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Whole Grain Food Fight

23 May

Whole Grain Food Fight

How hard is it to cook whole grain pasta?

Well for some school districts, implementation of the new school lunch nutrition standards has proven to be a “significant challenge”.

With their cleverly worded euphemism “School Meal Flexibility”, the USDA this week announced they will allow some schools to delay adding whole grain pastas.

Currently the USDA requirement is that 50% of grain foods be whole-grain rich, with that number rising to 100% by next year. Schools cite difficulty obtaining compliant foodstuffs, declining revenues, and low acceptability by kids as primary barriers.

Adding fuel to the whole grain fire, the USDA announcement comes on the heels of this week’s Republican-led House chastisement of the Obama administration’s efforts to improve school lunch.

Who knew whole grains could feed this much political pushback?!

In a public statement, the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s (CSPI) Nutrition Policy Director Margo Wootan laments, “I miss the days when school lunch nutrition used to be a bipartisan issue, as it was for decades after the school lunch program was established under President Truman.”

But this the only starch-fueled fight going down in government. The potato processors are feuding with Congress to keep their spuds in the WIC program. More on that next week.

What’s the Story with Sprouted Grains?

11 Mar

What’s the Story with Sprouted Grains?

March is National Nutrition Month…where Super Foods take the stage.

And this year, it seems, sprouted grains are all the rage.

But what exactly is a sprouted grain? And why are they considered more healthful than traditional grains?

Shoots & Sprouts

Sprouting the seed of grains, nuts, and beans, can help unlock valuable nutrition. When the sprout takes shape, it deactivates certain enzymes that block nutrient absorption. Reducing these “anti-nutrients” (compounds like phytates and lectins) helps make more micronutrients and fiber available.

Other nutritional benefits of sprouted grains include:

  • Increased micronutrients such as B vitamins including folate, and vitamin C, plus fiber, and essential fatty acids
  • Improved digestibility – some people find sprouted grain easier to tolerate if traditional grains cause bloating or GI discomfort
  • Sprouted grains may also be less allergenic for those who have certain grain-based sensitivities
  • Higher content of certain antioxidants than non-sprouted grains

To learn more about sprouted whole grain nutrition, check out this article from the Whole Grains Council.

How to Sprout

If you’re looking to get more sprouted grains in your diet, here’s some tips:

At Home

You can sprout grains at home easily with some mason jars, water, and a few days’ worth of patience. Here is a great article from Vegetarian Times about sprouting and estimated soaking and sprouting times.

In Snacks

Way Better Snacks has an array of sprouted grains snack foods that include unique ingredients such as sprouted quinoa, and broccoli and daikon radish seeds.

Thanks to samples provided by Way Better, I recently sampled their Simply Sunny Multi-Grain Tortilla Chips. Not only are these chips packed full of flavor, they are GMO-free, gluten free and contain an impressive 3 grams of fiber per serving. If you’re looking for a convenient way to get your sprouted grains, Way Better is the way to go!

Bake With Sprouted Flour

Sprouted grain flour can be purchased or made from your own sprouted grains. Whole Foods Market carries a number of sprouted whole grain flours, and most can be substituted one-to-one for all-purpose flour in recipes.

If you’re not a baker but like bread, try out some of the commercially available sprouted grain bagels, whole grain breads, and tortillas available at certain health food stores. Look for sprouted grain bread products in the refrigerated aisle.

Safety First

Incorporating sprouted grains into your diet can enhance health and expand your whole grain horizons; however, raw sprouts and raw sprouted grains should be avoided by high risk populations such as pregnant women, infants, and people with compromised immune systems. To learn more about sprouts & sprouted grain food safety, click here.

And for a little more sprouted grain love – check out my segment on the topic from yesterday here.

Sorghum with a Twist of Salt

11 Feb

Sorghum with a Twist of Salt

Don’t be surprised if you start seeing more sorghum.

Despite being the fifth most popular cereal grain in the world (according to the Whole Grains Council), most people don’t consider sorghum a go-to whole grain.

But a new line of chips from Popcorners is working on that.

Popcorners’ Popped Whole Grain Chips are made from popped whole grain sorghum, a pretty innovative turn for the chip aisle.

