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Meal Planning – With Whole Grains

By Rose Frazier

Meal planning approaches come and go in their popularity, just like vitamin supplements and new and novel food items. The most trendy eating style right now is the “high protein, low carbohydrate” approach used to foster weight loss. Although effective for slimming down, this eating plan often gives grains an undeserved bad reputation. While it’s true that refined grains offer little more than empty calories, whole grains offer many beneficial and desirable nutrients.

When manufacturers take a whole grain, like wheat or brown rice, and refine it, they strip off the outer bran and germ layers that contain the fiber, as well as many B vitamins, phytochemicals, antioxidants and minerals, such as zinc, copper and magnesium. Refined flours are then “enriched”, which means that some of the nutrients are added back in, but not all of them. Additionally, when the outer layers go, so does a lot of the flavor. So manufacturers take the bland starchy component and add fat, sugar, salt and flavorings to create new foods that consumers like, such as cereal, crackers, bread and baked goods.

Rather than eliminating all grains, you might try for a healthier approach to eating that includes only (or mostly) whole grains. In addition to getting more nutrients, you will also get the natural fiber.   Together these help to reduce your risk of GI disorders and other types of chronic disease, such diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The fiber makes the food more chewy, and makes you feel more full, so it keeps you from overconsuming.

For breakfast try whole grain cereals (like those made by Kashi), Wheatena or steel cut oats. You can make your own pancake mix using a combination of whole wheat and whole white wheat flour. Substitute a combination of these flours in your muffin recipes as well. (I like to replace the sugar with real maple syrup, honey and molasses.)   For sandwiches, read labels on bread and wraps. Avoid those that contain “unbleached enriched wheat flour” and look for those that contain whole grain flours instead. For your evening meal, try using brown or wild rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, barley, wheat bulger or millet for side starches instead of white rice, noodles, white pasta or processed potato products.

A great source of information on whole grains, products, recipes and product labeling is the Whole Grain Council. Check out their website at