Friday, May 21, 2010

whole wheat pasta, or foods I "should" like but don't and why it matters

Whole grains are "hot" these days. When I menu plan, I try to aim for about half of the grains we eat to be whole grains. Recently I wrote that I truly resent and refuse (as much as possible) to eat foods simply because I "should" (for nutritional or other purposes.)

After a recent success with the whole wheat cookies that are awesome (holding up well in my tupperware on the counter BTW and chosen over a Newman's Oreo by M) I am inspired to try more. But, whole wheat pasta will never gain entry to my pantry again!

Some whole grains I love:
  • breads (store-bought) the seedier the better
  • cookies (see above)
  • oatmeal
  • barley in soups
  • brown rice (with stews, soups, chilis)
  • soba-type noodles made with buckwheat
  • whole wheat couscous

Some whole grains that I could do without
  • by far the most reviled is whole wheat pasta (blech, I know I "should" but I don't like it)
  • brown rice with stir-fries (I just like the sticky white stuff here)
  • brown rice with sushi (ditto)
  • Fiber One cereal, or anything like it
  • breads I have baked at home with mostly whole wheat have disappointed so far, machine and in the oven.
  • went through a Quinoa phase, and now am not so keen on it. Maybe if I made it in a more inspired way I'd love it. Just seems to fall more in the "I should eat it because it's healthy" category...
  • Muffins made with high fiber cereals or flours and apple sauce or other fat-reducing strategies. Dry, dry, dry
The list-making is fun, but the issue is relevant. Much of today's nutritional advice is pushing whole grains and other "should" foods, which is problematic on many levels and especially if you lack the cooking skills to know what to do with them. Cooking for a family is hard enough to sustain without bringing dread, guilt, and most of all unappealing foods into the mix. When we denigrate the foods people enjoy and are eating, put them on a "forbidden" list and give them alternatives that they don't like, aren't ready for or don't know they like, we offer little. The "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" mess people up.

Make a list of the foods you enjoy, can you find a few with whole grains? Are there any of the so-called "should" foods that surprise you? Are you maybe avoiding "should" foods you might like because you resent that "should?" Can you expand that list by trying new foods, eating out or from a friend? (For example, I only tried baking purely whole wheat cookies because I got to enjoy them at the Mill City Museum test kitchen.) Focus on growing your "love it" list in a fun, low-pressure way when you are ready, not on growing your "can't have it" list. (Secrets to Feeding a Healthy Family by Satter has a great rundown on how to expand the picky adult palate.)

What am I missing? Do you have some whole grains you love and think I should try? I have not yet experimented with groats, and the more exotic grains. Convince me...
Or commiserate with your most-hated "I know I should but can't" foods...


  1. Yes! I agree! And whole wheat pasta is disgusting. Who are they kidding with that stuff? Ugh!

  2. I love whole wheat and multigrain pasta, but brand does seem to matter. Bella Terra makes a good one, but some others I have tried seem extra gritty. I like the richer nuttier taste and the bit of texture in comparison to regular pasta.

  3. I'm right there with you on the whole grain pasta, I'd rather just not have pasta at all.

    What do you think of whole wheat white flour? My understanding is that nutritionally it is the same as "normal" whole wheat flour, in which case I'm tempted to do a lot of experimenting with it because texturally it's much closer to white flour than wheat flour.

    Check out the website, for making your own graham crakers, they are unbelievable. Of course, I took it further and made marshmallows so I could serve s'mores, but the graham crackers are amazing.

  4. I hear you on the whole wheat pasta. I've tried, I swear I have, but I just can't seem to like it.

    There are some very tasty whole grain crackers out there. Getting some whole grains spread with something, like, say, Brie, is a happy thought.

    I also really like wheatberries. You can add them to muffins and such, but what I like even better is wheatberry salad. I've made a really good one that included dried cranberries and pecans, and the Barefoot Contessa wheatberry salad one is good too. It's available online.

    And don't forget granola and good oatmeal cookies!

