You guys, I am as excited about this week’s challenge as Oprah is about bread. Who doesn’t LOVE bread??  But seriously…  I hope that this week you are encouraged to branch out and try some new grains you may have never tried before. Make sure you post any recipes you make that are “new” to the Facebook group so others can try them too. Bread is good, but wheatberry is even better.

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Whole Grains are an important part of a healthy diet. In general grains get a bad rap because they are carbs and carbs are bad right? Wrong. The important factor is what type of grain you are eating.

“Refined grain” is the term used to refer to grains that are not whole, because they are missing one or more of their three key parts (bran, germ, or endosperm). For example, white flour, white bread, and white rice are refined grains, because both have had their bran and germ removed altering the nutritional content. Refining a grain removes at least half of its nutrients and about a quarter of the protein leaving a grain that is less nutritionally complete. Refined grains include processed crackers, most sweetened cereals, white bread, and white pastas. While these foods do provide energy to your body they don’t have the added benefits that whole grains offer.

What are the benefits of whole grains?
One serving of whole grain contains at least 2-3 gm fiber per serving. Aim for 25 gm of fiber daily to help lower your risk of chronic illnesses including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. While fiber is the main component in grain many people associate with health, whole grains actually contain many other nutrients that are beneficial to health including: magnesium, phosphorus, antioxidants, B vitamins,  and manganese. Added bonus– fiber also helps slow the absorption of food to help you feel fuller longer!

Why do grains get a bad reputation?
Who knows, there is always a new nutrition trend to follow but this one is not backed by science. Don’t shy away from grains because they contain carbohydrate. Carbs are your body’s main source of fuel and are necessary for optimal performance. When choosing which grains to include in your diet always look for the first ingredient “whole grain” and don’t be fooled by the ingredient “wheat” unless it is “whole wheat”.  Not all grains are created equal so make sure you pick the best ones.

In general, 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta, or hot cereal,  5 whole-grain crackers, 3 cups unsalted, air-popped popcorn, and 1 6-inch whole-wheat tortilla is considered one serving.

Also remember there are many whole grains out there that are delicious and fun to try. Try subbing quinoa for rice or adding barley to a salad to bulk it up and give you sustained energy. Check out these FUEL favorite recipes below! And have fun with this week’s challenge.

Joanna Gregg, MS, RD

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

For the salad

  • 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup black olives, sliced
  • 1/2 cup roasted peppers, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh or canned corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese crumbles

For the dressing

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • salt, pepper

Instructions

  1. Start by boiling the quinoa in slightly salted water according to the package instructions (15-20 minutes). Once cooked, drain and let it cool.
  2. Prepare the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together.
  3. in a medium bowl, combine quinoa and the rest of the salad ingredients and pour the dressing on top. Mix everything gently and enjoy.

Nutrition Facts: 1 cup serving
Cal: 383 | Carb: 44g | Pro: 16g | Fat: 23g

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SOUTHWESTERN BARLEY SALAD

This Southwestern Barley Salad is packed with delicious flavors of cilantro, lime, and seasonings. It’s healthy, wholesome, and perfect for lunches. Add a protein and call it a meal!

Serves: 6-8

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels
  • 1½ cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 stalks green onion, thinly sliced
  • Juice of 2 large limes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Do ahead: Cook barley according to package instructions until tender (generally, boil for approx 1 hour in a large pot of salted water) Drain cooked barley in colander. Rinse, tossing, with cold water until starchiness is washed off.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Stir to combine well. Add rinsed/drained cooked barley. Stir to combine. Add additional kosher salt and pepper as needed. Let salad chill 1-2 hours, covered, for flavors to meld before serving.