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Spark Your Grains

10 Ways to Flavor Whole Grains

-- By Becky Hand, Meg Galvin, and Stepfanie Romine, authors of 'The Spark Solution'
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Switching from processed to whole grains is one of the simplest changes you can make to help your health. Whole grains have more protein and fiber than their stripped-down counterparts, which means they'll help you stay fuller longer. That's because they take longer to digest--another reason they're one of our "Spark Swaps" ingredients in "The Spark Solution: A Complete Two-Week Program to Fast-Track Weight Loss and Total Body Health," the new book from the experts at SparkPeople.
 
Grains on their own aren't very flavorful, but you can use that to your advantage. Use their mild taste as a blank canvas to complement the rest of your meal. Here are 10 easy ways to flavor whole grains--no recipe needed.
 
Prepare your grains according to package directions. You'll need 4 servings (2 cups cooked).

Serving suggestions: quinoa, whole wheat couscous, brown rice, bulgur, wild rice, etc.
 
NOTE: To save time, you can use precooked grains unless noted. Either buy heat-and-eat varieties or make a large batch once a week. 

1. Stir in chopped fresh herbs just before serving.
  • basil, oregano and parsley (1/2 cup)
  • chives and cilantro (1/2 cup)
  • rosemary, thyme and sage (1/4 cup)
If you prefer dried herbs, use half the amount and add before cooking or reheating your grains.
 
2. Add dried fruit and chopped, toasted nuts just before serving.
Add 2 tablespoons each
  • cranberries and almonds
  • raisins and walnuts
  • currants and pistachios
Note:  To toast nuts, lightly brown in skillet over medium heat.
 
3. Dry roast 1-2 teaspoons of spices in the pan before adding the grains and water.           
  • cumin seed (whole or ground)
  • coriander (whole or ground)
  • curry powder
  • chili pepper
  • turmeric
  • fennel
Before cooking your grains, heat the spices in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Shake the pan gently to roast the spices. When the spices are fragrant (after about two minutes), add your grain and cook according to package directions.
 
4. Stir in 1 cup cooked vegetables before serving.
  • Steamed spinach or mixed greens
  • Sautéed or roasted carrots, asparagus or squash
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Roasted, sliced Brussels sprouts
5. Add canned beans for a heartier side.
Add 1 can (14.5 ounces) drained and rinsed beans.
  • black beans
  • chickpeas
  • lentils
  • red beans
  • white beans
  • pinto beans
6. Stir in purees, pesto or salsa.
Add 2 tablespoons or to taste.
  • basil pesto
  • sundried tomato paste (use 1 tablespoon as this is usually concentrated)
  • roasted pepper puree
  • salsa verde
  • any jarred salsa
7. Add sautéed mushrooms and soft, creamy cheese.
Saute 1 cup mushrooms in the pan before adding the grains and water. Stir in 2 ounces creamy cheese just before serving.
  • Shiitake, portabella, cremini mushrooms
  • Soft goat, herb or cream cheese
In a small skillet, saute 1 cup sliced mushrooms in 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add to cooked grains along with the cheese just before serving. (Chopped fresh herbs would also be good.)
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Member Comments

  • Great Information - thanks. - 1/17/2014 4:06:18 PM
  • I'm so happy to have this all together in one place the next time I cook whole grains. I like them, but am getting in a rut. Thanks for this! - 5/11/2013 1:55:37 PM
  • I love this article! I have heard some of these tips before and I will tend to do one of them for a while and get tired of it. Having these tips all together will help me mix it up from time-to-time and not get tired of any one of them. I am also looking forward to trying some of the suggested additions that are new to me. Thanks for giving us this bonus to the Spark Solution! - 5/7/2013 5:57:39 PM