5 Easy Ways to Incorporate Whole Grains at the Holiday Table

(Image credit: Megan Gordon)

Happy Thanksgiving week! As you read this, I’m likely on a plane headed home to California to spend the holiday with family — a good three days of downtime, sleeping in, and dishes that introduce my younger siblings to the whole grains I’ve been excited about lately.

But let’s be honest: the holidays can be a tough time to incorporate anything too terribly new. We all have our favorite dishes and traditions that need to make an appearance on the table. And the last thing I want to do is change that. But there are a few easy moves that can be done with little effort to include more whole grains at the holiday table.

Before diving in, let me just say that personally I aim to eat more whole grains each day because I find they leave me sated much longer and I have far more energy thanks to the good hit of protein and fiber.

I do realize that whole grains aren’t for everyone and that there are all kinds of dietary restrictions and allergies out there, so if whole grains aren’t your bag — no problem. But in our house, we aim to cram them in whenever possible, and holidays don’t have to be an exception. Here are five easy ways to bring more grains to the holiday table.

5 Ways to Eat More Whole Grains This Holiday

1. Start with Popcorn: When deciding on pre-dinner snacks, try popcorn! Yes, popcorn is technically a whole grain and (in moderation) can make a really delicious, healthy snack. Plus, it feels light and airy so it makes a nice starter to a heavy holiday meal.

2. Use Whole-Grain Bread (or Straight-Up Whole Grains) in the Stuffing: An easy way to incorporate more whole-grain nutrition into the holiday meal is to use a whole-grain bread when making stuffing. But we all know that people get downright territorial about their stuffing recipe, so I almost think it’s easier to fold in a tasty grain with an interesting texture and flavor that would complement the stuffing. This year at our house we’re trying millet: with its mild corn flavor and slightly chewy texture, I think it’s bound to be a new favorite.

3. Add Grains to the Salad: Because I was a vegetarian for numerous Thanksgiving meals, I came to appreciate the hearty salad or vegetable side dish immensely. Today, while I’m no longer a vegetarian, I love the personality and flavor that whole grains can lend to a more traditional green salad. Freekeh lends an earthy smokiness while sorghum lends a chewy, mellow bite.

4. Serve Whole-Grain Bread: A really easy way to incorporate more grains into the holiday meal is to simply swap out your white dinner rolls for bread or rolls made with whole-grain flour. If you’re making your bread homemade, try swapping 50% of the all-purpose flour called for in the recipe for whole-wheat or spelt flour.

5. Bake a Whole-Grain Pie Crust: I know what you may be thinking: Don’t mess with my pie. And I’d have to agree. But I will say that I’ve been making a rye pie crust these days that is truly wonderful: it’s just as flaky as a more traditional pie dough, but a touch darker and has a slightly earthy, sweet flavor from the rye flour. It’s a dream with darker fall flavors like pumpkin, apple and pecan. Consider that an invitation.

Do you have any favorite ways to serve or prepare whole grains at the holiday table?