Real Food Tips: 6 Ways to Ease the Switch to Whole Grain

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I used to exclusively be a white bread girl. Before our switch to real food I would have rather skipped bread all together (and did on many occasions) than eat store-bought “whole-wheat” bread. So the point is I understand it’s not easy to transition from the taste and texture of white bread to whole-wheat, which is exactly why I want to share these tips with you. If you have any other advice please share it in the comments below!

  1. Don’t settle for mediocre whole-grain products.
    One of the reasons I used to despise whole-wheat sandwich bread was because I’d never tried “good” bread before. Even today I would not like the taste of packaged grocery store whole-grain bread that can contain as many as 40 ingredients (including lots of unnecessary additives). This type of bread was designed to have a long shelf life…not to taste good. So skip the supermarket and look into your local bakery options instead. Or if you’re really handy in the kitchen try making some homemade bread yourself! It only takes 4 or 5 ingredients to make “real” whole-wheat sandwich bread.
  1. Go for a lighter variety of wheat.
    When baking, try using King Arthur’s White Whole-Wheat Flour as opposed to just straight up whole-wheat flour. Even though it has the word “white” on the label this flour is not a trick. It is still 100% whole-grain it’s just made from a lighter variety of wheat than typical whole-wheat flours, and it’s a great place to start if you prefer the taste of white flour.
  1. Mix the old with the new.
    If whole-wheat pasta is getting shunned at your house then try mixing both white and whole wheat pasta together for a few weeks. You could even start small by only making a third or a quarter of the dish be whole-wheat pasta. The bottom line is eating some whole grains is better than none! This same tactic could be applied to both brown rice and whole-grain flour as well.
  1. Branch out and try some new grains all together.
    If your family is really pushing back on making the switch to whole-grain pasta and rice then how about trying a new grain all together? Take a break from the usual and cook some quinoa, whole-wheat couscous, barley, or whole-grain polenta for a side dish instead.
  1. Add some character.
    Even the most die hard real foodies get tired of plain brown rice so try to switch things up a bit by mixing in a sauce (like soy sauce or homemade cheese sauce), adding some spices (like cilantro or garlic), or throwing in some toasted nuts/seeds (like almonds or sesame seeds). Changing the flavor can make it a whole new side dish.
  1. Use a sweet disguise.
    Ease your family into whole-grain by disguising them in foods that are on the sweeter side. Instead of just going for the basics like pasta and rice try making some whole-grain blueberry muffins, sweet zucchini bread, or banana pancakes. With all the added spices and the help of some honey (or overly ripe bananas) maybe no one will even notice that something is different. Please just do me a favor and tell them what was in it afterward! :)

P.S. – Today is the last day to get the “lunchbox meal plan” deal from The Fresh 20!

 

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92 comments to Real Food Tips: 6 Ways to Ease the Switch to Whole Grain

  • Our family’s switch to whole grains has been pretty successful, with little resistance. However, I’ve been searching high and low for a whole wheat bread recipe that turns out right for me. I use my freshly ground whole wheat flour, which I love, but I can’t seem to find a recipe my husband will eat. He’s always complaining that the bread is too dense. Any suggestions to gain a light-fluffy texture in my bread? Also, the recipes I’ve tried seem to produce a bread that is dry. Any ideas as to what I’m doing wrong?

  • Julie

    I’ve made several loaves of whole wheat and even spelt bread but it’s very dense, anyway to make a ‘lighter’ loaf of bread?

    • Becky

      I have been making my own bread for a couple of years now and at first I tried an all wheat bread and your right, it is way too dense and really not that good. I usually cut my loaf with bread flour (not whole grain but high in protein). Usually if a recipe calls for four cups of flour, I do 1 1/2 cups of bread flour and then 2 1/2 cups of wheat flour. This makes it less dense and a bit fluffier.

      You could also even do 1 cup of bread flour and 3 cups of whole wheat–this will be a bit denser but definitely softer then if you were to use all wheat. You can even add in some oats or wheat germ which makes a nice loaf as well. Once you make home bread, it is hard to go back to store bought.

