What to Eat Instead of Grains

Cutting down on grains is a good way to improve your nutrition. But what should you eat instead? 

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #302

What to Eat Instead of GrainsAnn writes: "I loved your 300th episode about what has changed in your diet over the past six years. You mentioned that you have reduced your consumption of grain-based foods. What I'd love to hear more about is what foods you have increased. You mentioned eating more vegetables, but those don't make up for the calories from grains.".

Thanks for your great question, Ann!  As I explained in a recent episode, I haven't cut grains out of my diet entirely. But I have cut back on them because I find that they are easy to overeat and they tend to crowd other, more nutritious foods (like vegetables) off of my plate. But Ann's right: Vegetables tend to be much lower in calories than grain-based foods.

For some of us, that's a good thing! Eating more vegetables and cutting back on grains can help us fill up on fewer calories.

See also: 3 Tips on How to Eat Less Without Feeling Hungry

What to Eat Instead of GrainsBut it would be hard to stay full eating nothing but vegetables. Let's also remember that not everyone needs to cut calories.  So, if you are eating less bread, pasta, crackers, baked goods, and other grain-based foods, what foods (besides vegetables) should you eat more of to compensate for those calories?

See also: Healthy Weight Gain

What Foods Can Replace Grains in Your Diet?

In my own diet, as I've cut back on grains, I've allowed myself a little more liberty with foods that are high in fats. I'll snack on nuts rather than pretzels. I buy full-fat yogurt and milk—but usually skip the cereal aisle. All those vegetables I'm eating are often roasted or sauteed in a generous amount of olive oil. And I wouldn't dream of dressing a salad with fat-free vinaigrette! These are liberties that I simply couldn't afford to take if I were also eating six to 11 servings of grains, as the USDA recommends. 

SquashYesterday, for example, I had a fried egg with cheddar cheese folded into a whole wheat tortilla and topped with lots of salsa for breakfast. I had a light lunch of carrots and cucumber with hummus, a big handful of roasted almonds, and some Fig Newtons.  Dinner was some arugula ravioli from Trader Joes, a big pile of butternut squash cubes roasted in olive oil and tossed with Morrocan spices, and some kale sauteed with a bit of bacon for flavor. 

I did have three servings of grains yesterday (the tortilla, the cookies, and the pasta), but that's a lot less than the USDA guidelines. In fact, only about a third of my calories came from carbs, and a little more than half of my calories came from fat. 

Is this a problem? I don't think so. 


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.