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

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!

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  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! :)


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102 thoughts on “Real Food Tips: 6 Ways to Ease the Switch to Whole Grain”

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    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Kelly. Do you just mean you are having a difficult time finding one you like? You may need to try different brands but it also may just take a bit of time to adjust to a new flavor and texture. :)

  1. We’ve had no problem switching to WW but every recipe I’ve tried here has been super dry. So dry that they are difficult to swallow! Am I not doing something right or do I need to add some milk or something?!? I really want these to work for us as we are truly trying to be less “highly processed!”

  2. My mom has been making whole wheat bread all of my life.She literally grinds the grain herself.She recently found out that grain has a protective acid(I can’t remember what it’s called)that hardly lets your body absorb any of the beneficial vitamins from whole grain.Apparently,you need to combine it with one(I think..maybe a couple more) of the beneficial bacteria found amongst the five in yogurt.Yeast made the way it has been made for centuries contains the bacteria necessary for the correct digestion of grain.Yeast from the store is unfortunately lab made so it no longer contains the delicate bacteria for the sake of contamination.You can buy natural yeast flakes online and make your own yeast.It has to be fed with ground wheat,sugar,and water I believe about three times a day.The bread comes out with a sourdough taste.It has been a revelation for my mom because she has been making the same bread for over 20 years until she found this out and has now started making it this way.I would assume whole grain could be digested the way it was intended when eaten with yogurt,but that is an amateur assumption.Anyways,thought you might like to know.I wish modern food was as innocent as advertised :/

  3. I’ve always liked whole-grain grains, breads and pastas better than white, but it took some time for my husband to get used to them. Now he’s the same way — we just skip the white stuff. Not because they’re “bad” for us but we just find them boring. Thank goodness we were already eating these when we had kids, because they just started out on whole grains and didn’t know the difference. So much easier that way, but I think for anyone it is like so many food habits that take time to change. You have to keep at it while your tastes adjust — the way the 100 Days of Real Food worked for Lisa’s family.

    We don’t drink sweet drinks and actually prefer water, milk, tea or coffee to anything else. Just got used to that and we aren’t deprived, it is just the way we eat! A occasional soda or sweet tea becomes a real treat instead of a constant thing.

    Thank you, Lisa, for the reminder about making bread. My machine is dusty because I have made some real bricks in it…and in 2014 I would like to conquer homemade bread! I’ll see if you’ve got some recipes to try…:)

    1. Sharon, you may want to check out They have lots of posts with suggestions for “fixing” bread mistakes. Overly dense WW bread is a popular topic! I also got lots of good tips from Micheal Pollan’s book “Cooked”. Good luck!

  4. Just a reader beware- I don’t think Barilla makes a true whole wheat pasta. They have one that is labeled “Whole Grain”, but it is actually only 51% whole wheat. Very misleading. Trader Joes, however, does have 100% organic whole wheat pastas and they are cheaper than anywhere else I have found (even for non-organic store brand varieties).

    I wanted to share a tip for switching to brown rice – After years of eating whole grains exclusively at home, I still don’t care for plain brown rice. It still seems really chewy and dense to me (and yes, we have a rice cooker). I have found, though, that other varieties- such as brown jasmine rice and brown basmati taste a ton better- I think the individual grains of rice are a little ‘thinner’ so they don’t seem so chewy texture wise. Trader Joe’s carries both, and although they are a smidge more expensive, I think it is totally worth it! :)

      1. I agree, I bake my brown rice in water, butter, and salt (I use Alton Brown’s baked brown rice recipe) and it’s delicious every time!

  5. Hi, we eat nothing but whole wheat & grains… kids never knew the difference, husband finally converted (and prefers it now). Best investment was a bread machine… so easy!! Using a little vital wheat gluten/gluten flour (Bob’s Red Mill makes a nice one), paired with either a little sunflower or soy lecithen & powdered whey, whole wheat breads taste great. We also substitute water in recipes for liqued whey (from making homemade yogurt or straining store-bought yogurt to make greek yogurt and/or yogurt cheese/Labneh)… this makes WW breads even more moist and light.

