Diet & Nutrition
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6 Ways to Eat More Grains Without Even Trying

Despite what you may think, grains are tasty, easy to make and won’t break the bank.

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By Taylor Lupo

Whole grains are a great source of nutrients like fiber, iron and B vitamins and regular consumption can lower your risk of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes—so getting enough is important.

The amount of grains your body needs is dependent on your age, sex and activity level, but as a general rule, men should aim to eat between six and eight ounces a day, while women’s target is a bit lower, eating between five and six daily ounces. At least half of these grains should be whole grains, like oats, quinoa, brown and wild rice, barley and bulgur. And while it’s true, most Americans consume enough grains, too few are whole grains.

Amy Buchanan, a registered dietitian with Trident Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina, reveals effortless (and delicious) ways to incorporate whole grains into your diet.

Discover other benefits of a whole grain-rich, plant-based diet from Blue Zones, or the places in the world with the most people over age 100. 

Sprinkle Quinoa on Salads

2 / 7 Sprinkle Quinoa on Salads

Add some zip to your lunch salad. It’s an easy way to do double duty and get your leafy greens plus whole grains. Simply add a heaping spoonful of whole grains, like quinoa, to your bed of lettuce. Quinoa makes a great addition to a Mediterranean-style salad with spinach, tomatoes, cucumber and more.

Quinoa is loaded with fiber, five grams per one-cup serving, which helps to keep you fuller for longer. That’s not all. Quinoa is also a great source of complete protein—eight grams per cup to be exact—which also helps with satiety. “As far as protein goes, grains like quinoa and amaranth are considered complete proteins,” Buchanan says. “They have all the amino acids that we need.”

Quinoa also boasts loads of manganese and magnesium, which help the body form tissue, and blood clotting factors, and is essential to the health of your bones, respectively.     

Pro tip: Give your quinoa a good rinse before cooking. This removes the bitter, but harmless, coating naturally found on the grain.

Whip Whole Wheat Flour into Baked Goods

3 / 7 Whip Whole Wheat Flour into Baked Goods

Brownies, cookie and cupcakes should hardly be a part of your regular diet, but there’s a time and a place for everything—even sweet baked treats. And these sugar bombs don’t have to be entirely unhealthy.  

The next time you whip up a batch of brownies or bake a birthday cake, swap equal parts refined white flour with whole grain wheat flour. This simple substitution, in addition to saving you a few calories per cup, ups the fiber content by more than 10 grams.

The best part, you won’t even taste the difference!

Stir Wild Rice in Soups

4 / 7 Stir Wild Rice in Soups

Forget the traditional chicken noodle soup and incorporate wild rice into your next pot of soup or stew instead.

Egg noodles may be tasty, but their nutrition is somewhat lackluster—one dry cup of egg noodles has just 5 grams of protein. The same serving of wild rice contains 24 grams of protein, but that’s just the beginning. Wild rice contains nearly 10 times more fiber than egg noodles, per dry cup.      

Barley is another great addition to your favorite soup. In the mood to try a new recipe? Give this hulled barely and vegetable soup a go!

Pro tip: “Buying in bulk is a good way to make whole grains a little less expensive,” Buchanan says.

Pack Whole Oats into Hamburger Patties

5 / 7 Pack Whole Oats into Hamburger Patties

Hamburgers are a quick and easy weeknight dinner option—and much less expensive than eating out. There’s another benefit to building your own burgers—you can add anything you’d like!

Whether you stick to the traditional ground beef base or opt for a healthier ground turkey option— a swap that saves you up to 50 calories and four grams of fat per four-ounce serving—there’s always room to add fresh veggies, your favorite spices and even whole grain.

“You can add whole grains like barley, bulgur or oats to things like meatloaf or hamburgers,” Buchanan says. “They can be used as a binding agent and increases whole grain intake,” she adds.

Bake Barley into casseroles

6 / 7 Bake Barley into casseroles

Casseroles make for wholesome side dishes or hearty main course meals any night of the week. Your typical dish may include on-hand fresh veggies, lean protein and a sprinkle of reduced fat cheese, but don’t be so quick to pop your pan into the oven.

First, toss your favorite whole grain, like barley, into the mix.  Barley is loaded with fiber, protein and nutrients like iron, manganese and selenium. Protein is vital to the health and maintenance of your entire body and fiber helps maintain bowel health and regulate your body’s blood sugar levels. Additionally, both protein and fiber help satiate your hunger for extended periods of time, which may even halt cravings and prevent late-night indulgences.   

Iron is essential to the health of hemoglobin, the substance in blood cells responsible for delivering oxygen throughout the body. Manganese promotes the health of our connective tissue, bones and sex hormones. Selenium is no slacker either—this mineral is important for fertility and thyroid function. 

Pro tip: Save yourself some time by prepping your grains in large quantities to enjoy for days (or months) to come. “You can freeze cooked whole grains for up to six months, and they’ll keep in the refrigerator for three to five days,” Buchanan says.

Craft Spiced-Up Sides

7 / 7 Craft Spiced-Up Sides

Whole grains make a great addition to a wide variety of entrees, side dishes and even desserts, but a sprinkle of spices or a dash of herbs can up the flavor of any meal. Start by spicing up the water you cook them in—add your favorite blend of spices, like black pepper, cumin, curry or a bouillon cube to your boiling pot.

Buchanan shares her favorite way to cook grains: “Usually when I'm cooking with whole grains like brown rice or quinoa, I like to do it in vegetable or chicken broth to add some flavor,” she says.

Cooking is just the first step in serving outstanding whole grain dishes. Fold in ripe veggies, fresh herbs, dried fruits and chopped nuts to create recipes like our bulgur bowl or whole grain salad.