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Tips to help you eat whole grains - from the USDA

At Meals:

•To eat more whole grains, substitute a whole-grain product for a refined product – such as eating whole-wheat bread instead of white bread or brown rice instead of white rice. It’s important to substitute the whole-grain product for the refined one, rather than adding the whole-grain product.

•For a change, try brown rice or whole-wheat pasta. Try brown rice stuffing in baked green peppers or tomatoes and whole-wheat macaroni in macaroni and cheese.

•Use whole grains in mixed dishes, such as barley in vegetable soup or stews and bulgur wheat in casserole or stir-fries.

•Create a whole grain pilaf with a mixture of barley, wild rice, brown rice, broth and spices. For a special touch, stir in toasted nuts or chopped dried fruit.

•Experiment by substituting whole wheat or oat flour for up to half of the flour in pancake, waffle, muffin or other flour-based recipes. They may need a bit more leavening.

•Use whole-grain bread or cracker crumbs in meatloaf.

•Try rolled oats or a crushed, unsweetened whole grain cereal as breading for baked chicken, fish, veal cutlets, or eggplant parmesan.

•Try an unsweetened, whole grain ready-to-eat cereal as croutons in salad or in place of crackers with soup.

•Freeze leftover cooked brown rice, bulgur, or barley. Heat and serve it later as a quick side dish.

As Snacks:

•Snack on ready-to-eat, whole grain cereals such as toasted oat cereal.

•Add whole-grain flour or oatmeal when making cookies or other baked treats.

•Try a whole-grain snack chip, such as baked tortilla chips.

•Popcorn, a whole grain, can be a healthy snack with little or no added salt and butter.

What to Look for on the Food Label:

•Choose foods that name one of the following whole-grain ingredients first on the label’s ingredient list:

“brown rice”
“graham flour”
“whole-grain corn”
“whole oats”
“whole rye”
“whole wheat”
“wild rice”

•Foods labeled with the words “multi-grain,” “stone-ground,” “100% wheat,” “cracked wheat,” “seven-grain,” or “bran” are usually not whole-grain products.

•Color is not an indication of a whole grain. Bread can be brown because of molasses or other added ingredients. Read the ingredient list to see if it is a whole grain.

•Use the Nutrition Facts label and choose products with a higher % Daily Value (%DV) for fiber – the %DV for fiber is a good clue to the amount of whole grain in the product.

•Read the food label’s ingredient list. Look for terms that indicate added sugars (sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, and molasses) and oils (partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) that add extra calories. Choose foods with fewer added sugars, fats, or oils.

•Most sodium in the food supply comes from packaged foods. Similar packaged foods can vary widely in sodium content, including breads. Use the Nutrition Facts label to choose foods with a lower % DV for sodium. Foods with less than 140 mg sodium per serving can be labeled as low sodium foods. Claims such as “low in sodium” or “very low in sodium” on the front of the food label can help you identify foods that contain less salt (or sodium).

Whole Grain Tips for Children

•Set a good example for children by eating whole grains with meals or as snacks.

•Let children select and help prepare a whole grain side dish.

•Teach older children to read the ingredient list on cereals or snack food packages and choose those with whole grains at the top of the list.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Website. Washington, DC. Tips to Help You Eat Whole Grain. Accessed 4/28/10.

Tea and Spice Makes Everything Nice

Want to spice up your food but not sure how to give your usual dishes a new kick? Try using tea! Yes, tea isn't just for drinking, it’s also for cooking. Here are a few ways to add flare to your dishes that will leave your guests guessing and wanting more:

•When roasting your favorite bird, add one tea bag to your stock or cooking liquid. Rosemary and Sage are particularly tasty choices.
•Use Sage tea instead of dried herbs to infuse the dish. It will leave a scent of culinary mastery.
•Make a quick stir fry by adding an ounce or two of strong Ginger tea to the sautee pan.

•Stuff a whole fish with tea leaves before steaming it to lessen the fishy taste and smell. Try Rosemary tea for an exceptionally beautiful fragrance.
•Roast loose Parsley tea leaves in a sautee pan before adding it as a coating a mild fish. The smokiness of the tea can add depth to what would have been bland before.

•Marbling hard boiled eggs is easy and will impress even the biggest food critic. Boil your eggs like usual but after cooking, crack the outer shell slightly with the back of a spoon and steep the eggs in a strongly brewed cup of dark tea, like Rooibus. When the shell is removed, you'll have an edible masterpiece.

•Dried leaves can add not only spice but a little crunch too! Try rubbing your favorite protein with Bilberry, Green tea, Ginger, Parsley, Peppermint, Rosemary, or Rose Hip tea.

Braising Liquids & Marinades
•Combine a cup of strongly brewed tea, your favorite fruit juice and a dash of spices and voila! A rich and complex braising liquid or marinade!

•Add a hint of unexpected flavor to sauces by adding Bilberry, Green tea, Ginger, Peppermint, or Rose Hip tea to a dessert sauce or simple syrup.

Winter Fruit with Chocolate-Ginger Cannoli Cream

This deliciously creamy ricotta mixture full of chocolate and ginger, makes a wonderful sauce for crisp, juicy winter fruit. You could also serve the sauce in a bowl and treat it like a dipping sauce. Or try it over pancakes!

Baked Green Apples

Serve these either warm, at room temperature, or chilled. If you like, serve with a dollop of plain fat-free yogurt.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Oat-Walnut Crust

This luscious reduced-fat cheesecake, with a crust full of nutritional goodies, is really a very creamy pumpkin pie that easily could become a favorite on Thanksgiving or any special family dinner.

Mashed Potatoes with Glazed Shallots

A small amount of sugar added to the shallots as they cook helps them caramelize, giving them a sweet taste as well as a golden color.

Golden Mashed Root Vegetables

The sweet potatoes and carrots give these mashed root vegetables a lovely golden color. You should mash the vegetables the same way you like your mashed potatoes: smooth or lumpy. Either way, they’re delicious.

Mixed Rice Pilaf with Walnuts

Since wild rice is expensive, we’ve used only a modest amount in this pilaf, but you could use half brown rice and half wild rice. And if you can’t find carrot juice-which gives the pilaf a rich golden color, lots of beta carotene, and just a hint of sweetness-use tomato-vegetable juice instead.

Wild Rice Pilaf with Pumpkin Seeds

Wild rice and brown rice are good companions in a pilaf: first, because they have similar chewy textures, but second because they both take about the same amount of time to cook. A third benefit is that using a mixture stretches the expensive wild rice with a less expensive grain.