By Food Science and Human Nutrition student guest blogger
This summer try the whole grain challenge. The challenge: Make half (or more!) of your grains whole grains for a week.
The best way to include whole grains in your diet is to substitute whole grain products for refined grains in things you already make and love.
Here are some fun, tasty ideas for how to incorporate whole grains into your busy summer:
Snack Ideas for the poolside or road tripping
- Enjoy popcorn, with light salt and oil
- Fix pizza with a whole wheat crust, add veggies for a more nutritious punch
BBQ in the backyard
Adding whole grains to your diet doesn’t have to be hard. Just sub whole grains for refined, and you’ve already won the challenge!
I did not grow up eating a lot of whole grains. Actually, I did not truly know what a whole grain was until I was an adult. Last week, our intern guest blogger wrote about how to find out if a food is whole grain or not. This week, I would like to share with you how I have replaced refined grains with whole grains in my menu.
- The first, and easiest, change I made was to start buying whole wheat bread for our toast and sandwiches. With some trial and error, I have found a whole wheat bread that everyone in my family likes. Thankfully, it is also the least expensive whole grain bread at my local grocery store. Try whole grain bread in our Tuna Melt Sandwich.
- The second change I made was to use brown rice and whole wheat pasta. This change was a little more difficult because my husband and I were used to the softer texture of white rice and pasta, but now we prefer both the texture and flavor of the whole grain versions. Try brown rice in our Tasty Taco Rice Salad and whole grain pasta in our Roasted Tomato and Spinach Pasta.
- The third, and most challenging, change I made was replacing all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour in our baked goods. One of my husband’s favorite foods is muffins of all kinds. I knew that we could make our muffins healthier by replacing some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. It took some experimenting, but now our favorite muffin recipes include both whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour (the amounts depend on the recipe). Try whole wheat flour in our Pineapple Snack Cakes.
My husband and I started adding whole grains to our menu little by little and now the majority of the grains we eat are whole grains. It has taken time and compromise, but we are happy with the choices we have made.
By Katie Busacca, ISU Dietetic Intern
Multi-grain, whole wheat, 100% wheat, bran, 7-grain- the options are endless when trying to pick a grain product, but what does it all mean? As many people know, the current recommendation is to make at least half the grain products in your diet whole grains. Whole grains promote heart health, aid in good digestion and may help you maintain a healthy weight. But with all of this labeling deception, how do you know if you are choosing a whole grain product?
When choosing a grain product the best way to determine if it is whole grain is to read the ingredient list. The first ingredient will likely be one of these:
- Whole wheat
- Whole wheat flour
- Whole grain
- Stone ground whole grain
- Brown rice
- Graham flour
Another good rule of thumb is to look for the 100% whole grain or whole grain stamp on the package, as seen on the right. The 100% whole grain stamp means that all of the grains used in the product are 100% whole grain and the product provides at least 16g of whole grains per serving. While the whole grain stamp (without the 100%) indicates that some of the grains used to make this product are whole grain and some are refined grains. These products will include at least 8g of whole grains per serving. Both are great choices!
As whole grain products become more popular, they are also becoming easier to find and less expensive. There are some simple substitutions you can make in your own diet to add the health benefits of whole grains.
||Instead of this….
|Whole grain pasta
|100% whole wheat bread
|Whole wheat tortillas
|Whole wheat flour
The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website is full of recipes using whole grain products! One quick and easy recipe I love is the Quick Pad Thai. Not only does it use whole grain pasta, but also it is simple to modify to include your favorite fresh or frozen vegetables. You can also use these simple tips to experiment with recipes and make delicious, healthy creations of your own!
Today I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart recipes – Zesty Whole Grain Salad. A student shared the inspiration for this recipe with me, and, once I tasted it, I was hooked. I ate it for lunch nearly every day for weeks.
This salad makes a perfect lunch, and this is why:
- It tastes great with the sweet and tangy homemade salad dressing.
- The fiber, protein, and fat will fill you up and keep you full.
- It is easy to pack into smaller containers for lunches on the go.
- You get fruit, vegetables, protein, and whole grains in one bowl.
- It simplifies lunch planning for the week because it makes a lot and it stores well in the refrigerator. So you and your family can eat it for three or four days.
Zesty Whole Grain Salad
Serving Size: 6 | Serves: 1 1/2 cups | Cost Per Serving: $1.43
- 2 cups cooked whole grain (brown rice, kamut™, quinoa)
- 2 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable)
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 apples, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts)
- 1/2 cup dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, raisins)
- 1 bunch kale or 10-ounce package spinach (about 6 cups), torn into bite-sized pieces
- Cook whole grain according to package directions. Cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper.
- Stir apples, nuts, dried fruit, and whole grain into dressing.
- Toss greens with other ingredients.
- Substitute 2 cups of chopped fruit (strawberries, grapes, oranges) for the apples.
- Do not give honey and nuts to infants under one year of age.
