100% whole grains, flours and starches should be eaten in moderation; limit to no more than ½ cup per meal.
Food for thought...
- What’s your take on non-GMO (genetically modified organism)? Should GMO’s be avoided?
- Have you cooked or baked with any flours other than white flour?
- Have some fun and check out some labels! Do products that are highly processed typically include the words “enriched” or “refined” on the label?
- Look at the labels of some cereals, breads, cakes, cookies and bagels. Do most of these foods have limited ingredients or lots? Are they simple or highly processed?
- When it comes to bread, why do most local bakeries only use a few basic, familiar ingredients while the majority of grocery store brands include quite the array of unpronounceable ingredients? Often, they have as many as 40 ingredients, including preservatives! Which sounds more natural and tastier?
- Have you ever tried bread from a local bakery made with basic ingredients? Does it taste much different and more delicious than most other breads?
- How much of your meal typically consists of bread, grains or other starchy foods?
- When eating out, do you fill up on bread from the bread basket before your meal is served?
- Unrefined whole grains versus processed, refined and enriched grains; why is the word WHOLE imperative when referring to grains? Whole grains include all parts of the grain kernel. Do you think that WHOLE grains contain naturally occurring nutrients that refined grains don’t?
- The Whole Grains Council has a super simple breakdown on exactly what a WHOLE grain is on their website.
The “No-No’s”: What should you steer clear of when it comes to whole grains, flours and starches?
- Avoid refined grains.
- Avoid enriched grains.
- Avoid bleached items.
- Avoid the dreaded bleached whites: white flour, white flour products, white bread and white rice.
- Avoid items that are sweetened with artificial sweeteners or HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).
- Avoid items that contain artificial dyes or coloring.
- Avoid items that contain artificial ingredients.
- Avoid items that contain artificial preservatives.
So, what’s okay to eat when it comes to whole grains, flours and starches? (ALL in moderation)
- The grain itself: whole grains and pseudo grains
- 100% unenriched/unrefined grain-free flour
- 100% unenriched/unrefined whole wheat or whole grain flour
- The starchy root vegetable itself: yams and potatoes
- Pasta and bread with limited, basic ingredients
Some of our favorite FULLfood whole grains, flours and starches for you to try
Grains and pseudo grains (preferably WHOLE grain)
- Steel cut, whole, or rolled oats (oatmeal)
- Brown rice
- Wild rice
- Oat bran
- White, red and black quinoa (pseudo grains)
- 100% ground almond flour
- 100% ground coconut flour
- 100% ground amaranth flour
- 100% ground garbanzo flour
- 100% ground arrowroot flour
Some things to look for when checking whole grain, flour and starch labels and ingredients
- 100% WHOLE wheat, 100% WHOLE grain or 100% WHOLE meal/flour (“WHOLE” should be listed as the first ingredient on the label.)
- Many times, a box will state it is whole grain when, in fact, it is made with a combination of whole and refined grains. Check the ingredients listed and look for the 100% whole.
- Look for organic whole grains, flours and starches that are not sprayed with chemicals or pesticides.
Flours (not grain-free)
- 100% unenriched/unrefined WHOLE wheat or WHOLE grain, stone-ground flour
- 100% WHOLE grain stone-ground rye flour
- 100% WHOLE grain stone-ground buckwheat flour
- 100% WHOLE grain stone-ground brown rice flour
- 100% WHOLE grain quinoa flour
Starchy root vegetables
Potatoes are found on the The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list, so you may want to consider purchasing organic.
- Yams have a lower glycemic index (fewer sugars) than white potatoes.
As always, check the ingredients list. The fewer ingredients, the better! Basically, look for pasta containing only the grain or bean and water.
- 100% WHOLE wheat or WHOLE grain pasta
- 100% WHOLE grain spelt pasta
- 100% black bean pasta (gluten-free)
- 100% red lentil pasta (gluten-free)
Low-carb pasta/noodle substitutes
- Spaghetti squash
- Zucchini noodles (you can make "lasagna noodles" out of zucchini too)
As always, check the ingredients list.
- Choose breads with limited ingredients that you recognize such as grain, water, yeast and salt.
- We typically eat locally produced whole wheat three-seed bread. The ingredients used are: organically grown fresh-ground whole wheat, water, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, honey, yeast and salt.
- Look for 100% WHOLE grain or WHOLE wheat.
- Whenever possible, choose bread with unrefined and unenriched ingredients.
- If you prefer breads with a slightly sweeter taste, choose breads sweetened with natural sweeteners such as honey.
- If you cannot buy bread from a local bakery, the refrigerator and freezer section is often the best place to find bread with limited, FfL-friendly ingredients.
Panko and bread crumbs
Make your own bread crumbs, if possible. If purchasing store-bought, be sure to check the ingredients listed.
- Choose panko and bread crumbs with limited ingredients that you recognize, such as grain, water, yeast and salt.
Make your own tortillas, if possible. If you purchase store-bought tortillas, as always, check the ingredients listed.
- Choose tortillas with limited ingredients that you recognize, such as 100% whole grain, whole wheat flour, almond flour or brown rice flour, water and salt.
- The refrigerator and freezer section is often the best place to find tortillas with limited, FfL-friendly ingredients.
