Pantry Picks – Brown Rice

How do you like the new Pantry Picks collection on our website? I have to admit, I’m pretty excited about my pick – brown rice. Brown rice is definitely a pantry pick in my house! I love it and I eat it pretty much every week. It tastes great, it’s hearty and it is a healthy choice for me. I try to make sure that at least half of the grain foods I eat are whole grains and brown rice helps me do that.

One of the things I like the best about brown rice is that it is so fast. I can cook a big pot of rice once and then split the rice up into freezer containers and freeze it for up to six months. Then I can have rice for many meals with just a quick zap in the microwave.

I use brown rice all year. In the winter, it goes into soups and casseroles and in the summer I make stir fry and salads. I put a little round-up of some of my favorite recipes that use brown rice below.

I hope you try one of these today and share your favorite ways to use brown rice with us in the comments or on our social media!


Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Go with the Whole Grain this Summer—Take the Challenge!

By Food Science and Human Nutrition student guest blogger

banana_oatmeal_breadwpThis 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:

Picnic Ideas

Snack Ideas for the poolside or road tripping

Movie Night

  • 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!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Meal Makeovers with Whole Grains

Taco Rice SaladI 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Whole Grain Goodness

By Katie Busacca, ISU Dietetic Intern

Whole Wheat LabelMulti-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
  • Oats/oatmeal
  • Quinoa
  • Bulgar
  • Graham flour
  • Wheatberries

Whole Grain IconsAnother 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.

Try this… Instead of this….
Whole grain pasta Regular pasta
Brown rice White rice
100% whole wheat bread White bread
Whole wheat tortillas White tortillas
Whole wheat flour All-purpose 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!

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Publication explaining Whole Grains

whole grain breadMagazines and cooking shows are full of articles and recipes about whole grains, some of which I have never tasted. If you are like me, and wanting to know more about using different whole grains, you will be interested in a publication by Iowa State University Extension. The free, downloadable Whole Grains publication provides the basic cooking directions, yield when cooked, nutrition notes and facts, and serving suggestions for 20 different whole grains. It also explains the difference between whole and refined grains.

Here’s some information from the publication:

1. Is cornmeal a whole grain?

The stone-ground variety is a whole grain.  Regular cornmeal is degermed (has the germ of the grain removed) so it is not a whole grain.

2. What’s the difference between steel-cut oats and old-fashioned rolled oats?

Steel–cut oats are cut into small pieces with a steel blade.  Rolled oats are steamed, than rolled into flakes. Quick-cooking oats are rolled thinner and cut into smaller pieces to cook faster.

3. Is wild rice a grain?

No, but it offers similar nutritional benefits as whole grains and it is gluten-free.

4. Is whole wheat couscous a grain?

No, it is tiny pasta made from semolina.

If you have questions about amaranth, quinoa, faro, or wheat berries, check out the publication.

Peggy Signature

Mediterranean Diet

The last couple of weeks I have been studying the Mediterranean diet in Crete.  This diet, which is named for the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean sea, is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, and higher life expectancy.  The locals brag that almost everyone in Crete has a relative that is over 100 years old  (it seems like the older I get, the more important life expectancy is to me!).

Below are some observations from my days in Crete:

  • I want to incorporate more vegetables in different ways into my diet. Especially recipes with the beets, zucchini, and eggplant we have growing in our garden.
  • Breakfast in Crete was usually plain yogurt that you could spoon a little honey or jam (which they called spoon sweets) over, whole wheat bread, cheese, and hard boiled eggs.  My yogurt and fruit breakfast is pretty similar.
  • Seafood has heart –healthy omega 3 fatty acids. We had snails several times in Crete plus sardines and other seafood.  I do not think fresh snails will be on my weekly menu, but some kind of seafood will be.  This summer will be a great time to experiment with grilled fish.
  • We had many vegetarian meals built around beans, whole grains, and vegetables with some great spices.  I am growing some oregano, basil, and mint on my deck that should add great flavor to my new recipes.
  • The focus of the Mediterranean diet is not on limiting total fat, but rather to discourage saturated fat and hydrogenated fat. I brought two bottles of olive oil home.  I probably will never use as much olive oil in recipes as the Greek cooks did, but I will use it more liberally than I have.   I will probably be more willing to drizzle oil over fresh tomatoes and cucumbers to make a simple salad.   I am also looking for great tasting olives.
  • Bread is eaten plain or dipped in olive oil, not eaten with butter or margarine which have saturated fats or trans fats.  Most of the bread is whole grain.  I will try my bread with olive oil.
  • Dessert in Crete is usually fruit or yogurt drizzled with honey.
  • Exercise is just part of living in Crete.   There are fewer cars, the roads are narrow and the terrain hilly.  Walking and bicycles seemed to be the norm for travel in the villages, with travel by bus or metro in the city, which means treks to and from the bus stops.  I need to work on incorporating more exercise into my daily routine…like a walk at lunch, parking at the far end of the parking lot, etc.


If you would like to learn more about the Mediterranean Diet check out, Oldways, Health Through Heritage.

The Whole Grain Maze

Bread used to be made from either whole wheat or white flour; although, many times coloring was added to white flour to make it look darker (healthier) .  Now we have “whole white bread” and many claims on the label to wade through such as 5 grams fiber, 20 grams of whole grain and 40% fiber.  How do you know which is the best?  What’s a person to do if we want to make half of your grains whole as recommended?

Bread is made from flour that comes from grain kernels — usually wheat. A grain kernel has three parts: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ.

Whole grains contain all parts of the grain kernel. Refined grains, like the flour used to make white bread, have had the  bran (where most of the fiber is) and the germ (where most of the nutrients are) processed out.  This leaves only the starchy endosperm, which means you miss out on essential fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc.

Many flour and bread manufacturers enrich their bread by adding vitamins back in. But it’s still better to eat whole grains.

The bottom line……..Check the list of ingredients
If the first ingredient listed contains the word “whole” (such as “whole wheat flour” or “whole oats”), it is likely that the product is predominantly whole grain. If there are two grain ingredients and only the second ingredient listed is a whole grain, the product may contain as little as 1% or as much as 49% whole grain (in other words, it could contain a little bit of whole grain, or nearly half).

Whole grain and fiber are not the same
Fiber varies from grain to grain, ranging from 3.5% in rice to over 15% in barley and bulgur. What’s more, high-fiber products sometimes contain bran or other added fiber without actually having much, if any, whole grain. Both fiber and whole grains have been shown to have health benefits. But they are not interchangeable. So checking the fiber on a label is not a very reliable way to guess whether a product is truly whole grain.

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