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Two moms trying to raise their families a little greener, a little healthier, and with a whole lot of love. All this while trying to save a little green along the way. Product reviews, green ideas, money-saving tips, and more!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Gotta love good grains

When Ethan was an infant I decided I was going to change the way we ate at our house, in hopes that he would grow up thinking brown rice was the norm and whole grain bread with flax seeds was yummy.

Why whole grains? If you are unfamiliar with the health benefits, here are just a few courtesy of the Whole Grains Council:
  • stroke risk reduced 30-36%
  • type 2 diabetes risk reduced 21-30%
  • heart disease risk reduced 25-28%
  • better weight maintenance

Other benefits indicated by recent studies include:

  • reduced risk of asthma
  • healthier carotid arteries
  • reduction of inflammatory disease risk
  • lower risk of colorectal cancer
  • healthier blood pressure levels
  • less gum disease and tooth loss
So, I cleaned my pantry out of refined flours, sugars, white rice, and the like. I replaced my white rice with brown rice and quinoa. The white flour is now whole wheat pastry flour (it has a finer texture than regular whole wheat flour and substitutes more easily in recipes), the pasta is now organic whole wheat pasta (from Costco at a great price), and the sugar now unrefined organic sugar (also found at Costco) or agave syrup or sometimes honey. I added in a variety of lentils and beans for making winter soups and side dishes. I also stocked up on wheat bran and ground flax seed to add into recipes like pancakes, quick breads, and muffins (I just reduce the flour a bit and replace with the wheat bran, and add a little flax in as a bonus). And you what? The food tastes great! Brown rice has such a nutty flavor and bite to it, it is more filling and tasty than its refined counterpart. I find that the whole grains, whole wheat and natural sugars are actually more flavorful and "real" tasting than what I had been using all those years.

Now, don't go thinking that we're munching on carrots and quinoa 24-7 here. We love our sweets and treats here too! BUT... My thinking is that even if I am making cookies or a cake or my homemade pizza, I know it is at least a little bit healthier than the original version since I'm using whole grains and more natural, unrefined ingredients. The revised pantry is now my norm and I just make my old recipes work with these ingredients (much to my mom's dismay - she begged me to buy some white flour for her to bake with on Thanksgiving!!).

I realize I have only touched the surface of the options for whole grains though. I just read this article on NPR that nicely outlines some additional whole grain options that you may not be familiar with and also offers some fairly easy recipes that incorporate these tasty grains.

In the course of this transition, I have fell in love with the bulk foods area of the market. Whether it be at Sunflower Farmers Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, or Whole Foods, I buy everything possible in bulk section: flour, sugar, lentils, beans, quinoa, rice, nuts, honey.... Bulk is awesome because YOU get to choose how much you want to buy. Need 1/2 cup of french green lentils for a recipe? You can buy exactly what you need with no excess left to sit in your pantry for years. Plus, there is very little packaging to be tossed! I purchased some clear reusable containers from Costco to store my bulk items in my pantry and labeled them, so everything is easy to find and organized. An added bonus to the bulk section is that the organic varieties are VERY affordable (I find that Whole Foods has the best selection for organic bulk items) - often cheaper than buying a packaged conventional version on the shelf.

Some of the inspiration for this change came from reading Dr. Sears' books on nutrition. I would highly recommend The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood; but don't let the title fool you- the information works for the whole family. This book is brief but full of great information. If you are looking for a more thorough book, The Family Nutrition Book is a great resource. I have both books and must say there is quite a bit of overlap between the two books. I actually prefer the way The Healthiest... is written and organized over The Family Nutrition Book, as it is more a quick reference guide. Don't forget you can get 50% off at Dr. Sears' store until the end of January with code J1050.


  1. I recently bought a ton of organic quinoa at Costco but I'm not really sure how to use it...or even how to cook it! How do you use it?

  2. For quinoa, I either cook plain and serve something over it (like you would use rice), or I have made kind of a salad with it (chopped green onions, fresh chopped herbs, and some chopped veggies with a olive oil/lemon dressing).

    You can also cook it and add it to baby pureed food for T to self-feed w/a spoon. I haven't done this yet, but I think it would thicken it up nicely so E could feed himself without too much mess.