    Also, using Whole Wheat Pastry flour is great for baked goods like pancakes, waffles, muffins, etc. Letting pancake/waffle batter rest for 15 min helps them to be more fluffy/light.

    You can also take just about any recipe and substitute just under half of the white flour called for with WW, white whole wheat, or WW pastry flour without much noticeable difference.

    In our opinion, Barilla brand WW pasta tastes quite nice. Hodgson Mill WW pastas taste disgusting… if you’re experimenting with WW pastas.

    Cooking Whole Grain rice in low-sodium broth, instead of water, makes it taste better.

    Good luck!! :)

    1. Also, forgot, if you’re wanting to soak/sprout grains but it’s too time-consuming for you (like it is for me)… there’s some very nice organic, sprouted WW/grain flours out there… just do a Google search.

      p.s. sprouting isn’t just for those that have trouble digesting whole grains, it is also more nutritious… more nutrients are lost & your body absorbs less of the good stuff in unsprouted grains.

  6. We had a problem with the switch at my house. Whole wheat pasta was a toughie. The bread wasn’t as difficult, but I learned some tricks that really helped! Soaking my wheat flour for bread has been amazing! Super easy and it makes the wheat lighter, fluffier and plain delicious. I soak or use sprouted flour (similar effect on finished product as soaking) for everything these days. Now my family prefers whole wheat everything!! Hallelujah!:)

  7. Whole wheat has a “bite” to it if you are used to only white bread. You can add 1/3 cup orange juice to a 2 loaf batch. This will not give it any orangey taste but will cut the wheat sharpness.

  8. Where do you buy your flour and/or wheat berries? Do you get it in bulk? I would like to eventually own a high tech blender that can grind my own wheat berries to save on money, but for now am trying to find the best deal on buying my wheat in bulk. Is it better to buy it online or at a specific store?
    Thank you so much for all your work on this blog! It is wonderful and so helpful!

  9. What is your take on sourdough? I have found a whole wheat sourdough at Trader Joes with 4 ingredients and the last ingredient is honey. I also have found some reg sourdough with just 4 ingredients. Not sure if that is whole grain or good for you? No sugar in it.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Emily. If it is whole grain it will say 100% whole grain and you will not see any other flour on the ingredient list. :) ~Amy

  10. I’m still figuring out where I stand on whole grains. Some, like Wheat Belly’s Dr. Davis, would argue no whole grains. Since modern whole grains are still quite processed. Right now, I’m including them in my diet in moderation and experimenting with variations on traditional whole wheat. One I would recommend trying is Kamut. It’s a form of whole wheat, but with much more protein. And apparently, many with gluten issues can even tolerate it. I purchased a box of Kamut pasta at my local grocery store the other day and really like it. It’s got a slightly sweet, nutty taste and isn’t as heavy as regular whole wheat Maybe it’s just psychological, but I even felt a little energy boost after eating it – as opposed to the usual post-pasta slump.

  11. I was directed to your website by a friend. Reading through your posts, as well as the comments, I notice you do not discuss traditional preparation methods, especially in regards to grains. I noticed the few times it was mentioned in comments, you seem to not be aware of traditional food preparation. Considering this post is not very recent, I was wondering if you have done any research in this area? If so, what are your thoughts about such methods as sprouting, soaking etc? From my research, it appears that whole grains are pretty dangerous long term, if not properly prepared. Although I realize everyone’s gut is different and can handle foods differently, as well. Thanks in advance.

    1. You are right – we do not soak or sprout our grains. If we had digestive issues it would certainly be something I would consider, but our family does not have any issues with digesting whole grains. I also personally feel like I am as far down the “real food path” that I want to go and is realistic for me to maintain.

  12. I lost 102 pounds and wrote a book-Final Weight Loss (now selling on Amazon). One of the main recommendations in my book is switching to whole grain bread. The best bread I have found is Dave’s Killer Bread made with Oregon whole grains and seeds.

  13. Do you have any tips about replacing white flour and white sugar in bread-maker recipes? These recipes are typically very finicky and I am hesitant to play with them unless given advice on how. Thanks!