Bowl of couscous, peppers and onions

Go For a New Grain

Make way for quinoa, wheat berries, orzo, and couscous—because there’s more to grains than cereal and rice.

Chances are you’re already eating a lot of grains. From cereal and corn to a sandwich on whole wheat, grains have become a staple in today’s kitchen. But when was the last time you tried a new grain—something maybe a little out of the ordinary, like quinoa or orzo?

“Eating more grains—and more variety—is a great way to boost your energy level and help improve your health,” says Mark McDonough, a Panera Bread® culinary team member. “I love the book Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck. It’s a great source of inspiration for my home cooking.”

According to the Whole Grains Council, eating more whole grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases including heart attacks, strokes, type 2 diabetes, and even certain kinds of cancer.

Plus, grains add more flavor to your meals. “Breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” says Mark, who is a big fan of quinoa. “We add grains to everything at home—from salads to burgers and our morning cereal.”

If you’re game to try a new (to you!) grain, here are some ideas to get you started.

Instead of using egg noodles in your chicken soup, try adding a handful of orzo—a rice-shaped pasta. Or, try our flavor-rich Low-Fat Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup the next time you drop into your local bakery-cafe.

Instead of topping your green salad with croutons, add a generous serving of wheat berries—entire wheat kernels except for the hulls.

Instead of the same old morning cereal, try quinoa - a seed that has a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture and a somewhat nutty flavor when cooked. Here is Mark’s recipe for Morning Red Quinoa: In a small bowl, mix 1 ½ tablespoons all-natural peanut butter with ½ cup near-boiling hot water. Stir until smooth. Fold in 1 cup cooked red quinoa (follow instructions on the package). Top with a tablespoon of ground black chia seeds and about 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of agave nectar to taste.

Instead of serving potatoes on the side, mix up a batch of couscous—small spherical pasta. Add finely diced red and yellow peppers, onion, fresh herbs, and a little chicken broth to the cooking liquid for richer flavor.

Instead of plain pasta, try a variety of whole wheat pastas, or a combination made from whole wheat and other grains—such as farro or spelt. Most grocery stores have a wide variety to choose from, including a growing selection of artisan brands. Top with your favorite sauce.

Instead of making your sandwich on whole wheat bread, try sprouted-grain bread. “It’s off-the-charts good for you,” says Mark. “And it tastes amazing.”