  • Ramona

    I used to not enjoy brown rice at home (I loved from takeout) because whenever I made it is was mealy and watery. I found the best method for making brown rice and my family has made the switch no more white rice for us. Alton Brown’s method:
    preheat oven to 375 degrees; put kettle on stove you need 2.5 cups of water for 1.5 cups of dry brown rice. Get a square glass baking dish 9×9- put dry rice in add a bit of seasoning- salt, garlic, whatever you wish, and a bit of olive oil or butter. Add the 2.5 cups of boiling water and then cover with foil and put in over. Cook for 1 hour and the rice is perfect every time!

    • I tried this a few weeks ago. It worked fantastically and the rice was very good!

    • Kira

      Ramona, I use that Alton Brown recipe too and love it! Any other cooking method just isn’t the same.

    • Kendra

      Also – if you want sticky white rice like in Japan – you have to rinse rice before you cook it until the water runs clear. My Japanese friends were shocked that I didn’t rinse my rice ;) — I’ve always done it since and will never make it any other way. Also – if making white rice on the stovetop – don’t peek! it always turns out fluffier and not watery if you never lift the lid. I know that white rice is a no-no on the 100 days of real food diet – but I beg to differ in this one instance. I lived in Japan for a year an ate mostly white rice with every meal and had never been healthier, and skinnier. since then I have come back to America, gained 30 lbs and am not nearly as fit as I was while living in Japan – sigh – they do have one of the longest lifespans of any nation because of their diet and they eat fish, veggies and white rice for every meal (even breakfast!).

  • liz

    hi! what do you think of the claims that whole wheat is only good if sprouted or soaked? do you know? i’ve heard that if not sprouted or soaked, whole wheat can do more harm than good bc of anti nutrients. so confusing. i’d love your thoughts.

    and….i love your blog. thanks!

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      I’ve heard that as well, but have not researched it thoroughly myself. From what I understand soaking or even avoiding grains is supposed to help if you have digestion issues and since no one in our family has any issues it’s not something we plan on trying ourselves (at least anytime soon).

    • Audrey

      What the grains (and also nuts and legumes) contain is called phytic acid, a compound that reduces nutrient absorption. You can soak the grains (or nuts or legumes) overnight to help remove this compound. But it’s much higher in soybeans than in anything else, so even soaking won’t lift it from soy.

  • I don’t have a problem with WW flour, but actual brown rice is not appealing. I have tried making it many times, even adding 1/4 brown rice with 3/4 white long grain rice and everyone complains – even me (not out loud, but still). Any tips there? I feel guilty every time I make white rice, but that is the only rice anyone will eat.

    • Carrie

      I use homemade chicken stock in place of water. The only way my family will eat it.

    • mariaon

      As for brown rice….try the brown basmatic. I don’t like brown rice either. Too much during my hippie days. But it seems lighter, less dense and heavy.

    • Debmom4ca

      I have found that soaking it overnight makes it so much nicer. Rinse it and soak it in plenty of warm water. When you are ready to cook it drain off the soaking water and replace it with fresh. I cook mine in a rice cooker with water covering the rice and up to the first joint of my finger.
      As noted to in the post above soaking whole grains before cooking them is important.

  • Genna

    I had a hard time making the switch to brown rice, and tried several different kinds before figuring out my family loves basmati brown rice. I am going to have to try Ramona’s method of baking, that sounds delicious! We love Jasmine rice, but haven’t found a brown alternative….

  • Tracy

    Been eating WW for a long time now. My 5 year old was raised on WW bread, so it’s never been a problem in our house. I do keep a bag of King Arthur AP and Bread flour around, but I almost never use them anymore. All baked treats get WW pastry flour or King Arthur White WW flour. We made Apple Oatmeal Muffins last night for my daughter’s class snack today and used White WW flour. The kids can’t even tell.

    If you don’t like brown rice, try short-grain brown rice. It comes out creamier than regular brown rice. I also like to cook it in the crockpot! I use my mini crockpot and use vegetable or chicken stock for the liquid. Comes out very tasty every time.

