Happy Whole Grains Month, starting today! It’s no coincidence that the back-to-school season and Whole Grains Month (September) go hand-in-hand. Whole grains are excellent lunchbox fare, and are hearty enough to carry us into crisp, autumn days. And just as alluring as their rich taste, whole grains (grains that contain all of the kernel’s original bran, germ, and endosperm) also boast an impressive nutrition profile.

What is a Whole Grain?Refining grains normally removes the bran and the germ, leaving only the endosperm. Without the bran and germ, about 25% of a grain’s protein is lost, and it’s greatly reduced in at least seventeen key nutrients. Processors generally add back five vitamins and minerals to enrich refined grains, so enriched products still contribute some valuable nutrients. But whole grains are healthier, providing more protein, more fiber and many important vitamins and minerals. You can find whole grains by looking for the word “whole” on the ingredient list (such as whole wheat flour) or by looking for the Whole Grain Stamp.

Food Pairings to Showcase Whole GrainsThose familiar with whole grains know that these nutrient powerhouses are also bursting with whole flavor. By sharing whole grain dishes with your friends and family, you can reintroduce their taste buds to the rich, nutty flavors that get lost in refined grains.

Start at home by spicing up your dinner routine with one of these delicious whole grain food pairings. Invite neighbors over for dinner, or share the dish at a potluck, so that more people can experience the goodness of whole grains.

  • Farro + Dried Cherries + Parsley + Walnuts + Grilled Sirloin Steak
  • Wild Rice + Acorn or Butternut Squash + Leeks + Dried Cranberries + Pumpkin Seeds
  • Brown Rice + Bell Peppers + Onions + Pineapple + Chicken, Tuna or Tofu + Teriyaki Sauce
  • Millet + Sautéed Mushrooms and Spinach + Chicken
  • Hulled Barley + Bean Chili + plain Greek yogurt
  • Baked Apples or Pears + Granola + Vanilla Frozen Yogurt
  • Pita Pocket Sandwich: Whole wheat pita + hummus + chicken + cucumbers + carrots
  • Fruit Roll Up: Whole grain tortilla + peanut butter or sunflower seed butter + strawberry slices + banana slices + cinnamon
  • Burrito Bowl: Quinoa + black beans + corn + avocado + cheese + plain Greek yogurt + mild salsa
  • Build your own “Lunchable”: Whole grain crackers + cheese + grapes + ham + snap peas