All About Grains
Choosing grains wisely is the key to boosting fiber in your diet without adding lots of calories
TYPES OF GRAINS
Grain products are foods made from wheat, rice, oats, corn, barley, or other cereal grains. Bread, pasta, cereal, and rice are good examples. Eating foods from this group can be a good way to get complex carbohydrates, such as starch and fiber.
There are 2 types of grains. Whole grains are less processed and include whole wheat foods, buckwheat, and brown rice. Refined grains have been altered from the form in which they were grown and include white flour and white rice. Most refined grains are enriched, meaning some vitamins and iron are added back; however, fiber is lost for good.
It is recommended that at least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains. You can try substituting whole-grain products for refined-grain products; eat whole wheat bread instead of white bread and brown rice instead of white rice. This can help you meet your whole-grain target. If you have trouble making the switch, try switching slowly. For instance, you can try using 2/3 regular pasta and 1/3 whole wheat pasta, adding more whole wheat pasta a little at a time. In a few weeks, your plate could be filled with whole wheat pasta. Remember to check the cooking times on the package; whole wheat pasta may have a different cooking time than regular.
When you choose grains, watch for hidden fats and calories. Cookies and pastries almost always have sugar and fat—you probably know that by now! Other grain products may also hide fat and sugar. Many tortillas, for instance, are made with lard and many rice and pasta dishes call for added fat and sugar. It’s easy to eat many calories from this food group and not get good nutrition. Be sure to choose your grains well.
Here are some tips that can help you to make good choices:
- Spreads and toppings add unwanted calories and provide little nutrition. Try to skip them or use low-calorie or low-fat toppings, spreads, and sauces
- Steam your rice; don’t add oil or butter. Try lemon juice or garlic in the cooking water for variety
- Select low-fat tortillas
- Choose whole wheat rolls over biscuits, muffins, and other breads
- When you eat pasta, choose tomato-based sauces. Cream sauces tend to be high in calories and fat
- If pasta sauces or stuffing call for meat, use lean meat. Trim away any visible fat before you cook. Drain all oil before you add meat to your sauce or stuffing
- Try experimenting with nontraditional grains. You can use quinoa instead of rice, try barley in soups, bake with buckwheat flour, or serve buckwheat whole as a side dish