How to Cook Any Whole Grain Using One Simple Method - with free printable!
Recently, grains and breads have developed a bad-boy reputation, perhaps from the old-school days of low-carb diet trends. You know what I mean. Grains (usually in the form of bread products) toy with our emotions, calling to us across the dinner table from the bread basket or eyeing us through the pastry display case during our morning coffee run. We know on some level we shouldn't indulge in these delights, but who can resist? It is in our genes to love these highly processed specimens. Then, after we take a bite we feel guilty, creating a conflicting love-hate relationship with breads—and by association—the grains.
Yet, all grains are not created equal, and all breads are not composed of whole grains. Grains, in general, are found guilty by association, being lumped into the same category as highly processed grain-like substances such as prepared muffins, coffee shop scones, packaged crackers and pre-made cakes. Before you swear off all grains, carbs and breads all together, take a breather.
GRAINS MADE SIMPLE
As a part of the Healthy Out of Habit Meal-Maker Series, today´s resource includes everything you need to know about cooking, eating and creating meals using grains. Grains, whole grains included, provide quick and easy options for hot breakfasts, power lunches and busy weeknight meals. It´s just a matter of knowing how to make it happen—I got you there.
Hot off the press are two free printables designed to make healthy eating a whole lot easier!!
The first is the Grain Meal-Maker Chart detailing the specifics of each type of grain and how to prepare it, pair it with other foods and enjoy it more often.
The second is the template How to Create a Meal Using Whole Grains which outlines the method for making grains.
WHY EAT GRAINS?
Grains and cereals in their less processed state, are highly beneficial for health. Just as a refresher, whole grains stabilize blood sugar levels, aid in lowering cholesterol, help prevent the formation of blood clots associated with heart attacks and stroke, prevent some cancers, and promote healthy digestion. There are so many varieties of grains that there is truly something for everyone, including gluten-free and wheat-free options too!
These are the reasons we are reminded to eat whole grains instead of refined grains. We see “made with whole grains” on all food labels, in advertising campaigns and just about everywhere. Yet, knowing what whole grains are and how to get them to the dinner table are two entirely different issues. Most of my clients are bogged down with the details of how to make grains, particularly whole grains, and how to create simple yet wholesome meals using grains.
TYPES OF GRAINS
Grains are the seeds and fruits of cereal grasses. Since humans can't digest these kernels intact or raw, the grains are milled before being consumed.
In a nutshell, whole grains are the grains closest resembling their original state, yet rendered edible. By definition, whole grains contain all the components and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed as present in their original proportions. If the grains have been processed (cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the product should contain the same balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seeds. This definition means that 100% of the original kernel—all of the bran, germ, and endosperm—must be present to qualify as a whole grain.
As Melinda Wenner Moyer from Scientific American points out in her article Whole-Grain Foods Not Always Healthful, the processing method which separates, grinds and repackages the internal components of the grains alters the nutrient composition before adding them into to a processed whole grain food. As a result, even among whole grain products, some of the health conveying components like the fiber and nutrients are lost.
For a simple and to-the-point overview of grains, Lisa Leake from 100 Days of Real Food outlines exactly what you need to know about grains, whole grains and multi-grains, in her post, Understand Grains (Corn, Wheat, Multi-Grain, etc.).
Refined grains strip away the fibrous bran and nourishing endosperm of the grain leaving only the starchy endosperm. These highly processed grains have 25% less protein and contain fewer vitamins, minerals, fiber and overall nutrients. This is why it's so important to vary your grains and include at least half of your daily grains as whole grains. The graph below from the Whole Grains Council says it all.
If you choose to add whole grains to your diet as a way of optimizing health, you should aim for about ¼ of your plate or about ½ cup of cooked whole grains at each meal. The Harvard Healthy Eating Plate depicts exactly how much of your plate gets devoted to whole grains.
HOW TO PURCHASE INTACT WHOLE GRAINS
The best option for taking advantage of the health benefits of whole grains is by going straight to the source—the whole grain. These are, simply put, best for your health, low in cost and easy to cook using one standard method.
Right about now you're thinking, “what are these grains and why don't I see them in my grocery store?” You do... but you are probably walking right by them day after day, week after week. These sad neglected grains go by the names of amaranth, barley, brown rice, bulgur, buckwheat, farro, freekeh, Kamut®, millet, oats, quinoa, rye berries, sorghum, spelt, teff, wheat berries or wild rice. They are very modest and unassuming grains, unlike their bad-boy counterparts over in the bakery section. They don't use flashy colors and brandish wild advertising claims. They just sit there on the shelf watching you walk by… waiting for you to notice them. Psst… this is what they look like in your grocery store.
Like most people, the reason you walk right on by might be that you seriously have no idea how to make these whole grain wonders. That´s a reasonable concern—until today with your Meal-Maker Guides.
These two printable guides take the guesswork out of purchasing, cooking and eating whole grains. Download the guides by clicking the button below. Then hang up the charts in your kitchen or pantry for quick and handy access during the mealtime frenzy. It´s one more step in efficientizing health for you and your family.
TAKE A STEP
Download the two Meal-Maker Guides, hang in your kitchen or pantry as a reference.
Purchase one bag of grain this week when you make your usual trip to the grocery store. I recommend trying millet, quinoa or freekeh as a starter.
Using the Meal-Maker Guide, cook the grain and pair it with any meal you are already serving this week. For extra fun and flavor try one of the food pairings or additional uses suggested on the chart.
Sit down with your friends and family and enjoy!
Stop neglecting those whole grains in your grocery store.
Take a small step on your pathway to health.
The images shown above are from the Whole Grains Council and the Bob´s Red Mill websites, and I have no affiliation with either company.
The Whole Grains Council has excellent information, resources and tools available on their website, so it´s worth checkin out!
While looking at the Bob´s Red Mill website, I came across a handy resource called the “What is it? Wednesday” series by Cassidy Stockton, highlighting each grain, seed or bean, what it looks like, what nutrients are provided, how to cook it, how to use it and what sample recipes to try.
Share your thoughts and comments about the guide. Post a picture to Facebook showing us your Meal-Maker in action at home!