Worried about arsenic in rice? Substitute one of these healthy grains!

In light of recent arsenic scares, the Consumers Union recommends no more than 1/4 cup rice (dry) two times per week for adults, and 1.25 times per week for children. (This recommendation applies both to brown rice and white rice.) Do you rely on rice as a dietary staple? If so, this is the perfect time to branch out and try other grains. Out of all of the grains available, I find that farro, barley, and quinoa are the most “rice-like” and work best as rice substitutes.

Ancient Grains

Farro: Farro is an ancient strain of wheat (meaning it’s not gluten-free, for any allergy folks out there) and the grains are a tad larger than rice. Farro has a chewy texture and nutty flavor, similar to brown rice, but turned up a few notches. Because of this unique flavor, farro works well as a stand alone side (fish served on a bed of farro, chicken with a side of farro, etc). Also, farro’s texture lends itself well to grain salads. It stays chewy when served cold, unlike rice, which becomes dry and stale. At the grocery store, look for whole farro (rather than pearled farro) to be sure you’re getting a whole grain.

Barley: Barley (wheat free, but not gluten free) is a bit smaller than rice. It has a neutral flavor, so it works great in mixed dishes (such as stir frys). It is also great in soup (think beef with barley!) and works well with beans. Like rice, it is best served warm. Look for whole barley or hulled barley at the grocery store. While pearled barley is more nutrient dense than a fully refined grain, it is not technically a whole grain because part of the bran has been removed.

Quinoa: Quinoa is like the chambray shirt of ancient grains… it goes with everything! Even though quinoa is actually not very “rice-like” compared to farro and barley, this tiny, gluten free pseudograin can be substituted for rice in many recipes. Warm or cold, sweet or savory, quinoa can be whatever you want it be!

When experimenting with a new ingredient, it is often helpful to start with a recipe. Below are some recipe ideas to get you started:

What is your favorite grain to substitute for rice?

– Kelly

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Holiday Vegetable Plating: Christmas Tree

Healthy Christmas Tree

Now that it’s December, I’m ready to fully embrace the Christmas season, and my meals are no exception! This holiday vegetable plating is a delicious and healthy way to get into the Christmas spirit, and it is also a great way to create a meal based on the MyPlate guidelines.

Healthy Christmas Tree

Instructions: I arranged ½ cup brown rice (cooked in low sodium chicken broth), 1 cup of green beans (boiled), and 2 tablespoons of cranberries (also boiled) on the plate in a tree shape. I then drizzled the tree with 1 teaspoon of good balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled on a tiny bit of rosemary and thyme.

Nutrition (using ingredients as listed above): 161 calories, 1g fat (0g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 43mg sodium, 6mg potassium, 33g carbohydrates (6.5g fiber, 4g sugars), 5g protein, 5% Vitamin A, 16% Vitamin C, 6% Calcium, 5% Iron

To make a meal, pair this with your favorite protein food! I paired mine with leftover turkey, but this vegetable plating would also look excellent with a roasted chicken. This holiday vegetable plating is also the perfect formula for following the latest nutrition guidelines. By making half of your plate fruits and vegetables (green beans and cranberries), a quarter of your plate whole grains (brown rice), and a quarter of your plate lean protein (your choice- I used Turkey), you are following the nutrition guidelines as suggested by MyPlate (see below).

MyPlate

Are you a fan of cute holiday foods made HEALTHY? Inspired by my post on the Best Thanksgiving Fruit and Veggie Platters from Around the Web, I will be posting a collection of the best Christmas themed fruit and veggie platters. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks!

-Kelly