You are eating your vegetables, consuming a healthy amount of fruit and choosing lean proteins. What is missing? Wholegrain foods, which are key to a healthy, balanced diet.
What are they? In short, they are unpolished grains that have their bran, endosperm and germ intact and thus a higher nutrient content in the form of vitamins B and E, trace minerals and phytochemicals. Wholegrains are wholesome food with many proven health benefits –from controlling blood sugar levels to lowering bad cholesterol and preventing type 2 diabetes. What is often overlooked is the diversity of taste and texture they bring to any meal.
Many are already familiar with brown rice and wholewheat bread. What you might be less familiar with is, there is a whole array of flavourful wholegrain foods beyond these. And you might already be consuming some of these frequently.
Here are some foods you may not have guessed are wholegrains:
Buckwheat (Brown) Soba: A readily available option at Japanese eateries, brown soba is made with buckwheat floor, while others like green tea soba are largely made with white flour. Pair hot or cold buckwheat soba with a side dish of a healthy protein like grilled salmon to make your meal even healthier. Bonus: buckwheat soba is also fat and cholesterol-free.
Chapati: Made with wholemeal flour, chapati is an effortless way to enjoy a healthier Indian meal. It also has an added bonus of being a low glycaemic index (GI) food, which helps control one’s blood sugar level.
Local Desserts: Bubur terigu is a favourite at Malay weddings and is readily available at hawker centre dessert stalls. What many do not know is that it is a wholegrain dessert! This also goes for another local favourite -- pulut hitam, or black glutinous rice pudding. When preparing these healthy wholegrains at home, cut down on the sugar and coconut cream. When eating out, ask for less coconut milk to slash unnecessary calories.
Oats: This breakfast favourite boasts a high soluble fibre content and is rich in antioxidants; best is, it is also extremely easy to eat on-the-go.
Oriental Noodles: Healthier alternatives for your favourite local noodles -- wholegrain yellow noodles, vermicelli and kway teow -- can be found at major supermarkets and at numerous hawker stalls under Health Promotion Board's, or HPB's, Healthier Dining Programme. Spot them by looking out for the Healthier Choice Symbol.
Pancakes: Pancakes are normally made with plain flour, but wholegrain or buckwheat flour can be easily used as substitutes to make these breakfast treats more wholesome.
Popcorn: Good news, your favourite movie snack is a wholegrain. While this does not mean you should consume it by the bucket -- keep in mind the sugar or butter content -- eating it air-popped or flavoured with herbs and spices makes it a low-calorie, high fibre snack.
Quinoa: This increasingly popular and healthy food needs no introduction, but it is lesser known as a wholegrain. Very versatile, quinoa can be added to your favourite salads if vegetables do not fill you up; or use as a rice substitute. The best thing about this incredible plant is, it is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce by itself!
With such a variety, there is no reason not to increase your intake of wholegrains and sustainably observe a more balanced diet.
The next time you are dining out, enjoy wholegrain options at outlets under HPB's Healthier Dining Programme. Easily identify them by spotting the Healthier Choice decals on wholegrains. Below are some partners that offer wholegrain upgrades free-of-charge:
Dian Xiao Er - You know them for their delicious herbal duck. The next time you dine there, ask them to switch your white rice to brown rice, for free.
Pasta Fresca Da Salvatore - Pasta is always a winner with the little ones; now get them started on eating wholegrains. Here, homemade wholemeal pasta can be provided at no additional cost.
QQ Rice - Rather than select the white rice base, choose from a default variety of wholegrain rice -- from purple rice and wheat germ, to brown rice -- at no additional cost.
Shunfu Mart Food Centre - At Shunfu Vegetarian Food (#02-02), you can switch your white rice to brown rice for free. Or ask for a mix of both to kick-start a healthier diet.
Simply Wrapps - Wraps are a great meal option. They are nutritious, easy to eat, whether seated or on-the-go, and you can save a portion of it for a later snack. At Simply Wrapps, ask for the wholemeal wrap option at no extra cost.
Swensen’s - The next time you’re there opt for a healthier carbohydrate in the form of multigrain bread rather than sides of fries or mashed potatoes.
Haig Rood Cooked Food Centre - Enjoy your chicken rice more knowing you now have a healthier option in Xiang Ji Chicken Rice (#01-34) stall, which serves, by default, wholegrain chicken rice.
There has never been a better time to earn Healthpoints and rewards when you choose healthier options such as wholegrains in the Eat, Drink, Shop Healthy Challenge, with over 1,000 participating F&B outlets, supermarkets and convenience stores islandwide. Read more on healthier eating.