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Small Changes: Switch to Whole Grains from Refined Grains

Whole GrainsWhole grains, no doubt, are much better for us than refined grains. They are high in fiber, rich in nutrients and even contain some healthy, plant-based protein. If you have no issues with wheat or gluten, they are great for a healthy diet. And although there is a difference in taste between whole grains and those that are refined, once you get used to the difference in taste you will likely come to enjoy whole grains much more than foods made from refined grains and flour. (I’m living proof! I used to enjoy white french bread when out at dinner, now I find whole grain bread much tastier.)

If you find that making the full switch is distasteful, give your taste buds some time to adjust by substituting half of the refined grains for those that are whole.  Slowly increase the amount of the whole grain version, while decreasing the refined version until you have made the full switch. Here are a few small changes to get more whole-grains (and less refined) into your diet:

  1. Rice: Switch out white rice for brown rice. If you eat sushi, ask for brown rice in lieu of traditional white sticky rice. Also, the change in the flavor is much more subtle when cooking with brown rice in soups, stews, casseroles or salads.
  2. Pasta: Switch out traditional pasta for those made with 100% whole-wheat or whole-grains. I personally like Barilla. You may also want to look for varieties that are handmade in local specialty food stores.
  3. Flour: Whenever you cook with flour, choose whole-grain or whole-wheat flour. Whole-wheat pastry flour is finely milled for a lighter texture in your dish or if you are baking. Start with a half and half mixture, and slowly move to a higher ratio of whole-grain over time.
  4. Bread Crumbs: When recipes call for breadcrumbs, use those from whole-grain bread. If you can’t find whole-grain breadcrumbs, make your own by cutting up whole-grain bread into breadcrumb sized pieces and toasting them in the oven.
  5. With Meat: Add ¾ cup of uncooked oats, whole-grain breadcrumbs, or cooked brown rice to ground meat or ground turkey for meatballs, burgers or meatloaf.
  6. Salads: Try whole-grain salads, such as whole-grain Tabouleh (made with cracked wheat bulgur), or quinoa or barley.
  7. Sandwiches: If you love sandwiches, aim for whole grain or whole wheat varieties. I’ve already told you about my love affair with Ezekiel bread. Multi-grain can be misleading (they aren’t always whole grain), so make sure the ingredients specify that the flours used are 100% whole wheat or another type of grain.

Have you made the switch to whole-grains? What were your biggest challenges? Do you like refined or whole-grains better?

52 Small ChangesAdapted from 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You. Make real, lasting change with this easy to follow, week-by-week guide to healthy change. Get it now at

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Posted in Brett's Blog, Nutrition, Small Changes