"Anything you would serve over rice also works with quinoa." - Heather Johnson, Advertising agency project manager, Cincinnati

March 01, 2012
Photo: Randy Mayor

Heather Johnson is not at all shy about the fact that eating three servings of whole grains a day presented a massive challenge to her. Her previous attempts at eating them hadn't left her wanting more. "The only experience I ever had with whole grains was when an ex-boyfriend made me try kasha, the hot kind. It was awful," she says. "I thought that's what all whole grains were." With some coaching and enlightenment from Cooking Light's Healthy Habits coach Allison Fishman, Heather has now tasted victory—and a whole lot of whole grains. "I have discovered that there are some whole grains I really, really like." Here, how Heather learned to embrace a food she once reviled.


  • Substitute whole grains for pasta or white rice. "I buy pasta that's made from quinoa. That's a whole grain that I found I really love. It cooks like rice, but to me it tastes better. I boil it with chicken broth instead of water to give it a little extra flavor. And I keep a few boxes of quinoa and quinoa pasta around so if I'm making spaghetti, I'll use my whole-grain pasta, and if I'm making a stew or stir-fry, I'll put it over quinoa instead of rice."
  • Do some bread aisle research. "Allison suggested a couple of whole-grain breads—she recommended Rudi's, but I discovered Aunt Millie's (available in the Midwest). Their Indian Grain is my favorite. One slice has 22 grams of whole grains. I love toast in the morning, and if all else fails, I'll have a sandwich at lunch, so finding an awesome whole-grain bread was my savior."
  • Keep corn in the freezer. "It's funny—you hear people say that corn doesn't have a lot of nutritional value, but it is a whole grain, and I absolutely love corn. My husband is a meat guy, so if I'm making a meat main course, I'll just serve up some corn on the side. That's a pretty agreeable vegetable for him."
  • Seek recipe support. "Quinoa and corn are great ways to start a dish, so I scour for recipes that use them. I tried a Cooking Light recipe that was basically goulash—a sausage and bean ragù over quinoa macaroni—and I absolutely loved it. I also love salmon, so I found another great recipe that was a quinoa pilaf with salmon and asparagus."
  • Swap smart. "I was making a Cooking Light meatball recipe that called for breadcrumbs, but I tried bulgur instead. It made the meatballs a little looser, but it tasted pretty good. If you're breading something, bulgur can add that bit of crunch but with more nutrition."
  • Make snacks count. "Popcorn is another savior. Plus, I've found a few other snacks with whole grains that I like: Kashi's granola bars that are really crunchy, and I am partial to any flavor with chocolate. SunChips are a whole grain, too—I was in heaven when I found that out! I have the Harvest Cheddar kind in the cupboard, and when I'm really hungry, I think, 'I'm going eat my SunChips and get my whole grain in!'"