Get Creative with Whole Grains

by The Cooperative
We all recognize that well-balanced nutrition includes fruit, veggies, healthy fats, and lean protein. However, one food group tends to get overlooked: whole grains. Did you know consuming at least three servings of whole grains is recommended daily? While it may seem overwhelming, they are simpler to incorporate than you think. Let’s begin with the basics:

What are Whole Grains?

Whole grains are a subtype of grain that includes all original kernel components: the bran, endosperm, and germ. These components provide the body with dietary fiber, iron, and B vitamins essential for healthy digestion, metabolism, immunity, and cognitive functioning. In addition, they promote fullness between meals, supporting weight loss and management.

What are Refined Grains?

On the other hand, refined grains have been processed to remove the bran and germ. While implemented to extend shelf life, this method also removes fiber and over half of the original nutrients. When a grain is stripped of its fiber, only the starch remains, which can spike blood sugar and stimulate appetite.

Use Your Creative License to Cook

Where there is a whole grain, there is a way; whole grains can easily be included in any meal or swapped in as a nutrient-rich alternative. Below, you will find a variety of whole-grain options that will satisfy both your stomach and budget.
  1. Balance your breakfast. Pack your breakfast with a whole-grain punch! Instead of white toast, bagels, or doughnuts, try the following heart-healthy options:
    1. Overnight oats: Add oats to a jar and mix with your milk of choice. Store in the refrigerator overnight.
      1. Mix-in options: Berries, bananas, almond butter, Greek yogurt, chia seeds, spices
    2. Buckwheat pancakes or waffles: Whip up a batch of pancakes or waffles with buckwheat flour.
      1. Topping options: Fresh or sauteed fruit, toasted pecans, honey or pure maple syrup, Greek yogurt, low-sugar jam
    3. Quinoa breakfast bowls: Cook quinoa with your milk of choice and experiment with your favorite flavors.
      1. Sweet topping options: Berries, peaches, bananas, pineapple, cinnamon, nuts and seeds
      2. Savory topping options: Scrambled eggs, tomato slices, avocado, low-fat cottage cheese, scallions, fresh herbs
  1. Diversify your dinners. Explore your whole grain palate by sneaking them into your lunches or dinners:
    1. Add warm quinoa, wild rice, or wheat berries to a green salad.
    2. Toss barley or brown rice into soups or stews.
    3. Stuff tomatoes or peppers with brown rice or quinoa.
    4. Coat fish or chicken with whole grain flour and cook them in the air fryer.
  1. Build a bowl. Don’t deprive yourself of your favorites! Tacos, pizza, and hamburgers can all stay on the menu with these healthy swaps:
    1. Taco bowl: Ditch the flour tortilla and assemble a taco bowl with brown rice. Layer with shredded chicken or ground turkey, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and salsa.
    2. Pizza bowl: Substitute your crust with whole wheat pasta. Add tomato sauce, chicken sausage, mushrooms, peppers, and low-fat cheese.
    3. Hamburger bowl: Make a hamburger bowl with quinoa as your “bun” and top it with ground turkey, veggies, and your choice of condiments.
  1. Snack smart. Choose fiber-rich snacks to keep you satiated between meals:
    1. Assemble a snack mix with air-popped popcorn, nuts, and dried cranberries.
    2. Enjoy whole wheat crackers with low-fat cheese.
    3. Roll oats and low-fat peanut butter into quick and easy “energy balls.”
    4. Bake homemade granola bars with oats, dried fruit, sliced almonds, and chia seeds.
No matter the whole grains you choose, get inspired! Most whole grains have a mild and neutral taste, so they are truly versatile in both cooking and baking. Try them sweet or try them savory. You might just notice a boost in brain power and energy.
By, Coach Kaleigh

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