How To Reduce Refined Grains


The new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans was recently released and while many of the recommendations are not shockingly different from the 2005 guidelines, there were a few interesting changes.

What caught my eye is the discussion, albeit it short, on reducing our intake of refined grains.  Previously, not much was mentioned about refined grains in these guidelines; instead there was more of an emphasis on reducing sugar intake when discussing dietary carbohydrates.

Of course whole grains were encouraged, but in the 2005 guidelines no one seemed brave enough to say “eat less refined grains.”  We’ve been encouraging less refined grains at Green Mountain for years.  One may think that it’s a necessity for managing diabetes, insulin resistance, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or Metabolic Syndrome, but we think everyone could benefit from less refined carbs.  Luckily the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are also addressing this.   Here is an excerpt from the guidelines on refined grains:

“On average, Americans consume 6.3 ounce-equivalents of refined grains per day.   At the 2,000-calorie level of the USDA Food Patterns, the recommended amount of refined grains is no more than 3 ounce-equivalents per day. Refined grains should be replaced with whole grains, such that at least half of all grains eaten are whole grains. Consumption of refined grain products that also are high in solid fats and/or added sugars, such as cakes, cookies, donuts, and other desserts, should be reduced. Major sources of refined grains in the diets of Americans are yeast breads (26% of total refined grain intake); pizza (11%); grain-based desserts (10%); and tortillas, burritos, and tacos (8%).”

I’m guessing as you read this you are thinking, “well, so surprises there.”  Most of us would like to include more whole grains and less refined grains, but we may struggle with it.

Incorporating More Whole Grains

It seems to me that one of the first places to target would be bread products made with refined grains as they appear to make up the bulk of our refined grain intake.  Switching to whole grain breads is a start, but many of us have done this and are looking for more ways to eat less refined starches.

I also encourage people to look for more “familiar” forms of whole grains like pastas and cereals.

Rather than attempting to serve quinoa as a side dish, it might be easier to serve your family whole grain quinoa pasta.  Switching from a refined cereal like Cream of Wheat to a whole grain version that’s similar, like hot brown rice cereal, may be a simple swap.  Try a cold cereal made with a unique whole grains like amaranth versus sticking to the same old cold cereals made with refined flour.

Of course, I’d always encourage cooking the intact grains.  We may notice that the larger particles of intact grains give us a different sense of satiety compared to products made out of flours of these grains.

Intake whole grains are great for batch cooking and freezing, making it more likely that they’ll end up on your plate.  For a quick review of my favorite batch cooking techniques see this past blog entry: Making Healthy Eating Easier: Batch Cooking.  Try a couple Green Mountain whole grain recipes such as Mushroom-Kale Almond-Rice or a Spinach, Mushroom & Cheese Stuffed Pepper.

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