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Switching to whole grains a good choice for winter

When the weather turns cold, people naturally are drawn to comfort foods such as  casseroles, soups, stews and noodle dishes, among others. They often are familiar foods that people may have grown up with or been introduced to at pivotal times in our lives. During the winter months, they can feel as much a part of the season as spiced apple cider and hot chocolate.

“At the same time, many comfort foods aren’t the healthiest of choices,” said. Dr. Graham Colditz, associate director of prevention and control at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis “They can be high in unhealthy fats, calories and refined grains, and have few nutritious vegetables. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have them, but it may be healthiest to keep some dishes on the occasional list, rather than the regular menu.”

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One easy way to give them a healthy boost while also keeping their familiar flavors is to use whole-grain noodles in place of standard refined-grain noodles. This can work well in stroganoffs, many casseroles, macaroni and cheese, lasagna, noodle soups, stir-fries with noodles and pasta dishes.

“While Americans are eating slightly more whole grains than before, most of us still fall short of recommendations that at least half of the grains we eat each day be whole grains,” he said. “Switching out the types of noodles we use can be a simple way to work toward that goal.

There can be real benefits to doing so.

“Whole grains are filled with fiber and many other important nutrients that get removed to make refined grains, such as white flour and white rice,” Colditz said. “Studies show that eating more whole grains can lower the risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and cancer — and may even help us live longer.”

He has several other tips to stay healthy while hibernating in the winter months.

“Winter can be very busy, between work, school, family and the holidays,” Colditz said. “However, it’s important that we continue to look after our own health and well-being even as our schedules fill up. This can mean getting enough sleep, taking time to relax, getting out for regular walks or other exercise and trying to keep up with healthy eating. Adding whole grains to some of our recipes can be one quick and easy way to work toward that.”

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice



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