The bran contains antioxidants, B vitamins, and fiber; the germ contains B vitamins, some protein, minerals, and healthy fats; the endosperm contains carbohydrates, proteins, and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. Refined grains have the bran and germ removed, leaving only the endosperm. Because refined grains have part of the grain removed, they have fewer vitamins, minerals, and fiber than whole grains.Two hands full of grain

Examples of whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, oats, buckwheat, whole grain corn, farro, millet, sorghum, and spelt. Packaged foods made with 100% whole grains usually list the whole grain they’re made with at the beginning of their ingredient label. Just because a product like bread is brown instead of white doesn’t mean it’s 100% whole grain. For example, “multigrain” or “wheat” bread aren’t necessarily 100% whole grain, so it’s important to read the ingredients list. Also, The Whole Grains Council’s “100% Whole Grain Stamp” indicates that one serving of the product has at least one serving of whole grains per serving and that all of the grains in it are whole.

Aim to make at least half of your grains whole. You can make these swaps for whole grains gradual. Start by making simple shifts to grains like 100% whole wheat bread, pasta, tortillas; brown rice, oatmeal, and grits. For foods like pasta, you can try starting with half white/refined pasta and half whole grain pasta. Include whole grains in your snacks, such as 100% whole wheat crackers or low-fat, unsalted butter. Some whole grains like brown rice take a while to cook. Save time by cooking double of what you need and refrigerating or freezing the leftovers. When baking foods like muffins, replace half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour.

Like any lifestyle changes, switching to whole grains does not have to be all at once. Start with small steps towards eating more whole grains! What whole grain products can you try this week?


Build an Easy Breakfast

Mornings can be a hectic time to get everyone fed and off to the places we have to be often early in the morning. Breakfast may not always be a top priority. However, breakfast is a very important part of the day for you and everyone in your family. For some ideas, Super Healthy Kids has a list of recipes to help make your mornings a little easier:

Here are some of the highlights:

However you choose to make breakfast a part of your family’s day, be sure keep it simple!


How to Buy Pasta


Is there anything more satisfying than a bowl of pasta topped with a delicious, tummy-filling sauce? I don’t think so!! Pasta is used in many cuisines around the world and comes in a variety of sizes and shapes from angel hair to ziti.

When buying pasta look for ones made from whole grain. Pasta that is 100 percent whole-wheat has 4-7 grams of fiber, compared to only 2 grams in regular pasta. You can also find pastas made from quinoa, kamut, amaranth and buckwheat. Flavored pastas such as spinach and tomato aren’t usually made from whole grain and they don’t even count as a serving of vegetables, because they usually contain only traces of vegetables for coloring and a hint of flavor. Be sure to use portion control or you can over-indulge. 2 ounces of uncooked pasta per person is all you need.

Some tips for buying pasta:

  • Look for pasta with the most whole grains (you may have to try several brands to find a favorite). If all the grains listed are whole, the pasta is 100 percent whole grain. If you choose a whole-grain blend, compare nutrition labels to get the one highest in fiber.
  • Fresh pasta can be delicious—and more healthful if you can find whole-grain varieties. But watch out for extra fat and calories in fresh ravioli and other stuffed pastas. Locally made pastas may not always carry nutrition information.
  • Buy spinach and other “flavored” pastas if you like the way they look and taste—not because you think they are more healthful.
  • If you shop at a health-food store, don’t assume that the pasta is necessarily whole grain, even if its ingredients sound more healthful. Same for organic brands. A pasta that says “100 percent durum semolina” or “golden amber durum wheat,” for example, is made from refined wheat flour.
  • If you’re sensitive to gluten, don’t pass over pasta; pick one made from an alternative grain that is free of gluten, such as buckwheat or rice.
  • If you don’t like one brand of whole-grain pasta, try another, since flavors and textures vary. The shape of the pasta can make a difference, too. For a lighter texture, choose thin spaghetti, say, over penne or rotini. And don’t overcook—these pastas can get mushy fast.

Go light on your sauce and try to incorporate more vegetables in your pasta dishes for more healthy eating. And, as the Italians like to say, “Mangia”!!! That means “Eat”!!!


