Food For Thought: Understanding Whole Grains

There are many benefits to eating whole grains. They contain fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. They also help to keep your digestive system healthy and help to control blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. It is recommended that you make at least half of your grain choices whole grain every day. Aim for ¼ of your plate to include whole grains and fill ½ of your plate with vegetables and ¼ of your plate with protein for a balanced meal.
Wondering what grains are actually considered whole grain? Some examples include barley, oats, quinoa, millet, rye, brown and wild rice, bulgur, kamut and spelt. When buying grain products, look for the words “whole grain” in the ingredient list to know the product is made with whole grains.
There are many ways to easily incorporate more whole grains in your diet. Start by looking for white grain products that can be replaced by whole grain options. Switching bread, English muffins and tortillas for whole grain versions is a great way to get started. Choose brown or wild rice instead of white rice. Replace white pasta with whole grain or smart pasta. You could also mix regular rice or pasta with a whole grain version to include more whole grains. Another easy way to add more whole grains to your diet is to look for ways to include them in the meals that you already cook. Start your day with whole grain cereal or oatmeal at breakfast. Use whole grain flour or oatmeal in baking. Enjoy low fat, low sodium popcorn as a snack. Try adding barley, quinoa or wild rice to homemade soups.
If cooking with whole grains is new to you, start by cooking the grain according to directions on the package. Double up when cooking whole grains such as quinoa, rice, bulgur and barley. They freeze well and defrost easily for a quick meal addition on busy nights. Use low sodium broth instead of water when cooking grains to add more flavour. Experiment with different types of grains for new flavours and textures in your meals at home!
Sobeys Dietitians offer a variety of free nutrition classes each month. To learn more, call 633-7787 or email or for more information.