Move to Whole-Grains: Don’t Overthink, Just Start!
An excerpt from 100 Days of Real Food
Grains. Right or wrong, it’s a fact that grains make up a very big portion of most people’s diets, so switching to 100 percent whole-grain foods could potentially go a long way. This includes bread, buns, crackers, pasta, rice, tortillas/wraps, cereals, snacks, and more. When was the last time you had a meal that didn’t include something from this category? So start now by switching to products that are 100 percent whole grain and have a short ingredient list (they’re sometimes hard to find). And remember again that “wheat” doesn’t equal “whole wheat.”
Set a goal. Whether it’s a week or a month from now, mark a date on your calendar that you’ll aim to have at least two out of your three big meals in a day contain no refined grains. This will give you time to replace products one by one as you run out of them.
Tips. It can be a challenge to find decent 100 percent whole-grain products like bread, for example, that don’t also contain forty other ingredients, including unnecessary additives. I’ve found that the higher quality the product, the better tasting it is. Before our switch to real food I would rather have skipped bread altogether than eat store-bought whole-wheat bread (since I didn’t like it). So I understand very well that it’s not easy to transition from the taste and texture of white bread (or other refined grains) to whole wheat.
If you don’t like whole grains, these tips will help:
1. Don’t settle for mediocre whole-grain products. One reason I used to despise whole-wheat sandwich bread was that I’d never tried good bread before. Even today I don’t like the taste of packaged grocery store whole-grain bread, which was designed to have a long shelf life, not to taste good. So skip the supermarket and look into your local bakery options instead, or try making some homemade bread yourself! It takes only four or five ingredients to make real whole-wheat sandwich bread at home, so look for the shortest ingredient list possible if you aren’t going to make it yourself.
2. Go for a lighter variety of wheat. Try King Arthur’s White Whole-Wheat Flour for baking rather than straight-up whole-wheat flour. Even though it has the word “white” on the label, it’s still 100 percent whole grain; it’s just made from a lighter variety of wheat than typical whole-wheat flours, and it’s a great place to start if you prefer the taste of white flour products.
3. Mix the old with the new. If whole-wheat pasta is getting shunned at your house, try mixing white and whole wheat pasta together for a few weeks, gradually increasing the quantity of whole-wheat pasta. The bottom line is that eating some whole grains is better than none! This same tactic could be applied to brown rice and whole-grain flours as well.
4. Branch out and try some new grains. If your family is really pushing back on your attempted switch to whole-grain pasta or rice, how about trying a new grain altogether? Take a break from the usual and cook some quinoa, whole-wheat couscous, barley, or whole-grain polenta for a side dish instead.
5. Add some character to plain brown rice. Even the most die-hard real foodies get tired of ordinary brown rice, so try to switch things up a bit by mixing in a sauce, adding some great flavors (such as chopped cilantro or garlic), or throwing in some toasted nuts or seeds (such as almonds or sesame seeds). Changing the flavor can make it a whole new side dish.
6. Use a sweet disguise. Ease your family into whole-grain eating by making something sweet such as Whole-Grain Pumpkin Muffins, Cinnamon-Raisin Quick Bread, or Whole-Wheat Banana Pancakes (or Waffles!). They probably won’t even notice that anything is different. But once they gobble them down, don’t keep them in the dark about your secret ingredient!
Another way to make changes is to start with one meal of the day. For example, work on cleaning up breakfast first and get comfortable, then move on to lunch and dinner. Breakfast is a great place to start because most people rotate just a few core breakfast staples, so you can clean up your act pretty quickly.