Alternative grains not only taste great, they’re also packed with nutrients.
There is much more to the grain world than wheat. The mainstay of many of our diets, wheat is often overprocessed and refined, stripping it of all its nutrients. Yet, there are an incredible number of alternative grains available that not only taste good, but also provide us with the protein, fats, minerals, vitamins and fibre our bodies need.
Why not give some of the following grains a try with your family? You will tickle their taste buds, keep them healthy, and expand their food repertoire.
Spelt is known as ancient red wheat, a cousin to wheat. It has a deep nutty flavour and is available as a kernel, flakes and flour. You will find spelt in breads, cereal and pasta. You can easily substitute it for wheat flour in baking, and your kids won’t even notice. (To find out how to substitute flour from spelt and other alternative grains for wheat flour, go to www.keeperofthehome.org/2008/07/the-how-to-of-using-alternative-grains.html.) Spelt is an excellent source of manganese, and a good source of niacin, copper, phosphorus, protein and fibre.
Kamut has a buttery flavour and is an heirloom variety of durum wheat that provides more protein than wheat, as well as B vitamins, iron and magnesium. You will find it commonly used in pasta and bread. Tiny taste buds love it.
Barley is one of the oldest cereal crops around. It is extremely versatile and has a rich, nut like flavour. You can use it plain or mix it with rice, cook it with beans, use it risotto style, or add it to soups. Barley is a very good source of fibre and selenium and a good source of phosphorus, copper and manganese.
Rye has a similar nutrition profile as wheat, but contains less gluten. It has a robust tangy flavour and is often used in bread. You can also use it flaked as a breakfast cereal or in granola. While the taste is sometimes a little strong for kids, it is less intense when combined with oat flakes in a granola. Nutritionally, it is an excellent source of manganese and a good source of fibre, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium and protein.
The following grains are gluten free, making them excellent choices for those with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease.
Millet has a high protein content, provides iron, phosphorus and B vitamins and is easy to digest. You can serve it fluffy like rice or mashed and creamy like potatoes. The sweet nutty flavour is a big hit with adults and children alike.
Teff is a very tiny cereal grain with a sweet and robust flavour. It is a rich source of calcium, an excellent source of iron, zinc, and copper and a good source of protein. You can use teff flour for baking, cook the grains and serve as a side dish, or add it to soups.
Amaranth ranges in colour from purple to yellow, is very nutritious and has a sweet taste with nutty undertones that many babies and toddlers in my cooking classes love. It provides more protein, calcium and magnesium than milk. You can use it in soups and stews and make a creamy breakfast cereal similar to oatmeal. Amaranth can also be cooked up as is to make a delicious side dish.
Buckwheat is a relative to rhubarb and not really a grain, although we tend to use it that way. It has a very high calcium content, is rich in vitamin E, and contains a full range of B vitamins. Buckwheat is quite filling and you can use it as a cereal or as part of a combination of flours for baking.
Quinoa is really a seed, not a grain, with a crunchy texture and a nutty flavour. It is easy to digest, a complete protein, and contains rich sources of calcium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin E, copper and magnesium. Before cooking, rinse quinoa with water to prevent bitterness. It is a very versatile grain and is a great substitute for rice, millet or couscous. You can serve it as a side dish, use it as a base for salads or add it to soups. Quinoa is also available as flake and flour, but is best used in combination with other flours for baking.