Culinate

A month of whole grains

The verdict? An unqualified success

By
July 1, 2008

After 30 days of a daily diet of whole grains, how do I feel?

Better informed and pleasantly full.

My awareness about whole grains has tripled. I can tell a groat from a grit. I say “whole grain” with the nonchalance some say “dude.”

When it comes to cooking quinoa, brown rice, and wheat berries, I prepare them with the same ease I boil pasta. I’ve ventured into the world of baking with whole grains and am less anxious and dubious about the outcome. And my taste buds have changed; white bread (even those crusty artisan loaves) tastes boring to me. White rice — bluck.

I always liked the taste of whole grains, but after a daily dose, I now prefer them. Whole-wheat bread, rye crackers, granola, hot cereals, grain salads, popcorn, corn tortillas, brown rice, bulgur, polenta, and quinoa are all staples in our house. Leftover grains get folded into burritos, soup, even muffins. I’ve earmarked a gazillion recipes I want to try.

bulgur salad
Bulgur salad.

Though I didn’t get to as many new recipes as I intended, I did find a lot of easy ways to work whole grains into my daily diet. I learned that I don’t have to clear the decks (aka counters and calendar) to eat more whole grains. I don’t have to make bread or unmold millet timbales; I just have to buy/choose/cook them as an alternative to refined grains.

Through the Whole-Grain Challenge, I learned a lot and came to realize that there’s still a lot to learn; I’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to cooking the wide variety of available whole grains. Teff, beware!

There’s also been a ripple affect. I didn’t set out to reprogram the children, but a steady diet of whole grains has made an impact. My daughter now helps herself to the pot of brown rice and requests quinoa salad. My son asks suspiciously, “Is this really a whole grain?” while downing handfuls of popcorn; oatmeal, whole-grain pancakes, and not-quite-monster cookies are standard fare.

What I appreciate most: heightened whole-grain awareness. Turning my full attention to grains allowed me to experience them in new ways.

I discovered the absence of whole-grain choices in restaurants. This has prompted me to do two things: ask for them (perhaps enough requests for whole grains will shift the trend?) and eat enough whole grains at home to make up for the occasional omission.

I realized that it really doesn’t take that much longer to cook brown rice than white and that it’s okay to take off the lid to see how it’s doing. In fact, I’m a convert to boiling grains like pasta until al dente. (Then I drain the grain, put it back in the cooking pot, cover it and let it steam — no heat — while I finish making the rest of dinner.)

I learned that whole grains are cheap and filling. And I confirmed what I already knew: talking about regularity is a good way to stall a conversation.

Best of all, though — and forgive the born-again tone — instead of thinking of whole grains as a food I should eat a whole lot more of, I just eat whole grains because it’s now routine.

Though the Whole-Grain Challenge officially ended on the last day of June, we’ve decided to continue the blog, albeit less vigorously. Look for continued posts here as we further explore the whole wide world of eating whole grains.

And I have to ask: How was it for you? Let us know in the comment section.