As I wrote in my last blog on beans, they fit many of my requirements as a mom and dietitian. They are very nutritious, they’re inexpensive, and they work well in dishes my family enjoys. Most of the time I use canned beans. They are very convenient and besides draining and rinsing, require no additional cooking. You can find ‘no salt added’ canned beans, which is great since many of us get more than enough sodium in our diets. And they usually don’t cost any more than the regular kind. If you’d rather not use the ‘no salt added’ kind, rinse the beans to reduce the sodium.
On occasion, I also like to cook dry beans. And some of my family and friends prefer to cook their own beans instead of using the canned versions. Canned beans are an inexpensive source of protein and when buying them dry, they are even less expensive. You might think that cooking dry beans is too much hassle if you haven’t tried it before. It does take time but most of that time you don’t have to stand over them while they cook. When I cook dry beans, I like to use the Slow Cooker Method.
Here are the steps to success:
- Spread 1 pound dried beans on a baking sheet and remove any small stones, dirt or withered beans.
- Put the beans in a strainer and rinse them under running water.
- Add beans and 8 cups of water to a slow cooker, then cook them on low for 6-8 hours until soft.
- Serve right away or freeze the beans in 1 ½ cup portions to use later. One and a half cups is about the amount in 1-15 ounce can of beans. How easy is that?!
This month at Spend Smart. Eat Smart., we have been talking a lot about beans. We love beans because they are packed with nutrition and they are inexpensive. Today I am going to share with you some of my favorite bean recipes from our website. Try one out this week, I am sure you will enjoy it!
Many of these recipes call for canned beans that have been drained and rinsed. You can substitute 1-2 cups cooked, dried beans. It is easy to cook an entire bag of dried beans and then freeze them in one or two cup serving sizes to use when you need them.
There are many benefits to eating beans. They are high in fiber, protein, iron, folate, and potassium. In addition, they are inexpensive so easy on the budget. There’s just one little problem…they can cause intestinal gas. And how embarrassing is that! The good news is there are ways to help reduce the amount of intestinal gas caused by eating beans.
- Add beans to the diet slowly over a period of several weeks. This allows your body to adjust to the added fiber provided by the beans. Once you are eating beans on a regular basis, intestinal gas will be less of problem.
- Chew beans well to help digest them.
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids to help your body handle the extra fiber in beans.
- When preparing dry beans, use the hot (short) soak method of soaking beans. This method reduces many gas-producing substances in beans. Always discard soaking water and rinse beans with fresh water after soaking.
As a dietitian and a mom, beans check all of my boxes. They are very nutritious, they’re inexpensive and they work well in dishes my family enjoys. Keep the tips above in mind and toss some beans in your grocery cart today.
The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage us to eat a variety of protein foods including seafood, meat, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes. You might wonder, ‘where in the grocery store would I find the legumes?’
These are actually common foods that you are probably already familiar with. Legumes include beans like kidney beans, lima beans, or pinto beans. They also include peas, lentils and chickpeas.
It is a good idea to eat both animal and plant based proteins. Legumes are nutritious, low cost plant-based protein food. They are typically high in protein and fiber and they’re simple to cook. If your family isn’t sure about trying legumes, you can mix them with meat in dishes they like. This is a good way to stretch your dollar while introducing new foods gradually. Check out the slow cooker pork chili below, it’s a winner!
Here are some of my favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that call for legumes:
Fiesta Skillet Dinner
Slow Cooker Pork Chili
Butternut Squash Enchiladas
You may have heard on the news that we should be concerned about mercury in fish. Nearly all fish contain traces of mercury. Mercury is found naturally in aquatic environments. It is absorbed by fish and can accumulate in their bodies, especially in larger fish and fish that live longer. Too much mercury can be harmful for humans, especially for an unborn baby or a growing, developing child. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children avoid certain types of fish high in mercury and limit weekly seafood consumption to less than 12 ounces. Most Americans consume well below this guideline.
Many commonly eaten fish like shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish are low in mercury.
Large fish that tend to be higher in mercury include: shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.
You can eat fish and avoid dangerous amounts of mercury by choosing from the lower mercury options. If you would like to learn more about healthy seafood choices, visit the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Fish and Shellfish website.
Written by: Frances Armstead, dietetic intern and Christine Hradek
Fish is a nutrient-rich, high-quality protein that provides many health benefits. Most fish can be classified into two major categories, oily or “fatty” fish and non-fatty fish. In this case, “fatty” should not worry you. Fatty fish are very healthy to eat.
Fatty fish contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for growth, development, and brain function. Omega-3’s also may help prevent chronic disease. Some examples of fatty fish include tuna, salmon, trout, sardines, and mackerel.
Non-fatty fish are typically white-fleshed fish. White fish still contain some healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Some examples of white fish include tilapia, cod, and haddock.
For those of us living in the center of the United States, access to fresh fish is pretty limited and when it is available, it is very expensive. Taking advantage of frozen fish options can make eating seafood more affordable, and in many cases, frozen fish can be just as delicious as the catch of the day. Here are some of our favorite fish recipes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.
Written by: Frances Armstead, dietetic intern and Christine Hradek