Break the fast: Start the day off smart!


Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. My mother always made sure we started our day with foods such as eggs, oatmeal, cereal, pancakes and breakfast meats like bacon and sausage. But, breakfast can be so much more than these traditional foods that can take more time to prepare that we often have in our rush to get out the door on a weekday morning.

Here are some tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help you and your family get a healthy breakfast and still get out the door.

Plan Ahead

  • Get ready the night before: Set the table with bowls and spoons for cereal. Get out a pan for pancakes or a blender for smoothies. Slice up some fruit and cheese.
  • Keep it simple: Fancy breakfasts are wonderful when you have the time. On busy days, a sandwich, a slice of leftover pizza, or low-fat yogurt with fruit work just fine.
  • Pack to-go: If there is no time to eat at home, take your breakfast to-go. Pack a brown bag breakfast for the road – or see if your school offers a breakfast program.

Include Protein/Carbs

  • Carbohydrates: A high-octane carbohydrate energizes your body and brain for a busy day. Think cereal (hot or cold), bread, dinner rolls, tortillas, or even leftover rice or pasta. Choose whole grains for an extra nutrition punch (more fiber and nutrients).
  • Protein: This is the missing link in most morning meals. Protein is what we need to go strong until lunch. Think a slice of Canadian bacon, an egg, a slice of lean deli meat or low-fat cheese, a container of low-fat yogurt, a scoop of low-fat cottage cheese, or a handful of nuts.
  • Fruit: It’s quick and easy to add color and nutrition to your breakfast with your favorite fruits. Think fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruit – like apples, berries, pears, bananas, grapefruit, kiwi, mangoes, oranges, or pineapple. Another great option is avocados. They are high in unsaturated (or “good”) fat and contain vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin and beta-carotene, which forms vitamin A.

Eat well in the a.m. and you and your family will be on the nutrition fast track for a high-energy day.


Oats all around

Oatmeal isn’t just for breakfast. Around my house, we eat oatmeal as a healthy snack too. For extra calcium, I replace the water with low-fat milk and add fruits, fresh, frozen, or canned to increase the vitamin and antioxidant content. For a change in flavor, I add cinnamon, raisins, or artificially sweetened brown sugar.

You can find boxes of single serving packages already flavored. Take time to read the oatmealnutrition facts before buying these, as they can be high in sugar.   If you want to have the single serving packages on hand, purchase the plain oatmeal and sweeten it yourself with fruit or raisins. I usually purchase the quick cooking oats, which is a far better buy and allow myself a couple extra minutes for preparation.

Oats are very versatile and can be used in many recipes. Search for recipes such as pancakes, granola bars, breads, cakes and cookies that contain oats and oatmeal. Even try adding oats to your next smoothie or meat loaf. Look for ways to include this important high-fiber grain in your favorite recipes or create new ones and share on our Facebook pages


Aunt Gertrude’s Popcorn

My Aunt Gertrude introduced popcorn to me when I was a little girl. The memories I have of her standing in the kitchen in front of the big wood burning stove popping popcorn is still fresh in my mind! I can still see her shaking the pot waiting for the popcorn to pop. She always let me stand on a stool to watch. One thing about Aunt Gertrude is she never seasoned her popcorn with salt. Instead, she used whatever herb or spice she had available. I remember her popcorn having a delicious nutty taste.

What I didn’t know back then was that popcorn is considered a whole grain and a healthy snack choice. It’s a low calorie and low fat food (without the oil or butter, of course). Do you think about choosing whole grains when deciding on a snack? The Dietary Guidelines recommend half our daily intake of grains should come from whole grains. To know if your food is whole grain, the first ingredient in the ingredients list should contain the word ‘whole’.

whole wheat ingredients list

To learn ways to eat more whole grain foods, check out this website.

Aunt Gertrude had the right idea choosing popcorn as a snack. The next time you make popcorn, go for unsalted and add your own seasonings. Just make sure the popcorn is still warm so your seasoning will stick.

Here is a recipe that I have used with my family:

Zesty Ranch Seasoning
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. dried dill
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients well and toss with freshly popped popcorn. Enjoy!