Inspiring healthier eating one dish at a time

Looking For Whole Grains? Think Outside the Cereal Box

Are you trying to eat more whole grains?  Chances are, even if you’re not trying, you are eating more, and that’s a good thing.   A few years ago, the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines advised everyone to eat more whole grains by replacing at least half of our refined grains with whole grains.  As a result, food manufacturers, food service providers, and even fast food restaurants have gotten on board to create more whole grain options and help inch us toward that goal.

Why Whole Grains?

Look around at what we’re buying at the grocery store, or most times when we go out to eat.  The American diet has become unbalanced and way too full of refined grains like white bread (maybe not sandwich bread, but perhaps Italian bread or a white deli rolls?), pasta, donuts, muffins, and packaged cookies and treats.  All of these are made with refined flour, which is stripped of  fiber and healthy nutrients.  Research is indicating more and more, that diets full of refined grains are at least partly to blame for the epidemic of obesity and diabetes, and  maybe other chronic diseases as well.

Refined grains are milled and stripped of both the outer bran and inner germ to give them a finer texture and extend their shelf life. However, the refining process also removes fiber and many nutrients, which are found in the bran and germ of grains.

whole grain kernel

Whole grains on the other hand, are just that – grains that are whole, unprocessed, unrefined, and just as nature intended them.  Whole grains are excellent sources of fiber, B-vitamins, antioxidants, and iron.  Substituting a few of your refined grains for whole grains can have tremendous health benefits for everyone.


Which Foods Are Whole Grains?

A big tipoff is the word WHOLE in the label, but just to be sure, check the package for the Whole Grain Stamp, which is now on over 8.600 different products.

whole grain stamp


Most of us are aware that whole wheat breads, bagels, English muffins, and cereals are whole grain, but there are lots more to explore.  Whole grains also include oats, popcorn, brown rice, and rye, as well as those in the not quite as well known, but worth exploring category, like barley, colored rice, buckwheat, bulgur and wheat berries.  Want to really show off your awesome foodie-ness?  Try some of the “new and exciting” ancient grains. These are actually grains that have been around for thousands of years, but have only recently been rediscovered as delicious and healthy alternatives to more refined starches and grains.  Ancient grains include amaranth, einkorn, farro/emmer, kamut, and quinoa.  Read about the history and uses of these and all grains on the Whole Grains Council website.

Quinoa is one of my favorite ancient grains.  It’s a bit rice-like in it’s texture, but it’s much higher in fiber and it has a lower glycemic index than rice, which means it won’t raise your blood sugar as quickly.  It’s also full of fiber and a host of vitamins, and it’s packed with complete protein (rare for grains), so it’s perfect for a meatless Monday (or any day) meal.  I often make a batch of these Quinoa Patties, which can be frozen and later heated up for a quick dinner.  Top them with tomato sauce and add a salad and dinner is done!  Leftovers are also great for a grab and go breakfast.


Quinoa Patties|Craving Something Healthy



Quinoa Patties

The quinoa mixture will keep in the refrigerator for a few days, so you can cook the patties to order, or make them all at once, and freeze the extras


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Asiago cheese, grated
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cup finely chopped zucchini (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper


Bring 2 cups water and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil, and add quinoa. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender and water is absorbed. Remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature.

Combine cooked quinoa, garlic, cheese, optional zucchini, and eggs in a medium bowl.

Stir in bread crumbs, and let sit a few minutes so crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. Add more bread crumbs if necessary, but mixture should be fairly moist.

Season with basil, salt and pepper.

Heat a nonstick skillet on high heat.

While pan is heating, form mixture into patties (this will make approximately 20 2-inch patties)

Add patties to the skillet so they fit with some room in between them. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the bottoms are deeply browned. Carefully flip the patties with a spatula, and cook the other side for another 5-7 minutes, or until golden.

Remove from the skillet, and cool on a wire rack while you cook the remaining patties.


Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 2 patties
Servings Per Container 10

Amount Per Serving
Calories 163 Calories from Fat 45
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 8%
Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 78mg 26%
Sodium 344mg 14%
Total Carbohydrate 20g 7%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Sugars 2g
Protein 8g 16%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Adapted from Epicurious

Do you have any favorite new whole grains?  Have you ever tried any ancient grains?


Eat well!



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