by Jillian Cristofalo
With names like amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum and triticale, you may think you're more likely to feed these items to your pet parakeet than serve them to your family. However, whether you're making breads, muffins and desserts or a primavera, most whole grains are easy to prepare and taste great, with the added bonus of reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity. There are plenty of more familiar whole grains, too, such as brown rice, whole wheat, oatmeal and even popcorn. Whole grains are a great addition to every meal, whether you're looking for nutritious breakfast recipes or delicious lunchbox recipes for your child.
These days, the availability of whole grains is making it easier than ever to fit them into your diet. Frozen whole wheat piecrusts, an abundance of whole grain breads, pitas, chips, and wraps and all shapes of whole grain pastas are readily available in most supermarkets. Frozen brown rice is also available and is a real timesaver-it only takes 3 minutes in the microwave, versus 45 minutes on the stovetop for the traditional stuff. The popularity of health food stores is rising, and buying in bulk from bins is economical and ensures you don't end up buying too much bulgur. If, like me, you don't have room in your pantry to cram in another half-used container you may likely throw away after it's been taking up space for over a year, you'll find those bulk bins pretty appealing.
There are loads of simple and painless ways to include more whole grains in your diet. Serve your burgers and sandwiches on whole wheat buns and rolls, use multigrain pasta for that delicious mac and cheese your kids are always clamoring for, use oats in your meatloaf instead of breadcrumbs, munch on popcorn in front of the tube, and substitute half of the white flour in homemade muffins, cakes, cookies and breads with whole wheat flour to boost your intake of fiber and nutrients from whole grains.
Restaurants are also becoming more aware of their customers nutritional needs, and some of your favorite places to eat out may include whole grains on their menus. Many popular Italian restaurant chains offer whole wheat pasta as an option, and many pizza places have whole grain crusts available. I can even get whole grains at my favorite local Mexican place, lessening the guilt of devouring an enormous overstuffed burrito, as it's filled with brown rice and wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla.
While you can easily incorporate a lot of whole grains into your diet without including foods you don't know how to pronounce, if you're feeling adventurous, why not give quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah, by the way) a try? This super-grain contains all the amino acids, making it a complete protein, and therefore a great choice for vegetarians or those of us who'd like to up our protein intake. This grain is light in texture and has a pleasing nutty flavor, so kids will like it, too.Try serving this simple recipe for Cheesy Quinoa Primavera to your family and relish the fact that you're providing them with meal that's both yummy and healthy.
Cheesy Quinoa Primavera
Heat 1 1/2 cups well-rinsed quinoa in 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth in a medium saucepan to boiling, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until all the broth is absorbed. Meanwhile, cook 2 cloves of chopped garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 4 cups of your favorite vegetables, chopped up (broccoli, carrots, asparagus and red bell peppers are good choices) and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked quinoa, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, and half of an 8-ounce package low-fat cream cheese to the veggies, then sprinkle with some grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy!
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