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Great grains—2
Penne with vegetables and sun-dried tomatoes
Chicken tabbouleh with fresh mint

Hopping aboard the grain train
Hopping aboard the grain train

Upping your intake of whole grains is easier than you think. Try some of these simple diet switches:

  • Start your day with a bowl of bran flakes, shredded wheat or oatmeal.
  • Buy whole-grain breads, bagels, rolls, tortillas, muffins, waffles and pancakes.
  • Substitute rolled oats or crushed bran flakes for bread crumbs in recipes.
  • Switch to whole-wheat pastas.
  • Bypass the potatoes and try bulgur, barley, quinoa or brown or wild rice.
  • Snack on popcorn, whole-wheat crackers or pretzels.
  • Substitute barley or brown or wild rice for pasta or noodles in soups, stews, casseroles and salads.
  • Use whole-wheat pastry flour in place of much of the all-purpose flour in recipes.

Grains like wheat, rice, oats and corn are a staple in the American diet and for much of the world. Whole grains and foods made from them—which use the entire seed or kernel, including the germ, endosperm and outer bran shell—are an important source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. With refined grains like white flour and white rice, all the bran and most of the germ are removed during processing, and much of the fiber and nutrients are lost.

Eating more whole grains can help you lower cholesterol and control your weight, reducing risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems and cancer. Aim to eat at least three servings of whole grains each day. The earthy, nutty flavors and chewy textures are a great way to add a new dimension to your menu. Whole-grain breads, cereals, tortillas and crackers are just the beginning. Explore a variety of whole grains like whole wheat, oats, corn, barley and rye, brown or wild rice, groats, wheat berries, buckwheat, triticale, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, quinoa and sorghum.

Use whole-grain versions of flour, rice and pasta when cooking your favorite meals or try one of these recipes.

Penne with vegetables and sun-dried tomatoes

  • 4 cups water
  • 16 ounces dried whole-wheat penne pasta
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans low-sodium vegetable broth
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 12 medium asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces broccoli rabe, cut into 1- inch pieces, or 12 additional medium asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons dry-packed sun-dried tomato bits
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup water (optional)
  • 1 ¼ cups shredded part-skim mozzarella or Gouda cheese (smoked preferred)
  • Black pepper (optional)

In a large, deep skillet, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Stir in the pasta. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the pasta into a colander and drain well. Put the broth and red-pepper flakes in the skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat. Return the pasta to the skillet. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in the asparagus, broccoli rabe, sun-dried tomatoes, oil and salt. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the pasta and vegetables are tender and most of the sauce is absorbed. Add ¼ cup water if the broth is absorbed before pasta is tender. To serve, put the pasta mixture on plates. Sprinkle with the cheese and pepper.

Serves 4. Per serving: 559 calories, 10.5 g total fat (4.5 g saturated fat, 1 g polyunsaturated, 4.5 g monounsaturated), 20 mg cholesterol, 371 mg sodium, 93 g carbohydrates, 11 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 30 g protein

Chicken tabbouleh with fresh mint

  • 1½ cups water
  • 5.25-ounce package tabbouleh wheat (bulgur) salad
  • 9-ounce package frozen diced cooked skinless chicken breasts, thawed
  • 1 large tomato, seeded if desired, and diced
  • ½ medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup snipped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1 ounce feta cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and basil, crumbled
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 4 cups mixed baby salad greens

In a large bowl, stir together the water and wheat salad mix. Let stand for 30 to 40 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Add the remaining ingredients except the salad greens. Toss gently. To serve, arrange the salad greens on each plate. Spoon about 1 ½ cups wheat mixture on each plate.

Serves 4. Per serving: 313 calories, 10 g total fat (2 g saturated, 1 g polyunsaturated, 5.5 g monounsaturated), 39 mg cholesterol, 735 mg sodium, 36 g carbohydrates, 9 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 23 g protein