Whole Grain Cereals: Easy to Make At Home!
[Whole oat groats, almond milk, poppyseeds and walnuts.]
Even though I haven’t “officially” been a student for years, I do work at a college, so for me, the beginning of the year will always coincide with the start of the academic year (usually the first week in September). And as the “new year” approaches, I find myself thinking about how to start my day with a nice, big, (usually) hot bowl of wholegrain cereal.
Whole grains are great sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber and even protein. Did you know that ½ cup of steel cut oats (which are just the whole grains roughly chopped) contains 10-14 g of protein—as much as 2 eggs? One bowl (1 cup) of brown rice (the white variety has had the bran removed and doesn’t qualify as “whole grain”) provides a large portion of your daily B-vitamins as well as several key minerals and 14% of your daily fiber. And millet, once used primarily for bird feed, is a good source of manganese and magnesium, helping to protect against Type 2 diabetes.
I know, it can be tough to think about hot breakfasts when the weather is still so warm in most parts of North America! No worries: if you’re not a fan of hot cereal (I eat it all year round), use these tips to turn whole grains into a fabulous cold breakfast, too.
Here are some easy ways to ensure that you—and your family—start the day out with some healthy whole grains:
- Always cook more grains than you need. Whenever I’m cooking rice for that Indian dinner or the base for my next stir-fry, I always double or triple the amount I need, then portion out in single servings and freeze in plastic containers; I do the same with all grains. I can pop a container in the fridge at night and it’s defrosted in time for breakfast the next day.
[Rice and milk, gussied up with apple and chopped almonds.]
2. Venture beyond standard cereal breakfasts. When I was a kid, one of my dad’s favorite light dinners was “rice and milk”—a big bowl of cooked rice in warm milk with a splash of honey. It’s a comforting, filling, nourishing breakfast, too. I will often mix a bowl of rice and warm dairy-free milk with a few drops of stevia, a sprinkling of cinnamon, and a handful of walnut pieces for a delicious alternative to porridge. Pretty much any grain works this way—quinoa, millet, rice, even amaranth.
[Easy "cream of wheat" style cereal--just blend cooked grains!]
3. Blend, blend, blend! Another childhood favorite of mine was Cream of Wheat. Now that I’m eating gluten-free, I had to find an alternative that was reminiscent of the cereal I loved. I simply take cooked grains (you can use just one type of grain, or a mixture), blend in your food processor or blender until smooth, then gently reheat with milk and sweetener of choice. Even if you weren’t fond of Cream of Wheat (and I know many weren’t!), do give this creamy, warming alternative a try.
[Pink Breakfast Bowl: cooked grains, seeds, and grated beets. As delicious as it is pretty!]
4. Go back to the real source of cold breakfast cereals. Sometimes we forget that the loops, squares and flakes we enjoy as a quick breakfast-in-a-bowl are actually derived from the whole grains we can cook up in our own kitchens. If you’re not a fan of hot cereal in the morning, a cold bowl of pre-cooked grains with a few add-ins (try nuts, seeds, chopped fruit, or—if you’re really adventurous—grated beets or carrots) splashed with milk and sweetener of choice makes a surprisingly satisfying start to the day, and one that will keep you going until lunch time.
5. Think outside the (cereal) box. Although I do love a cereal made from whole grains, I often mix them into other breakfast foods as well, such as pancakes, waffles or muffins. It’s a great way to increase your intake of these healthy foods!
Do you aim to include whole grains in your breakfasts? How do you fit them in?
Ricki Heller is the author of Sweet Freedom: Desserts You’ll Love without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar (endorsed by Ellen DeGeneres on her website) as well as three e-cookbooks. She writes the popular food blog Diet, Dessert and Dogs, where she chronicles her journey with candida and has posted more than 600 sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan, whole-foods recipes. You can find Ricki on Facebook and twitter, too!