Whole Grain Love

“I can't wait until this whole, you know, whole wheat thing passes and we can all go back to eating our white bread out in the open!”

I won't attribute this quote, but let me just say that I've heard several unwitting individuals utter variations of the same thought, so it is certainly not any unique culprit. Despite their cynical outlook on fiber intake and whole grain versions of enriched, white counterparts, I not only believe that these concepts are here to stay, but believe that they should be propagated more, and become second nature to us. To you.

As a former slave to white bread, white pasta, white rice, white flour and white sugars, I understand it's hard. I still can't say that I never eat the good old comfort carbs. I have just gotten to a point where, all else equal, I'll choose more fiber over less and whole grain over processed, refined grains. The positive benefits of the fiber on weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and well, digestion combined with the weight, appetite, energy and metabolism benefits of avoiding the refined carbs, makes replacing as much white carbs with as much fiber as possible is a no-brainer.

Of course, choice and taste are two other large obstacles one must consider in addition to the seemingly more convincing element of health. I will try to address these in hopes that the whole grain guilt trip turns into full-fledged whole grain love for all.

For true whole grain haters, there is likely little value in me saying that you will not only get used to the taste, but will actually start liking the taste. It is true, even for these people I imagine. However, here are a couple of great ideas for some better tasting fiber:

Dried fruit – Okay so this one is cheating a little, as it is not a grain. However, dried figs (the most), raisins and others, along with most of the members of the legume family (i.e. beans, lentils) and other fruits and veggies like bananas, raspberries, broccoli, greens, apples are excellent sources of fiber that may taste better if not at least be less aversive than whole grains. Of course, that is a matter of personal opinion.

Popcorn – Yes! Popcorn is a whole grain! And it is a nice source of fiber, besides being naturally low in fat and sodium. Of course, we love to dump said fat and sodium all over our popcorn. If you don’t care about those things, then by all means – the fiber doesn’t go anywhere. For those that do, you can eat air-popped or plain bagged popcorn with nothing on it, or add some other flavors like Tabasco, vinegar or some cooking spray and salt or Mrs. Dash (sodium free, great flavors). It tastes good and is probably one of the best guilt-free snacks around – I guess if you still want a little guilt with this one, that’s okay.

Potatoes – Here’s my rule of thumb: with the skins, potatoes are great; sans the skin, they might as well be white bread. Taking off the skin is essentially turning whole grain flour into enriched, white flour. I’m not a huge potato fan, but with that rule of thumb in mind, do with them what you will.

Cereals/cereal bars – Everyone knows how to dress up cereal so it tastes better. So why not find the most fiber-rich cereal out there and dress that up? Fiber One Original has 57% of your daily fiber in ½ of a cup. In case you are unaware, that is a ridiculous amount of fiber! So put your milk or yogurt, your fruit and your nuts on the Fiber One – even your sugar – and it will taste great AND be one of the most complete breakfasts I can dream up. Side note: Fiber One also makes excellent breakfast bars. They taste like candy bars but actually have relatively low sugar and fat (considering) and 35% of your daily fiber intake. They come in chocolate, caramel, peanut butter and strawberry. Beautiful things at times.

Ronzoni Smart Taste Pasta – This is probably the magnum opus of whole grain offerings in my opinion. If you haven’t discovered the purple box yet, you might want to sit down before I go further. If you have discovered it, then you’re probably still jumping for joy. This pasta has more fiber than most whole grain pastas (25% of your daily fiber per 2 ounces), has less fat and sodium than any regular or whole grain pasta I have seen, has no cholesterol and is rich in calcium. Oh, did I mention? It is white pasta! It looks like regular pasta, tastes like regular pasta but has the nutritional kick of the best whole grain pasta you could find! Your sticky note that you’re jotting right now should read: “Pasta aisle; purple box; comes in different shapes; MUST BUY!” Whether or not you have gotten yourself to like the taste of whole grain pasta or not, this is a great product to get your pantry very familiar with.

Those are some of my whole grain secrets. There are more, but those are some of the best.

The only obstacle yet to face is choice. It is admittedly difficult to find options in grocery stores, let alone at restaurants that have enough, let alone any, fiber or whole grains. Both venues will sometimes try to trick you with terms like “wheat,” “multi-grain” or something like that. Look at the ingredients: if it has enriched/refined white flour, then it has it, regardless of what the label says. Restaurants are the hardest because they offer what sells, and who likes whole grains?

Well that’s what I’m trying to change. Get people loving whole grains. Break the vicious societal cycles working against them. So that’s why I’m starting with you. Right now. Go!

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