  5. I agree with the "not eating what you don't like" thing. I don't eat avocado, for example, because it's bland green slime, and I don't see any reason to bother. Especially since it's NOT local produce and therefore expensive.

    I do like the Barilla whole-wheat pasta, but I've mostly been putting it into things like ziti - so it's boiled, then mixed with a tomato-meat-veggie sauce and shredded cheese, and then baked. Mostly I notice it's slightly more chewy and stays with me longer.

  6. I love seeded wholegrain breads, steelcut oats, and rarely, if ever, eat white breads but I will absolutely NOT eat wholegrain pasta. I also really dislike whole wheat bagels - if I'm going to have a bagel (or an English muffin), it needs to be white. I don't mind brown rice but my husband really dislikes it, so we tend to go with the sticky white stuff instead, for family peace!

    I've been surprised at how much I do like wholegrain products when I'm not compelled to eat them for diet reasons - as there are so many that I do enjoy, I feel entirely justified with the few more refined products I do really need. After all, if I'm going to eat a food, I want to like it.

  7. I agrea on the English Muffins, I keep trying to like the whole wheat, but don't. My hubby dislikes brown rice more than me, but we do eat it about half the time we have rice.
    Isn't it amazing when you don't feel pressured or compelled to like something that you are more open to it? It's the same with kids and foods. Pushing them often turns them off. it's intuitive and there's research to back it up, yet the feeding standard is a control, pressure model.
    I also dislike tofu, which I want to like, but don't... And black bean burgers. I like beans, I like burgers, but not bean burgers...

  8. Why can the pasta companies not get whole grain right?! I mean, they can make whole grain FROOT LOOPS that taste good. Why does whole grain pasta have to taste like cardboard? It's such a mystery to me.

    I will try your cookies this weekend, thanks for the recommendation. :)

  9. Whole wheat pasta does taste like cardboard to me too, epecially the dried kind. I've had some success with whole wheat fresh pasta, the kind that you buy refrigerated and tends to be fancier, like tortelloni, ravioli, etc. The thing is, even if it says "whole wheat" on the label, it is usually mixed with an equal or bigger amount of refined wheat, and the filling makes up about 50% of the ingredients anyway, so the whole grain content ends up being minimal. I do not have the data but, intuitively, I would bet there's more whole grains in a slice of whole wheat/multigrain bread than in a plate of whole wheat tortellini.

    In Spain and in other Mediterranean countries, bread is an important part of our diet, and most people will eat a couple of slices with every meal. Artisan bakeries are very common, and good quality, freshly baked bread is not a luxury but an everyday necessity. If you go for whole wheat or multigrain, it is not difficult to include whole grains in your diet.

    My mom is currently experimenting with quinoa, bulgur, millet, amaranth and buckwheat. She still hasn't gone beyond steaming/boiling (the way you do with rice) and serving them as side dishes for vegetable stir-fries, or stirred into stews and soups. Still, it's very interesting how these grains all look similar (they all look like they are going to be very, very bland!) but they all have different textures and very interesting tastes.

  10. Have you tried the non-wheat pastas from Orgran? The buckwheat spirals are delicious. They also have some pastas which use amaranth and quinoa. Both my partner and I have to eat gluten-free and this brand is our favourite.

    We still love quinoa, mostly used to make pilaf style dishes. It's a lot tastier if you cook it in stock (of whatever flavour will match your dish) instead of water. We've also found it works well in things like chilis and stews and soups, not just as a side dish. And even cold in salads, especially salads like tabouli.

    I also make buckwheat pancakes using only buckwheat flour - a lot of recipes seem to use with white wheat flour 50/50, but they work perfectly well with all buckwheat, just add a little more baking powder than usual. And you can make nice porridge with buckwheat groats.

    Then there's amaranth. It also makes nice porridge! Can be used pretty much any way you use quinoa. And it's high in protein, iron, calcium and magnesium.

    I think quinoa and amaranth also work well as desserts, similar to rice pudding.