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Ways Everyone Can Eat More Grains, the Mediterranean Way

Hearing all about the grains of the Mediterranean is one thing, but realistically incorporating them into your diet is another. You may feel like you need to be a Top Chef or plan days in advance to have one of these grains with a meal. Or you may be intimidated because you have a wheat or gluten allergy and know that many grains are off-limits.

For any lifestyle change to be effective, it’s got to be practical for you. Otherwise, you’ll do it for a week, maybe even a month if you’re particularly determined, but then grow bored or tired with what you’re eating and revert to your old habits. With the suggestions offered here, you’ll be more likely to stick in the long run!

Swapping in grains at every meal

To make the transition into a whole grain lifestyle more easily, take it step by step. The table gives you a game plan for adding in whole grains at every meal and tells you what you can ditch in favor of good nutrition.

Swapping in Whole Grains
When Swap Out Swap In
Breakfast Refined cereals, bagels, muffins and pastries, waffles, pancakes Whole wheat cereal, oatmeal, barley porridge, quinoa flour muffins, buckwheat pancakes
Lunch White bread, noodle soup, croutons in salad Whole wheat bread, broth-based barley soup, toasted whole grains in salad
Snack Potato chips, pretzels Air-popped popcorn, whole grain crackers
Dinner White pasta, dinner rolls, white rice, breadcrumbs Side of bulgur, polenta, farro, freekah, or even brown rice!

Taking allergies into consideration

Wheat and grains are often used interchangeably, but the truth is that not all grains contain wheat or gluten, which are common food sensitivities these days:

  • Wheat allergy: People with wheat allergies have a sensitivity to certain proteins in wheat (albumin and globulin). Only about 35 percent of children who are born with a wheat allergy will continue with it throughout their teens, and it’s actually very rare in adults. A true wheat allergy may cause indigestion, rash or itching, and hay fever symptoms.

  • Gluten sensitivity or allergy: When people refer to a wheat sensitivity, they’re often actually describing a gluten sensitivity or allergy. Celiac disease is an allergy to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, or rye that is often cross-contaminated into other grains like oats, rice, and corn. An estimated 3 million Americans have celiac disease, and many more have sensitivities to gluten and wheat.

Fortunately, gluten-free grains do exist! From the Mediterranean list, you can choose quinoa and polenta (corn). Other gluten-free whole grains include brown rice, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, and oats that haven’t been contaminated with gluten.

Reading food labels is key if you have a gluten or wheat sensitivity. Any product that has wheat is required to list that ingredient on its food label. However, other gluten-containing foods, like barley, may not be required to do the same. Therefore, look for “gluten-free” on the label to be 100 percent sure.

Don’t self-diagnose! If you or your child suffer from indigestion or more serious symptoms when it comes to wheat products, go to a physician for verification of what’s going on. Unnecessarily excluding these foods from the diet can result in nutritional deficiencies.

However, if you truly do have an allergy, you need to know so that you can be diligent with removing the sensitivity, becoming educated on how to make up for that nutrition, and preventing any additional health problems.

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