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New Year's Resolution: Add Whole Grains to Your Diet

Not everyone can afford a gym membership or personal chef service, but choosing more whole grains along with other nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables, can make your life healthier at little to no extra cost.

What Is Whole Grain?

A standard sack of bleached white flour on the grocery store shelf is the end result of heavy processing. Most of the wheat bran and some of the wheat germ is stripped away, leaving less fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, and other nutrients to help your body be healthy.

Wheat is only one of the whole grains that can become a part of your healthy diet. Others are whole oats/oatmeal, whole grain cornmeal, popcorn, brown rice, whole rye, whole-grain barley, wild rice, buckwheat, triticale, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, quinoa, and sorghum. Other less common whole grains include amaranth, emmer, farro, grano (lightly pearled wheat), spelt, and wheat berries.

The exotic varieties are fun to try, but most people will start a whole grain changeover at their grocery stores, which fortunately are offering more and more whole grain products. Throughout the 20th century, white bread rose in popularity to such a degree that when people spoke of bread, that’s what they meant. Wonder Bread became the standard choice for kids’ school lunches, but today even Wonder Bread has come closer to recapturing whole grain’s nutritional possibilities. In addition to their “classic” white loaf, they now offer five kinds that are made with whole grains, and two of those are made with 100% whole wheat.

Recent food labeling changes have made it much easier for shoppers to figure out how much whole grain is in a product. The Whole Grain Stamps are a huge help here. The basic Whole Grain Stamp guarantees that the product has at least 8 grams (half a serving) of whole grain per labeled serving. The 100% Stamp guarantees that all of its grain products are whole grain. No matter which stamp is used, both tell exactly how much whole grain is given per serving.

Why Choose Whole Grains?

Studies have shown that having several servings a day of whole grains can reduce the risk of heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems and help with weight loss. If any of these are health concerns, eating whole grain foods might be something your doctor recommends.

Once you become accustomed to whole grains, regular white flour products may lose their appeal for you. With less textures and blander tastes, white flour products might turn into something you settle for rather than being your everyday first choice.

Out and About with Whole Grains

Going out to eat? Some of your favorite chains have added whole grain possibilities to their menus. At Cracker Barrel, French toast or any sandwich can be made with whole wheat sourdough bread. Olive Garden offers whole wheat linguini as an option with any pasta dish. Papa John’s offers a whole wheat crust, and Pizza Hut now offers a multi-grain crust. Panera sells entire loaves of whole grain bread and serves slices of them with salads, sandwiches, and soups.

More locally, Sammy T’s has been serving a lot of whole grain options on their everyday menu for years. Check out Ellen’s Salad, the Tabouli Salad, the Camper’s Special, the Lentil Burger, and the Bean and Grain Burger. Whole grain is always an option as all of their sandwiches may be served on whole wheat bread or whole wheat pita.

Popular coffee shops seem to have gotten the memo, too. Starbucks features whole-grain options as does Einstein’s and Caribou Coffee.

Adapting Recipes

Not all recipes can or should be adapted to whole grain cooking but many can. Any recipe where the added texture of whole grain is a possible bonus rather than a spoiler is a good candidate. Oatmeal cookies already contain much whole grain, but if you switch out the flour to whole-wheat or a white whole-wheat flour, you get that much more benefit—along with the butter and sugar, of course.

King Arthur Flour gives us this recipe for amazing Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies:

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (5 5/8 ounces) brown sugar, lightly packed
3 tablespoons (2 1/4 ounces) honey

2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) cider vinegar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups (8 ounces) King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour*, organic preferred
2 2/3 to 3 cups (16 to 18 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°:F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

To prepare the dough: In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugars, honey, vanilla, espresso powder, and salt till smooth. Beat in the vinegar, egg, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir in the flour, then the chocolate chips, mixing JUST till combined. Drop the dough, by tablespoonfuls, onto the prepared baking sheets. A tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.

To bake the cookies: Bake the cookies for 10 to 11 minutes, until they’re starting to brown around the edges. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool for 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. Yield: about 3 dozen cookies.

*The non-organic variety is available at some local stores, including Food Lion, BJ’s, Wal-Mart, Ukrops and Giant Food. The organic version may be purchased online at

Whole Grain Cookbooks

The Deaf Smith Country Cookbook, first published in 1973, was one of the first popular cookbooks to introduce the concept of whole grain cooking to a wide audience, and it included a Judeo-Christian spiritual outlook on the use of natural foods. Though no longer in print, older editions can be picked up online or at used book stores.

Ready to try whole grain cooking? These cookbooks are available to check out at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library:

Home for the Holidays: Festive Baking with Whole Grains by Ken Haedrich
“…simple recipes for breakfasts, brunches, family-style celebrations, and goodies for gift-giving. Haedrich, a father of four, offers a low-stress approach to baking that includes special tips on sharing the fun with children. Bounties of the season include Deep-Dish Lamb Pie with Mint Gremolada, gorgeous Lemon Cream Scones, Squash Quick Bread with Cider Raisins, Pastry Pizza with a Whole Wheat Crust, Parmesan and Basil Focaccia, Apple Butter Maple Pie, Gingerbread Tart, Chocolate Banana Bundt Cake, and much more.”
Winner of the Julia Child cookbook award.

King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking: Delicious Recipes Using Nutritious Whole Grains
“…breathes new life into breads, cakes, cookies, pastries, and more by transforming the dark and dense alchemy of whole grain baking into lively, flavorful, sweet, and savory treats. The final result is more than 400 delicious, inviting, and foolproof recipes that define the next generation of whole grain cooking.”

Super Natural Cooking: Five Ways to Incorporate Whole and Natural Foods into Your Cooking by Heidi Swanson
“Emerging food-world superstar Heidi Swanson teaches readers innovative ways to incorporate whole and natural foods into their diet. Stunning photography is provided by the author, who is the creative force behind one of the most-visited food blogs in the country.”

Whole Grains: Every Day, Every Way by Lorna Sass
“…demystifies cooking and baking with whole grains, and presents more than 150 recipes for such irresistible dishes as Cornmeal Biscuits with Sage Butter and Beef Chili with Masa Harina Crust.”

Whole Grains for Busy People: Fast, Flavor-packed Meals and More for Everyone by Lorna Sass
“…125 tempting recipes that focus exclusively on quick-cooking whole grains—those that take 30 minutes or less to cook—and on the array of whole-grain products that are now easily found in grocery stores, from tortillas to pastas...”


Whole Grain Resources Online

These are just a few of the many resources available:

King Arthur Flour: Whole Grain Recipes
Dozens of recipes for breads, pies, cakes, quick breads, and waffles, including Spicy Cheddar Muffins, Hazelnut Pain au Chocolat, and Upside Down Peach Gingerbread. Many local stores stock King Arthur flours, including Giant, Bloom, and Wal-mart.

Whole Grain Gourmet
Whole grain recipes aren’t necessarily the sole purview of flower children. Check out this new site’s recipes for Chicken and Mango Quesadilla, Tuscan Penne Pasta Salad, and Decadent Chocolate Cake. Join the forum to contribute your own recipe ideas to the online community.

The Whole Grains Council
This non-profit organization gives facts on whole grains and recipes.

Whole Grains Fact Sheet

The International Food Information Council gives information on the history and usefulness of whole grains.