Cooking with Grains – Tips & Tricks

By Kelsie White

Cooking with Grains – Tips & Tricks

Nutrition Bites | Week 22

Welcome to Week 22 of Nutrition Bites. This week we will be discussing whole grains, the characteristics and benefits, as well as some cooking tips and a few of my favorite recipes. Let’s get started!

Benefits of Whole Grains

Whole grains are an important part of a well-balanced, whole food plant-based diet. This is because they are very nutrient dense and also help with satiety. Whole grains are an important source of complex carbohydrates, as well as B vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, and potassium. Whole grains also provide both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is the portion that may help to lower cholesterol and balance blood sugars, and insoluble fiber helps to support healthy digestion. In research studies, consumption of whole grains as been associated with a lower risk of heart disease, as well as maintaining a healthy body weight.

Get to Know Your Grains

The good news is that there are tons of options when it comes to whole grains that can provide these health benefits. You might be used to only using a couple different whole grains, so I want to introduce a few to you to add to your kitchen. For an even bigger list, check out this handout from the Whole Grain Council.

  • Barley; High in complex carbohydrates, low in gluten. Has a “nutty” flavor and is great to add to soups.
  • Bulgar: A quick-cooking grain that is high in fiber. Often used in the traditional tabbouleh salad.
  • Corn: Look for “whole corn” or “whole grain.” Highly perishable, so store it in the fridge or freezer.
  • Farro: A high fiber, high protein grain. Low in gluten and is great for adding to salads.
  • Quinoa: A complete protein, as well as gluten-free. A good alternative to oatmeal or rice.
  • Brown Rice: Gluten-free and very versatile. Great for stir-fry, grain bowls and salads.
Tips for Adding More Whole Grains

Now that you have an idea as to what some of your options are, let’s talk about a few ways to begin incorporating more whole grains into your diet. There are many ways to do this, but these are just a few of my easy-to-implement recommendations:

  • Start with breakfast. There are many ways to make porridge with different types of grains.
  • Choose the whole wheat alternative to white, refined products.
  • Add cooked and cooled grains to salads.
  • Add grains to soups.
  • Blend oats into smoothies.
  • Cook one big batch of grains and use it all throughout the week.
  • Experiment with different types of whole grains to add variety.
Cooking Tips

Just like there are many different types of whole grains, there are also many different ways to prepare them. But I wanted to share just a few cooking tips and tricks that can apply to most grains, no matter how you prepare them.

  • Rinse grains, especially quinoa, to remove some of the bitter flavors.
  • Soak your grains if you want them to cook more quickly. This can also help with digestion if whole grains cause you to experience gas or bloating.
  • Try dry toasting them on a hot skillet before cooking them to add a “nutty” flavor.
  • Simmer grains don’t boil them.
  • For savory dishes, simmer grains in low-sodium vegetable broth to add more flavor.
  • For extra fluffy grains, add hot grains to hot water. This means dry toasting them before adding to the cooking water.
Gluten-Free Options

If you are gluten-free, have no fear! There are still several options for you to include whole grains in your diet. Some examples include amaranth, buckwheat, millet, oats, rice, sorghum, teff and quinoa. A quick note on oats, just make sure the package says, “Certified Gluten-Free.” Oats naturally are gluten-free but can often be contaminated during processing.

Favorite Whole Grain Recipes 

Now for my favorite part, sharing a few delicious recipes to get you started on eating more whole grains! First is a recipe for Breakfast Quinoa, a delicious alternative to oatmeal. Next is a recipe for a Roasted Veggie Salad, one of my favorite meals to prep for lunches. Lastly is a recipe for a Black Quinoa Asian Slaw by The Whole Grains Council.

Weekly Challenge

I hope that you feel inspired to add more whole grains to your diet. This week, I want to challenge you to try cooking with a new type of grain. You might just find your new favorite!

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