Whole Grains, Nuts and Seeds, Oh My!

For the 4th and final week of National Nutrition Month, I challenge you to savor the flavor of whole grains, nuts, and seeds.  These wonderful foods are important staples in any meal plan to boost fiber intake. Not only do whole grains, nuts, and seeds provide fiber, but they are good sources for B vitamins (think spark plugs for the body), protein, and heart healthy fats.  Whole grains, nuts, and seeds add flavor and pizzazz to meals while satisfying your palate.

Did you know that 1/2 cup serving of whole grain pasta typically has 2 grams of fiber?  But did you know that 1/2 cup of cooked bulgur, or wheat berries (farro, kamut, or spelt) contains 4 grams of fiber?  Next time you make a pasta salad swap in bulgur or farro for the pasta to make the salad have an interesting twist.   To add a more nutritious punch to your meatballs, use crushed high fiber cereal or ground up oatmeal in place of regular bread crumbs.  Not only will you increase the fiber content, but you will also increase the iron and B vitamin content as well.   Consider adding barley to soups and stews to make them more hearty and flavorful, while increasing the fiber content once again.

Many people tend to think of nuts and seeds as fattening.  This can be true if the nuts and seeds are eaten in excess.  However, if you keep your portions of nuts and seeds in check, you will gain a ton of health benefits by their addition to salads, desserts, and snacks.   1/4 cup serving of nuts is all you need to add 2-3 grams of fiber to a meal.  Whereas 1 Tbsp. of chia seeds have 4 grams of fiber, and 1 Tbsp of flax seeds have 2 grams of fiber.  And, don’t forget about nut and seed butters.  They are a great way to increase your fiber intake too.  1 Tbsp. of sunflower seed butter has 1 gram of fiber, whereas 1 Tbsp. of almond butter has 1.5 grams of fiber. Some ways to enjoy nuts and seeds is to sprinkle them on top of cereals, muffins, salads, fruit cups, pilafs, and veggies.

My favorite way to incorporate whole grains, nuts, and seeds into my diet is with my homemade granola bars.  This wholesome and yummy treat is a great go-to for a quick breakfast (pair it with some yogurt or almond milk) or a power snack (paired with some fruit).  The recipe and instructions are as follows:

Homemade Granola

Ingredients

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. flax seeds
  • ¼ cup slithered almonds
  • ½ cup honey
  • 4 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter
  • 1/2 mashed avocado
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup dried fruit (optional)

 Preparation:

Preheat oven to 325°F

Line a 9 x 13 baking dish with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together rolled oats, brown sugar, chocolate chips, baking soda, salt, flax seeds, slither almond.

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Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl, then add almond butter, avocado, vanilla extract and mix together until creamy.

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  1. Add honey and butter/almond butter/vanilla mixture to dry ingredients and mix until everything is evenly mixed together.

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Add any other additions as desired and mix

Spoon the mixture onto the parchment paper and using a spatula evenly spread out the granola to fill the dish

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  1. Bake for 15 minutes.

Enjoy!


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