With 110 calories in a 1 oz serving, these popped whole grains have 3.5 g total fat, 2 g dietary fiber, and 3 g protein.

Sorghum is a gluten free grain, and these chips are not only gluten free but also GMO free.

I recently sampled the Twisted Salt flavor. The ingredient list is simple: whole grain sorghum, sunflower oil, and tropical seasoning (salt, onion powder, garlic powder and spices).

While the nutritionals and ingredient list are impressive for a chip, the flavor is a bit off. The garlic and onion powders are overwhelming, leaving what can best be described as a musty aftertaste.

So while these chips need some work when it comes to flavor, it is at least refreshing to see some sorghum getting shelf space.

Beat Belly Bloaters this Holiday Season

18 Dec

Beat Belly Bloaters this Holiday Season

Not all fat is created equal.

The type of fat that accumulates around your mid-section, also known as visceral fat, is more dangerous than other types of body fat. This type of belly fat increases risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

But can you beat belly fat? Well, a new book aims to do just that. Thanks to a copy provided by the authors, I recently reviewed the Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies (Wiley, 2014).

Written by 3 Registered Dietitians (Erin Palinski-Wade, Tara Gidus, and Kristina LaRue), the premise of the book is how to cook to avoid the biggest dietary contributors to belly fat, or what the authors call “The Belly Bloaters”, which include:

  • Sugar alcohols
  • High sodium foods
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Processed meats
  • Carbonated beverages & soda
  • Alcohol

In addition to over 100 unique recipes, this book includes great information on assessing your personal belly fat health risk, from measuring your body mass index (BMI) to your own waist circumference. There are tips on reducing insulin response, stress hormones, and how to identify belly blasting superfoods.

My personal favorite was the chapter on “Brown-Bag Lunches”. When it comes to lunch, I tell my clients and students (and anyone else who will listen), “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Even the most well-intentioned of meal plans falls apart at lunch time if you don’t bring your own!

Here’s my favorite brown bag lunch recipe from the Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies, “Curried Couscous”. It’s quick, cheap, filling, and best of all – a belly fat buster!

Curried Couscous

from the “Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies”

Yield: 4 Servings


  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 1/3 cups whole wheat couscous, dry
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Honeycrisp apple, diced
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 tablespoons 100% orange juice


  • In a medium pot, place the chicken broth and curry powder and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous; cover. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Pour the couscous in a large bowl. Stir in the curry powder until blended.
  • Add the parsley, apple, raisins, bell pepper, and orange juice. Stir until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Nutrition Information

  • 381 calories
  • 31 mg sodium
  • 83 g carbohydrate
  • 8 g dietary fiber
  • 14 g protein

Pelletized Fiber: Coming to Your Cereal Soon

26 Sep

Pelletized Fiber: Coming to Your Cereal Soon

General Mills announced recently that it has filed a patent on a technique to pelletize fiber and calcium for use in ready-to-eat (RTE) breakfast cereals.

The process will use a gelatinized starch to coalesce calcium and fiber for the purpose of supplementing processed cereals. Mmmm…

Is this a big deal? Well…General Mills thinks so. The company is notorious for boasting “with whole grain first ingredient” on its high sugar cereals.

One of the best examples is Cinnamon Toast Crunch – a clearly less-than healthy breakfast option with whole grain monikers splattered across its front-of-packaging propaganda:



The problem is, with so much sugar (…CTC’s more bashful 2nd ingredient…) you end up with a super small serving size and less dietary fiber per serving than you’d get with other truly whole grain cereal options.

What’s more, the “value added” benefit of a souped-up fiber and calcium supplement means that GM can sell their processed and packaged concoctions to you at more of a markup. After all, you’re getting more fiber and calcium along with your sugar and salt – but you bet you’re also going to pay more for it!

If you’re looking for a better breakfast cereal bet – it’s always best to make your own:

  • Start with 1/2 cup dry oats (quick-cooking, old-fashioned, or steel-cut will do)
  • Cook oats with 1 cup of milk (or calcium-fortified milk alternative if you don’t do dairy)
  • Now add 1 cup of berries (fresh or frozen, with no added sugar)


You just got 8 grams of fiber plus 33% of your day’s calcium. And all without having to eat any pellets.