O'er Fields of Healthy Grain

Cathy Arnst

Most people are aware that it's healthier to eat whole grains rather than refined. But you may not know the reason. A new study from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture gives some insight into why whole grains are good for us--they keep the body from overproducing triglycerides, dangerous fat molecules in the blood. And not only does brown rice, whole wheat bread and oatmeal improve our heart health; they can actually help us lose weight.

Trying to get whole grains into our kids, or even ourselves, isn't always easy, however. The best method is to start out right and never give them anything else. Since I prefer whole wheat bread, my 7-year-old daughter has grown up with it. She thinks white bread is weird. Lately I've been using more whole wheat pasta, which she isn't so wild about. The fact that it is pasta usually wins her over, though, and I can seal the deal with the right sauce. If you're just starting to make the switch to whole grains, try mixing half whole wheat pasta with the standard stuff, or make a sandwich that is one-half white bread, one half whole wheat. A favorite trick of mine is to sprinkle wheat germ into all kinds of foods. My daughter loves the flavor, as do I.

You should also switch to whole grain cereals--but read the label carefully. Plenty of foods that claim they are "heart healthy" actually contain no whole grains. Here's a good primer on the subject from the Center for Science in the Public Interest It lists cereals that do and don't contain whole grains. And it offers some good news: Popcorn is one of the good guys!

I've been experimenting lately with other types of grains, such as pearl barley, quinona and wild rice. This is a quick, easy and kid-friendly recipe I found on that has a double whammy of fiber--lentils and pearl barley (which you can find in the dried beans section of your supermarket). It also calls for kale, one of the healthiest leafy vegetables around. It has a nice peppery flavor---try it, if you haven't already, but if you don't have any spinach, frozen or fresh, will do fine. Also, the recipe calls for curry, which not everyone cares for, but you could easily substitute some other flavoring more to your likely--perhaps oregano, or tarragon, or saffron.

Incidentally, WW says this dish takes 70 minutes--I'd say more like 30 minutes, tops.

Curried Barley with Lentils and Chicken

POINTS® value | 6
Servings | 4
Preparation Time | 25 min
Cooking Time | 70 min
Level of Difficulty | Easy

main meals | This fiber- and vitamin-rich dish combines the unique flavors of fresh ginger, curry and kale. The best part: You just need one pot!


2 tsp olive oil
1 1/4 cup sweet red pepper(s), chopped
1 cup onion(s), chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp ginger root, freshly grated
2 tsp curry powder
2 cup water
2 cup canned chicken broth
1 cup carrot(s), sliced
1/2 cup uncooked barley
3 1/3 oz dry lentils, rinsed and picked over (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size chunks
4 1/2 oz frozen kale, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup plain fat-free yogurt


Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add peppers and onion. Sauté over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, ginger root and curry powder. Cook over low heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in water, broth, carrots and barley; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in lentils. Cover and simmer, stirring once or twice, until barley and lentils are tender, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Stir in chicken and kale; cover and cook until chicken is cooked through and kale is hot, about 5 minutes. Serve yogurt on the side to drizzle over top. Yields about 1 1/2 cups per serving plus 2 tablespoons of yogurt.

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