Tammy McLeod is usually out of the house before all three of her boys (ages 14, 11, and 8) are up. Her husband, John, is often on the road for several days each week, so at workday’s end, after shuttling kids to various activities, she’s short on prep time. “Throwing something in the Crock Pot” before she heads out in the morning is a favorite solution. And though she makes healthy meals and eating together a priority, “I don’t think I ever really focus on whole grains,” she says. “As a person who constantly battles weight, I worry about whether adding more will affect that.”
We need to change Tammy’s mindset. We’re not asking her to add three more grain servings on top of what she usually eats—but to swap in whole grains for refined grains. So instead of a regular English muffin at breakfast, try a whole-wheat muffin. At lunch, try your sandwich on whole-wheat bread or in a whole-wheat pita. Come dinnertime, try brown or wild rice in place of white rice or potatoes. It’s more like fine-tuning or trading in than adding. And some weekend warrior–type ideas (cook big batches on the weekend when you have more time) can help her meet her whole-grain quota during the week.
- Know that whole grains are more satiating. Because whole grains are higher in fiber than refined grains, they help you stay fuller longer. That’s a good reason why whole grains help with weight maintenance: When eaten in place of refined grains, they can actually help you eat less during the day—so try not to worry about weight gain.
- Add grains to slow-cooker favorites. When making a favorite slow-cooker chili, add in a cup of wheat berries or wild rice. Or if there’s a braised meat dish you like to serve over rice, serve it over brown rice (boil-in-bag or instant brown rice count), whole-wheat noodles, or whole-grain polenta.
- Cook in bulk. Make whole-grain salads in advance, chill, and enjoy for lunches or nontraditional breakfasts. Try bulgur or quinoa salads with lots of herbs and vegetables; stir in leftover chicken or shrimp to vary the salad from day to day. Go to CookingLight.com/HealthyHabits for recipes.
- Don’t forget popcorn. Yes, this favorite snack counts as a whole grain—3 cups popped corn is a serving. If you love microwave popcorn for its convenience, be sure to choose a version that’s low in saturated fat and sodium.