Many grain-free diet plans claim that you can drop pounds fast, perform better athletically, and feel more energetic if you just cut grains out of your diet.  Like most foods, grains can help or harm your health- depending on how you use them!

Grains are not evil, but…

1.  A healthy diet is not centered on grains.

Grains are much more calorie-dense than most vegetables.  1 cup of cooked spaghetti has 221 calories.  1 cup of cooked broccoli has 54 calories.  Try turning down the volume on your grain portion and pumping up the volume on the veggies.

A good way to build a wholesome meal is to start with several brightly colored vegetables that are fresh and in season.  Make something delicious out of them and fill us at least half of your plate with it.  Next add a protein source, either vegetarian or meaty.  Whole grains could play a role in this meal, but it’s a supporting role.  You could use a corn tortilla to wrap everything up or a layer of brown rice to soak up some sauce, but keep your portions reasonable.

2.  Just like other foods, eating a variety of grains is better than overloading on one.

All of us have eaten enough wheat to last a lifetime, let’s give some other grains a chance!  There’s a whole world of other things for you to try.  Each one offers different nutrients your body needs, as well as a different taste.  For a list and description of some alterna-grains, check out this article from the Gluten Free Network.

3.  Whole grains have good stuff in them, refined grains do not.

Grains that have not been processed very much are a great source of protein, fiber, and minerals.  Refined white grains have had all the good stuff pulverized out of them.  The Whole Grains Council has a nice list of whole grains here, and a good guide to ingredient label interpretation here.

Try going grain-free for a day and see how creative you can get in the kitchen.  Try going wheat-free for a week and experiment with other whole grains like millet, amaranth, or quinoa.  To get some ideas check out this almond meal pancake recipe from Roost Blog.

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