  • Jill

    I’ve been thinking a LOT about this lately, and indeed it is confusing, and its hard to change old habits. Eating lots of grains is just such an “ingrained” way of eating in our culture (sorry for the pun! :) but the more I read the more I think it would be healthier to cut back on all grains; the government food pyramid has a lot of politics involved in its formation and is not necessarily based on science. One thing, however, that remains a constant good thing no matter what eating philosophy one follows is to eat lots of fresh vegetables!

  • Dawn Fabre

    Thanks so much for this article! My family (espcially DH) is very resistant to anything WW. I’ve been easing them into more real food but haven’t quite gotten them to bite on the WW. Will definitely be trying some of these tricks this week!

  • Vicky

    Today is opening day for a Great Harvest near me! I’m so excited!!!!!

    I bake exclusively with WW flour, and I buy WW bread at the store… but I’m excited to have WW bread that only has 5 ingredients AND tastes excellent!

  • Lisa Jackson

    Whole wheat bread making: we knead bread to work up nice long gluten fibers, which trap the CO2 given off by the yeast, resulting in high light bread. However, whole wheat contains the bran, which is rough, and actually slices up the gluten fibers as you create them. To get a lighter loaf, sub in some high gluten flour, or add vital wheat gluten. Use a sponge method. Do not knead whwh bread as long as you would white bread – it should still be sticky. Give it a bench rest before forming the loaf. If it’s dry you added too much flour during kneading or over baked it. Keep trying! Bread making is more art than science.

  • I second the short grain brown rice suggestion, it seems a lot easier to take than long grain brown. Also, adding assorted flavors to the cooking liquid, and cooking longer, can be good.

    With pasta, try whole wheat angel hair for a good switch. I find the smaller strands have less “whole wheat taste” to them.

  • Cj

    I have been eating “more” real food for about a year now, but in January kicked it up a notch as I am exercising and trying to lose weight. The problem is all this real food is wrecking havoc on my digestive system. I was diagnosed with IBS in August and it has
    really flared up. Yesterday I ended up having to change my underwear at work! Today I have a skin rash and my hair is in terrible shape. Why is all this healthy food affecting me in such a bad way?

    • Stacey

      Have you been tested for celiac disease?

    • Pam

      Try adding sources of soluble fiber to your diet. Most of the whole grains and fruit & vegetables are insoluble fiber, which can aggravate the digestive system, and cause IBS to flare up. Soluble fiber soothes the digestive system. Sources of soluble fiber include: Psyllium husk, oat bran, parsnips, peas, potatoes, lentils, kidneybeans, etc. Citrucel is a great source of soluble fiber as well, and can really help with IBS symptoms.
      http://www.ibstales.com/citrucel.htm
      Good luck!

    • Brandicj

      You might consider reading up on gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance, and celiac disease. It may be a problem with the amount of gluten in your diet rather than all the fiber and real food. Unfortunately you will probably have to go cold turkey on all gluten to know for sure. :/

    • Try adding more healthy fats (avocado, coconut oil, organic butter) to your vegetables. This will keep your digestive tract from being as aggravated by the fiber. Also, be sure to be getting lots of 100% grass finished whole milk cultured beverages such as Amasai or a high quality kefir. This will pump your gut full of healing probiotics, essential to healing IBS. You can learn more by clicking on the “Beyond Organic” button on my website, http://www.healthnutfoodie.com. Good luck! IBS is NO FUN AT ALL. I had problems for years due to side effects from a prescription and am FINALLY well!!!!

  • Genn

    I too have had a great deal of trouble converting my “eldest’ picky eater (DH) over to a healthier way of eating. He hates nuts, claims fish makes him sick, dislikes the taste of WW ANYTHING, and thinks my insistence on adding things like carrots to meatballs (I LOVED your recipe by the way) is “weird”. He constantly tells me I am ruining his life because I am taking away everything he likes (I recently succeeded in getting him to quit smoking after over 15 years). So the transition has been rough between him and my kids. I really like your suggestions of easing it in by mixing it with the usual white flour variety. I do have a small question. Has anyone noticed any difference between store bought WW pastas and home made WW pasta? I’ve heard some say that home made WW pasta can have a lighter taste, more like white. If that’s true then I will start making my pasta rather than trying to get my DH to eat store bought WW. Any thoughts?

