You’ve planned your meal—a juicy chicken breast, a piece of delicate fish, or a thick, meaty Portobello burger. Now, what to have alongside? Fortunately, the grocery store offers many simple grain side dish mixes that require little more than some water, perhaps a wee bit of oil, and a quick cook. But are these quick-to-create dishes a healthful choice?
As with most prepared or semi-prepared foods, sodium is always a concern. These mixes are no exception. Some provide more than half of your daily sodium recommendation in just a one-cup serving. However, there are plenty with a sodium content that may easily fit within your daily limit. Recently, this primarily white rice-based food product category has expanded to include other types of grains. Many of these, such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat couscous offer more fiber, protein, and other nutrients. In addition, these options are an excellent source of whole grains in your diet. Current recommendations encourage Americans to make sure at least half their daily grains are whole grains—about three servings per day for the average person.
Think about these ideas when choosing and preparing a grain mix.
► Watch Portions. While a serving size of grain, according to the USDA, is one-half cup, most of the products list one cup as a serving. For that reason, most items in the chart are in one-cup portions. If you prefer the half-cup amount, you can cut all the nutritional information in half as well.
► Veggie Time. To boost the nutrient power, stir in leftover vegetables, or add, frozen, or canned broccoli, peppers, carrots, or other favorite vegetables.
► Whole Grain Check. These grain dishes offer an easy opportunity to get a whole grain serving into your day. Check the ingredient list to be sure a whole grain is listed first, such as brown rice, quinoa, or wheat berries. You also can check for the Whole Grain Stamp from the Whole Grains Council (wholegrainscouncil.org), which will tell you how many grams of whole grains are in each food product (18 grams is one serving), however this is an optional label and may not be on all packages.
—Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD