Meal Plan for Increasing Whole Grains
Grains are an important part of a healthy diet, especially during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Whole grains contain the entire or ‘whole’ grain seed. Refined grains such as white flour lose important parts of the seed (most often all or part of the bran and germ) during processing. It is mostly in the bran and germ where a variety of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber and antioxidants are located. By choosing whole grains you are getting those very important vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants in their original proportions, compared to refined grains where those nutrients are stripped away during the refining process.
Whole grains can be eaten in their complete form (such as quinoa and barley) or they can be ground into whole grain flour and used for baking bread and making pasta. As long as the grain contains the germ, bran, and endosperm – whether it be in the flour or the actual cooked grain you are eating – it is a WHOLE grain.
Examples of whole grains include: brown-, black- or wild rice, oatmeal (steel-cut oats are the least processed), quinoa, barley, wheat, wheat berries, farro, bulgur, corn, millet, teff, 100% whole grain flour and the products made from it (whole grain bread, whole grain cereal and whole grain pasta).
While the USDA advises that you make sure that at least half of the grains you eat are whole grains, we’re encouraging you to go for 100 percent. By doing so, you’ll gain much greater nutrient value, you’ll discover you eat more flavorful foods, and your baby is more likely to develop healthy taste preferences.
Choosing meals and snacks from the below listed options will help you consume more whole grains:
- Option 1: Breakfast burrito: whole grain tortilla stuffed with eggs, black beans, salsa, and sautéed peppers.
- Option 2: Banana buckwheat pancakes: 1 mashed banana, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons buckwheat. Mix together and cook for 3 minutes per side. Top with slivered almonds, a dollop of plain low-fat yogurt, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
- Option 3: Whole grain English muffin with mashed avocado and an over easy egg (over hard if pregnant); fresh fruit on the side
- Option 4: Bran flakes with berries and low-fat milk or milk alternative
- Option 5: Oatmeal with diced peaches and unsweetened coconut flakes
- Option 1: Quinoa tossed with mushrooms, fresh herbs, and arugula. Top with grilled chicken.
- Option 2: Vegetable barley soup (low sodium if canned) and side of mixed fruit salad
- Option 3: Whole grain pita with canned light tuna* or salmon, lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, and dried cranberries
- Option 4: Bean salad: green beans, chickpeas, and white beans with cherry tomatoes, spinach, and wheat berries tossed with olive oil and vinegar.
- Option 5: Cooked farro tossed with chopped carrots, tomatoes, onions, yellow and green peppers, feta cheese and Greek olives, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper on a bed of lettuce; orange slices and raspberries on the side
- Option 1: Sautéed shrimp with herbed who grain couscous or quinoa and roasted asparagus
- Option 2: Pork chop, no added sugar applesauce, green beans, and brown rice
- Option 3: Whole grain pasta tossed with veggies, ground turkey, and tomato sauce
- Option 4: Grilled salmon and asparagus with quinoa
- Option 5: Hamburger on whole grain roll, sautéed onions, and side salad
- Option 1: Nut or sunflower seed butter protein balls: 2.5 cups oats, ¼ nut or sunflower butter, 1 cup ripe mashed banana, 1 tsp ground cinnamon. Mix all ingredients and shape into 24 balls. Keep refrigerated.
- Option 2: Baked whole grain tortilla chips and guacamole
- Option 3: Air popped popcorn tossed with raisins
- Option 4: Whole grain English muffin with nut butter and banana slices
- Option 5: Whole grain crackers and sliced cheese with grapes
*Pregnant women should eat no more than 6 ounces of high mercury fish per week
For more on this topic, check out the following articles: