The great grain debate. Do you go grain free, or do you load your plate with hearty grains day and night? There are the folks who advocate for “heart-healthy” grains to be part of the daily diet. The oatmeal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, and pasta dinner crowd. After all, the good ole food pyramid recommended 6-11 servings of grains a day. On the flip side, we have individuals who have attempted to debunk the necessity for grains, stating that there really is no nutrient we get from grains that cannot be found (sometimes in larger quantities) in other dietary sources like vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Don’t worry you do not have to take sides in order to reap the benefits of consuming less grains in favor of more plant-based alternatives. Whether you are trying to reduce inflammation, have blood sugar issues, want to lose weight, or are looking to get fiber without upping your carb intake, swapping out grains can be easy and painless: that is if you have delicious produce to swap it out with!
We all know vegetables are an important part of a healthy mind, body, and spirit. There is never a reason NOT to chow down on them. So why not use them as your grain replacements and reap the extra nutrients that come from eating vegetables?
Whether you are going grain free or simply want to trade in a few dishes here and there, these three veggie swaps are worth considering:
We cannot talk about going grain free without talking about the almighty cauliflower. Not only does it morph into rice, but it can also become the base for a grain-less pizza crust, the mac to your cheese, or even a swap out for corn when meeting tortillas. I mean c’mon, how can you not love its versatility! When trying to swap out grains, this cruciferous beauty is the veggie to begin with. Not only is it delicious, but cauli rice has become so mainstream that it can be purchased practically anywhere. There are so many ways to make cauliflower rice: from steam to fried, to dessert. If you are concerned about fiber (as most of us should be) then cauliflower is the way to go. A cup of cauliflower has two grams of fiber (versus 0.9 grams for white rice and 1.8 for brown rice) and five grams of total carbohydrates (26 and 23 for enriched white and brown rice respectively). Can’t argue with facts. Cauliflower for the nutritious win!
Want to thicken sauces without starchy grains? Sprinkle a spoonful or two of coconut flour into your sauce. Want pancakes? Coconut flour to the rescue. Want bread or muffins? The tropical fruit can make it happen. Coconut flour (really just ground, dried coconut) is a low-carb alternative that works well in the grain-free world. It adapts nicely to most dishes without giving off an overpowering coconut flavor. From sweet to savory, coconut flour finds ways into many wheat-based dishes without affecting blood sugar as intensely as wheat flours can (coconut flour scores 51 on the glycemic index to 69 for wheat flour). Less sugar spikes leads to a more stable flow of insulin. And a happier body.
If pasta is your go-to for quick Monday night dinners you’ll be amazed how much faster spiralized veggies cook up than tried and true enriched flour ones. Zucchini, carrots, beets, virtually any hard vegetable can be transformed into oodles of noodles in a matter of minutes, making it the perfect swap for grain-based pasta. Veggie noodles make for wonderful spaghetti and meatballs, linguini with clams, even pad Thai. And if a noodle soup is more your thing – drop some zoodles into hot broth and almost instantly you’ll have a bowl of comforting noodle soup. Not only does it make for a quicker meal, but a more nutritious one as well. Standard pastas tend to be void of vitamin A and C, but zucchini has 40% and 16% of the RDI for those two vital vitamins.