Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Whole Grain Product Reviews

My most recent effort on the nutritional front has been to increase the amount of whole grains our family consumes. To be honest, I’ve been eating whole wheat bread since I was a kid. My parents attended a nutrition course when I was about 10, and adopted a diet with lots of whole grains, fruits, veggies, fish and very little refined sugar and flour. Do you want to guess what happened to my eating habits when I went off to college? Let’s just say that it wasn’t pretty ... but that's another story. Anyway, the only part of that diet that stuck was eating whole wheat bread, just because I thought it tasted better.

My husband was raised on Wonder Bread, and when we got married he had no interest in switching to whole wheat. Since I believe he's a grown-up who can make his own nutritional decisions, I just bought both white and wheat bread – an approach that continued when we had children. During their early years, my kids ate the whole wheat bread that I ate. Then they discovered “Dad’s bread,” and the wheat stuff was out of the question.

This bugged me to no end. I tried baking with whole wheat flour, but the resulting flavor was too pronounced and the texture too heavy.

When I discovered King Arthur white whole wheat flour, I was skeptical, but I figured it was worth a try. According to the company’s Web site, the flour is milled from white whole wheat, and it has all the fiber and nutrition of traditional whole wheat, with a milder flavor and lighter color. I bought some and incorporated it into various recipes for pancakes, waffles, banana bread, and coffee cake. To my surprise, when I’ve replaced half of the all-purpose flour with the white whole wheat flour, I can’t detect any difference in the flavor or texture – nor can my family. When I used all white whole wheat flour in pancakes, the texture was a bit more dense but still didn’t elicit any complaints from my family members. This product is an absolute winner in my book. I plan to do a lot of experimenting with it.

Another product I tried was Fiber One chewy bars, which had little chocolate chips in them. I bought a big box of them at BJs, figuring they might be a healthy snack for all of us. (I’d tell you the nutrition information but they are long gone. They have a lot of fiber, but like all of these kinds of bars the tradeoff is the sugar content.) I thought they were ok, but my younger son went nuts for them. I thought that was a good thing, because he doesn’t eat a lot of fruits and veggies until I noticed ... er, how shall I say it delicately ... well, he was farting up a storm. So the rule became one bar per day. I suppose I’ll buy these again – while they aren’t health food, they are a step up from cookies.

Finally, I tried the Rice-A-Roni whole grain blends. I chose this because I have a son who’s absolutely nuts about Rice-A-Roni (yes, I resort to boxed stuff more than I care to admit). Even though the salt content is horrid, I thought getting my family used to a chewier whole grain texture might be a step in the right direction. Well, when I made it I thought it was too salty and the rest of the family thought it was too chewy. I probably won’t be repeating that particular product.

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