I know, I know. Eating whole grains these days is not on-trend. With heavy influence from the ketogenic and paleo diets, which prioritize protein and fat and shun grains, fashionable meals and products are much more likely to feature grain alternatives. Cauliflower instead of rice. A blend of coconut, almond and cassava flours instead of bread. Bean-based pasta instead of flour-based pasta. Indeed, the hashtag #grainfree has been used on Instagram over 1.5 million times.
While some folks do follow grain-free diets for specific health conditions such as autoimmune disorders or epilepsy, it seems like the vast majority of grain-free eaters are, well, afraid of eating grains. There’s a common misconception that eating grains promotes weight gain—such thinking explains the persistence of low-carb diets such as Atkins.
But grains are an amazing food! Packed with protein, fiber, iron, magnesium and B vitamins, whole grains are a cheap, sustainable and healthy ingredient that can be incorporated into breakfast, lunch and dinner. While ancient grains—heirloom species like amaranth, sorghum, millet and quinoa that have not been hybridized by modern agriculture—are fun to experiment with cooking, more common whole grains such as barley, wheat berries, brown rice and oats are just as healthy. Just half a cup of rolled oats contain 7 grams of protein (more than an egg!); the same serving of quinoa has double that.
Plus, whole grains rank very high on the sustainability scale when compared to other foods, particularly when measurements regard water usage. Cheese is full of calcium and protein. But when you consider how much water it takes to grow grain to feed the cow and then water the cow during its lifetime, grains for human consumption win out.
Here are just a few of my whole grain-containing favorite products. I encourage you to give these packaged products a try, and to cook whole grains more in your kitchen, too.
Just a really tasty, fruit-infused muesli perfect for making overnight oats.
This portable snack bar contains a medley of whole grains, including millet, buckwheat, oats, amaranth and quinoa.
A wonderfully flavorful organic rice from Lotus Foods. This company is dedicated to helping farmers produce more rice with less water, a method Lotus calls “More Crop Per Drop.”
Old-fashioned USDA Organic rolled oats that will be a staple in your pantry.
An oatmeal cup spiked with rye, quinoa, chia and flaxseeds. We love Soulfull because the company donates oatmeal to food pantries around the United States.
A consciously sourced heirloom quinoa, packaged within an innovative compostable bag.