  • CJ, I don’t think the Real Food is making you in bad shape, it sounds like possible absorption and digestive issues. You may want to think about going to a Naturopathic Dr. and having a metabolic work up. You may just need to alter a few things. Also, food intolerances may be in lay here which is tricky. They don’t give obvious signs like an allergy generally does. Common culprits are glutens, soy, dairy, yeast and peanuts. You may want to try an elimination diet to find out.

  • I can’t help with softer bread because we like ours pretty dense. But I think a brown rice pudding is pretty universally loved!

  • Julie

    I’ve found a really good, light whole wheat recipe in my bread maker’s instruction book. I couldn’t find any bakery wheat bread my daughter would eat. She’s used to whole wheat, but, likes a lighter bread.
    Here’s my bread maker’s Honey Wheat recipe (for 2 lb loaf):
    1 egg
    plus enough warm water to make 1/14 cup
    3 Tbsp Oil
    1/4 cup Honey
    2 tsp salt
    4 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat (recipe booklet says 2 cups WW / 2 cups white bread flour, but, I sub all whole wheat with no issue)
    2 tsp quick rise or bread machine yeast (1 Tbsp if using non-quick rise active dry yeast)

    That’s it – add to machine according to your machine’s directions.

  • AuntPol

    CJ-you may have an allergy. Glutens and sugars flare up my IBS.

    Also, if the switch to real food is sudden and a lot, you may be having herxheimer reactions to a yeast die off. The first time I went paleo, I had it bad and then ended up eating junk to make it stop. The second time, I went very slowly and didn’t have the reactions.

  • I love this! Along with number 4, other grains(used as flour or even whole) like spelt and kamut/khorasan might appeal to someone that doesn’t particularly like that whole wheaty taste, I know I love them!

  • Lauren

    Whole-grain spelt is our favorite. It’s lighter and milder than whole wheat and is much easier to use to replace white flour in a recipe.

  • I am also curious about your take on soaking/ sprouting grains. I’ve read a lot, but am curious what you all do. I’ve been soaking oats and rice when I remember, but soaking flour for bread was a bit of a gloppy mess that I’d rather skip if I could. Do you all soak?

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      We do not b/c from what I understand soaking or even avoiding grains is supposed to help if you have digestion issues and since no one in our family has any issues it’s not something we plan on trying ourselves (at least anytime soon). I have not done any extensive research though :)

  • danyelle

    I never had white bread as a kid or kraft anything …mom was healthy before it was cool. I thought I would love white bread but I don’t and have started kids on wheat from little ones. If you don’t buy it they can’t eat it! Hungry kids are not picky kids. :-)

  • Dee

    Thank you! I swear you must have read my post check in last night (or was it the night before?)and wrote this just for me! I did, by the way, finally find Ezekiel bread in the freezer section of our Publix but unless it’s toasted – bleh! I prefer the unfrozen and softer kind of bread though I’ve always been partial to wheat. I have an overwhelming love of bread and my love affair was worse when I visited France! lol I’m still searching for the right breads at the store – I may just have to make my own.

  • I think the last one is great. It’s what I did. I used whole wheat or spelt in a few things at the beginning, but now I make everything 100% whole wheat / spelt. Obviously it doesn’t work for some things (whole wheat angel food cake? Gross.) Now I tolerate even 100% whole rye bread. :)

  • Brandicj

    A note of encouragement to those who are pre-kids. If you never serve anything else, one day they will turn down your average sandwich. My kids refuse to eat sandwiches at grandma’s house because she serves white bread. They don’t know it’s healthier, they just like it better.
    (Of course, rolls and hot dog buns are a different matter).
    Also, look into cornmeal (leaving out the flour from a mix) for cornbread. And we enjoy whole-wheat pancake mix (though not exactly real food). The pancakes are surprisingly light.

    • Sharon Duffy

      The first time my kids were served white bread (at a friends), they whispered to me, “Mom, why did they make our sandwich with paper?” LOL

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