Lorna Sass tells us tidbits about whole grains that every home cook should know about.
Host: Gloria Tsang, RD
Guest: Lorna Sass
We talked about the different types of fiber in our last episode, and in our celebration of National Heart Month, we are moving on to discuss whole grains. The situation with whole grains is similar to fiber – we know they are good, but we just don’t eat enough. Lorna Sass, author of Whole Grains For Busy People is here today to tell us tidbits about whole grains that every home cook should know about.
Gloria Tsang, RD: We talked about the different types of fiber in our last episode and in our celebration of National Heart Month, we are moving on to discuss whole grains. The situation with whole grains is similar to fiber – we know they are good, but we just don’t eat enough. Welcome to the Nutrition Tidbits podcast. This is Gloria Tsang, Editor-in-Chief for HealthCastle.com. Joining me today is Lorna Sass. Her latest cookbook is called “Whole Grains For Busy People”. She is here today to tell us tidbits about grains that every home cook should know about. Thank you for joining me Lorna.
Lorna Sass: My pleasure.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Now HealthCastle.com readers often tell us that they can’t tell what’s 100% whole grains. Well no surprise! Some labels are just hard to understand. Tell us some common misleading phrases found on food labels.
Lorna Sass: Well, seven grain, multigrain – those are very tricky kinds of labels because they suggest that the food in question is whole grain. But, often times, it’s not. Another misleading label would be “made with whole grain”. That could mean a half a percent whole grain or stone ground suggest healthy whole grains. The fool proof way that I recommend which cannot be tricked is to read the label and before the name of every grain, the word “whole” must appear. Let’s say you are getting whole grain pita. On the label, it should say “whole wheat flour”. If it’s a multigrain pita, it should say “whole wheat flour”, “whole rye flour”, “whole oat flour”. You get the point. That word “whole” has to be listed in the ingredients.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Most people associate whole grains with whole wheat bread, brown rice and instead brown rice and whole wheat pasta but whole grains is a lot more than just these right?
Lorna Sass: Yes. And fortunately a great variety of whole grains is now getting more and more in supermarkets because they are being much better distributed. And also, because of the growing number of people who have to follow gluten-free diets, we are finding many of the gluten-free grains in supermarkets as well. These would include brown rice, buckwheat, millet and quinoa. Quinoa is probably one of my all-time favourite quick-cooking whole grains. It takes about 12 minutes to cook. It’s a complete protein as it has all the essential amino acids. It comes from the Andes and it’s very, very flexible. One thing that I tell people that they can easily do is substitute quinoa for any of their favourite pasta or rice salad recipes. Just cook up the quinoa and substitute it. The way I like to cook quinoa by the way, is a little bit unusual. I like to cook quinoa, the way people cook pasta, in a large pot of boiling water. Then I drain it when it’s done. And it’s nice and fluffy that way. Unfortunately, a lot of the packaged directions for quinoa call for 2 to 1 (water ratio) and you end up with porridge often times. I think that’s why quinoa hasn’t caught on as well as it should because it’s an absolutely delicious grain.
Gloria Tsang, RD: When I hear you say the preparation is 12 minutes of boiling, it just got me. It’s so easy to make.
Lorna Sass: Yes.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Now let’s talk about millet. You mentioned that as well. Where do we find them at our grocery stores and how should we prepare them?
Lorna Sass: Millet is probably less common in grocery stores. You will find it sometimes in Asian markets. Certainly you will find it in health food stores. Millet cooks up differently depending on the ratio of water to grain. If you do it 2 to 1, you will get a fluffy couscous-like dish. I advise people to brown the grain in a dry skillet before adding the water because it really enhances the flavor nicely. Your other way to cook millet is more like 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 in a nice vegetable or chicken broth and you will get something more like a polenta or a mashed potato texture. Then you can just swirl in some parmesan cheese and it really can be a very delicious side dish that is more nutritious than potatoes. And you are getting, of course, your fiber and your whole grain.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Absolutely. Now what about rice? Some people actually have a rice cooker and they can cook white rice in the rice cooker. Can we use a rice cooker to cook brown rice, wild rice and things like that?
Lorna Sass: I am not certain about the wild rice but the newer rice cookers have brown rice settings. I personally don’t use a rice cooker regularly but a colleague does and reports that brown rice is beautiful in the rice cooker.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Another question that I often wonder. Is the instant version, like the instant oatmeal and the instant brown rice, the same as the real thing?
Lorna Sass: Well, they are whole grains still. I’m not a big fan of instant oatmeal because I don’t think it has a heck of a lot of taste or texture. Regular oatmeal cooks pretty close to instantly anyways so I am not sure what the point is (of having instant oatmeal). I like instant brown rice quite well as I have played around with it. It has the same nutritional value; it’s just been par-cooked. What I like to do with it is toast it first. I use a little less liquid than the package suggests and it’s very delicious. I have to say that I was quite surprised.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Wow, roasted brown rice. That sounds so tasty!
Lorna Sass: Yes, it takes 10 minutes! The other thing that people can keep in mind is that whole grains, once cooked, freeze very well. I also keep the raw ones in my freezer or refrigerator because you want to be careful. Whole grains have the germ intact and, therefore, they have oil content so they can go rancid – you do want to keep them in the freezer or refrigerator. You can cook up a big batch of brown rice from scratch and then freeze that in portions. It freezes beautifully. You can reconstitute it, throw in the microwave or just throw it frozen into a soup or a stew.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Great tips to freeze rice. Lorna, tell us more about your cookbook “Whole Grains for Busy People”.
Lorna Sass: I wrote “Whole Grains for Busy People” as a follow-up to “Whole Grains Everyday Everyway”, which won the Beard Award I am very proud to say in the Healthy Living category.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Congratulations!
Lorna Sass: But it’s such a big, big fat book and so thorough that I felt people might be a little intimidated by it – people who are just starting out getting into whole grains. And because everybody is very busy and wanting to eat more healthfully, I thought a paperback that just concentrated on the quick cooking grains was a good idea. My aim was to get all the recipes done under thirty minutes and many of them really take under fifteen (minutes).
Gloria Tsang, RD: Great. For more information about Lorna Sass, you can go to her website LornaSass.com and we will have a linked on our website. Thank you for joining me Lorna.
Lorna Sass: Great! And I have a new blog. When people go to my website, they can then click on to go to my blog. I’d love to have them visit.
Gloria Tsang, RD: We have been talking to Lorna Sass, author of cookbook “Whole Grains for Busy People”. For more healthy eating tidbits and information about this show, go to HealthCastle.com.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.