The Whole Grain Conundrum, with a Recipe
People are so slow to change. You might think, that with all that you hear about whole grains, that people were adopting them. All those ads for cereals and crackers, touting their grainy goodness and the new RDA of three a day must be getting through to people, right?
A recent poll commissioned by the Grain Foods Foundation found that 98% of people consume one serving of grain (not necessarily whole) per day. The average number of servings is around three, and only 11% of that is whole. So while math is not my strong suit, I think that means that most people are not eating whole grains at all. 11%of three servings adds up to a serving of whole grains about twice a week.
So, despite all the efforts of the great folks at the Whole Grains Council, writers like me, and all new products and the advertising, we are barely making a dent.
What’s up people?
Healthy eating has always had an image problem. Brown, coarse, tasteless, or too strong tasting, all bad adjectives to apply to food. And seriously, not all that applicable to whole grains today. Sure, I cook farro and brown rice, with their insane time commitments of an hour or 45 minutes on the stove-ooh how hard core. But even the complete non-cook can now buy such camouflaged products as Wonder White Wheat Bread (suspicious, but legally a whole grain) and the like. What is so hard about eating whole grain cereals for breakfast ? Seriously, raisin bran and oatmeal are not freaky health foods.
I am as usual, baffled by the vox populi when it comes to making healthy choices.
So, in the spirit of making it easy, let’s talk about the fastest possible ways to get whole grains on the table.
First, when buying prepared products, like cereals, breads and pastas, be a savvy label reader. As someone who really loves whole grain bread, I am always let down when a bread claims to be whole wheat or multi grain but is mostly white flour. All food labels are in descending order by weight. Whole wheat should be the first ingredient. If it says “enriched flour” or “wheat flour” first, it is not whole grain bread. If it has high fructose corn syrup high on the list, it is probably not all that great. The Whole Grains Council has a seal, so that is a very simple tool-look for the Whole Grains Council seal and see how many servings of whole grains they say it has.
Boxed Cereals. All those ads on tv are for boxed cereals, and that seems to be the easiest way for people to get some grains. My husband’s grandfather ate raisin bran every morning and lived to be 94. He was not a health food enthusiast. Cheerios, Wheat Chex and all sorts of familiar, non-threatening cereals are out there, easy to find. Just read labels and look for whole grains. the big scam on cereal labels is the multiple listings for sugar. Because of that rule that things must be in order by weight, using six kinds of sweetener means that they can list them lower down. that is why molasses, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and other -oses are all in one little box of cereal. Add them up and they make the cereal into a sugar bomb, not a whole grain health food.
Of course, you could always cook a little bit.
Saffron-Coconut Brown Rice with Pistachios
Short grain brown rice cooks up soft and comforting, especially with a touch of coconut milk to give it richness. Sweet fruit and crunchy nuts make this a fab side for curries, or a fine lunch on its own. Makes a great leftover.
You could also make this with millet, which takes less time to cook, and has a mild flavor that would take a back seat to all the other tastes in this dish.
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup short grain brown rice
1 medium orange
1/4 teaspoon salt optional
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup toasted pistachios optional
1. In a heavy bottomed 1 quart pot with a lid, put coconut milk, water and rinsed rice. Use a paring knife to remove the orange zest, leaving the white pith behind, in large strips, and add to the pan, reserving the fruit. Add salt and saffron. Bring to a boil, then cover tightly and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cook for 35-40 minutes, until all the water is absorbed.
2. When all the water is absorbed, toss in the apricots and let the pot stand, covered, for at least 10 minutes. Pare the white pith off the orange and slice across the sections into rounds. Serve the rice garnished with orange and pistachios.