In case you snoozed through health class, let's review the importance of whole grains. Unlike refined grains, which have been stripped of the bran and germ (and a host of nutrients in the process), whole grains remain physically and nutritionally intact. They're packed with fiber, iron, and vitamin B and may reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The USDA recommends that most adults consume 6 ounces of grains a day, at least half of which should consist of whole grains. Still, only 5% of Americans get enough whole grains on a daily basis. The bottom line: It's time to get your grain on! Start with these eight strategies for sneaking more into your diet.
Try: Mushroom Barley Soup
Reduce your sodium and fat count when you ditch the canned soup in favor of a home cooked bowl of mushroom barley soup. The barley will help stabilize your blood sugar and level off your hunger pangs.
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Try: Quinoa Pasta
This is a great option for people who think whole grain pasta tastes too nutty, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD. She suggests serving chicken or salmon on a bed of the noodle-shaped version of the grain, which takes only 4 to 6 minutes to cook.
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Try: Whole Wheat Pita Pizza
Swap regular premade crust for a whole wheat pita, and you'll slash your calories by as much as 75% and boost your fiber intake from 1 g to 9 g. Drizzle olive oil on the pita for a helping of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (MUFAs). And pile on the fresh veggies for a dinner every mother would love.
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Try: Low-fat Popcorn
Eating whole grains doesn't get much easier than this. Toss a bag of low-fat popcorn into the microwave and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese or cinnamon for a nutritious snack. Three cups of popped kernels is a 1-ounce equivalent of whole grains.
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Try: Whole Wheat Panko Breaded Chicken
Who doesn't love fried chicken? Here's a healthier take on the colonel's favorite. Smother skinless chicken with whole wheat panko bread crumbs and bake it in the oven. Panko crumbs will make your food supercrunchy without having to fry it, Blatner says.
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Try: Whole Wheat Flour
Replace basic white flour with whole wheat flour to transform your baked goods into healthy treats. If you're just starting to transition to eating more whole grains, start by substituting half the flour with whole wheat flour, says Tara DelloIacono-Thies, RD, a nutrition adviser for Clif Bar & Company. Then gradually increase the quantity until your palette has adjusted.
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Try: Buckwheat Pancakes
Attention bargain shoppers! Healthy foods don't have to be expensive. You can buy buckwheat pancake mix for the same price as buttermilk pancake mix, but the former will double your fiber content and cut your sodium by 35%. Now that's what we call value.
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Try: A Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookie
For a quick hit of fiber, pour rolled oats into your cookie batter. Add pieces of dark chocolate that contain belly-flattening MUFAs for a decadent sweet you don't have to feel guilty about.