Where to find your 100% whole grains, flours and starches
- When it comes to bread, find a local bakery that uses simple ingredients.
- If local is not an option, consider checking the refrigerated or freezer sections. Frozen breads and tortilla wraps may have healthier ingredients and omit more preservatives than commercial breads found on the shelf. We sometimes purchase frozen bread or English muffins in a pinch, such as Ezekiel 4:9 bread made from sprouted grains with no added sugars. As always, check the ingredients.
- Whether local or store-bought, organic or not, always check the ingredients!
- If in season, eat local yams and potatoes, often found at local farms, farmers’ markets and orchards.
FULLfood facts and fun
- Our bodies are designed to need carbs. They help us feel full and give us energy. By limiting but allowing yourself carbs at each meal, you satisfy carb cravings, reap the benefits of healthy carbs and are able to maintain a healthy weight.
- Boxed grain (and pseudo grain) mixes, such as wild rice mixes, often contain other additives and flavoring. When possible, cook and flavor your own grains and pseudo grains.
- Gluten-free is another word that's often associated with healthy. But just like organic, gluten-free chips are still chips and gluten-free bread doesn't mean it's made with the best ingredients. While we try to keep our household relatively gluten-free, we're careful not to just pick something up off the shelf because it states it doesn't contain wheat.
Substitutions that are considered FULLfoods
- Consider trying spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles rather than pasta.
- Check out FfL's Spaghetti Squash Recipe.
- Zucchini Lasagna is a delicious and low-carb replacement for traditional high-carb lasagna.
- Use arrowroot flour or arrowroot powder rather than cornstarch for a great thickener when cooking gravy, soups or sauces. One teaspoon of arrowroot replaces 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.
- When breading foods, use 100% whole milled flaxseeds or a 1:1 ratio of flaxseeds and panko or bread crumbs. Just as you would bread foods with panko or bread crumbs, use an egg wash and cover your food with 100% whole milled flaxseeds instead. We add dried herbs to our milled flaxseeds for a boost in flavor. Just an FYI, flaxseeds can add a slightly nutty flavor to your meal.
- Crushed brown rice cakes, such as Lundberg's Organic Rice Cakes, are another panko substitution.
- For a great recipe using crushed rice cakes, check out FfL's Shrimp Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Recipe.
Tips and preparation
- When preparing a pasta dish, consider adding a protein (shrimp, chicken, beef or fish) and add LOTS of vegetables in the meal so you fill up on more veggies and less pasta.
- Quinoa can be used in many different recipes and can be eaten hot or cold. You can broil it in a pilaf; add it to veggie stews, soups and casseroles; use it in stuffed peppers, breakfast cereals (like oatmeal) or in cold vegetable, bean or grain salads. Quinoa is great for last-minute cooking because it is easy and fast to cook.
- Grain-free flours vary in weight and density, meaning a cup of wheat flour doesn't weigh the same as a cup of almond flour. Because of this, they can be confusing to cook with. I highly recommend, when baking with them, that you measure them out in grams rather than cups. Use a 1 cup = 140 grams ratio. You may also want to consider creating a flour mixture rather than just using flour with one grain or pseudo grain. If you love to cook, experiment!
- Consider storing your bread in the fridge when it is bought from a local bakery. Due to the need for a longer shelf life, grocery store bread often uses preservatives that local bakeries do not.
- Brown rice tortillas often break apart when you try to roll them. For ease of use, we typically place our fillings between two tortillas and grill it quesadilla style.
- When cooking meatloaf, you can include oats for a nutritional boost and added taste.
Tips when eating out
- Avoid foods, such as French fries, that are fried or breaded.
- Instead, choose baked, grilled or broiled foods.
- When you order a baked potato or yam, ask the server to put your toppings on the side. Use limited amounts of toppings on your potato and avoid unhealthy toppings such as large quantities of cheese, sour cream or butter.
- If your meal is served with bread or toast, ask for it to be served "dry," without butter.
- Ask for sandwiches to be made open-faced, on one slice of bread rather than two.
- If you’re dying to choose a pasta dish, choose a tomato-based sauce rather than a cream-based sauce with added protein and LOTS of veggies.
- Take inventory of your pantry and eliminate any “no-no” grains, flours and starches. Incorporate some of the grains, flours and starches listed above.
- Replace cornstarch with arrowroot flour or arrowroot powder to thicken gravy, soups or sauces.
- Replace white rice with whole grain brown rice, wild rice, farro or quinoa.
- The next time you purchase bread, check the label and make sure it is 100% whole grain or whole wheat bread with limited ingredients.
- Challenge yourself to be adventurous and try each of the pastas listed below. Choose your favorite and start using it to make all your future pasta dishes!
- 100% whole wheat, whole grain or whole grain spelt pasta
- 100% lentil or black bean pasta
- Zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash as a substitute to pasta
- Check out the Plan Your Plate Guide for tips on structuring your plate and proper portions. Try to keep your serving sizes down by eating one piece of bread rather than two, or eating no more than ½ cup of a grain, flour or starch per meal. This includes pasta.
- Plan to cook your sweet potatoes and/or grains on your prep day. These foods typically keep extremely well throughout the week and require minimal attention, so you can multitask while they’re being made.