Do you want to see more whole grains in your favorite restaurants?
You can make a difference by participating in GrainUp!
Have you ever been at the beginning of something great? Something that feels full of potential? Something coming alive?
That was the sense in the room on Thursday during the first meeting of the GrainUp Consortium and subsequent kickoff dinner. The Grains for Health Foundation, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit, launched the GrainUp! initiative in an effort to increase the availability of healthier grain foods at restaurants and ultimately in our homes.
Chefs representing several local restaurants, manufacturers of grain products, suppliers of grain ingredients, researchers, students, and moms like me brainstormed ideas and possibilities for bringing this mission to life. It was the beginning of an important conversation. (Full disclosure: I used to work at Grains for Health, so I admit my partial bias. BUT was not involved in any capacity in the startup of this initiative.)
The beauty of this idea is that it hits the head on the nail, it’s where the rubber meets the road. As Americans we eat- a lot. There are two major sources of that food- our homes and restaurants. Admittedly there are several restaurant categories and economic factors involved, but the most important thing sometimes is to start. Start somewhere. Begin the change and keep pushing (and pulling) until we all get there.
Whole grains present an opportunity to start in so many unique venues- there are gluten-free whole grains, there are whole grain flours that are similar to the familiar refined (white) flour options, and there are trendy grains, like quinoa that make a “splash” on menus. Different whole grains appeal to different restaurant menus, but the availability of so many options promise any venue (or family!) the opportunity to start somewhere. For example, in our home we eat mostly whole grain bread products and rice, but usually eat refined grain pastas.
Len Marquart, President and Founder of Grains for Health, discussed the importance of realism when implementing healthier foods. He used a great acronym- PHAD: Practical, Healthy, Affordable, Desirable. Make healthy whole grains desirable. There doesn’t necessarily need to be a splashy sign designating it as more healthy, just make them taste good. So simplistic and yet so key.
If you’re in the Minneapolis, St. Paul area- check out the GrainUP! Twin Cities Whole Grain Dine Around, Sept. 19 – 29! There are more than a dozen restaurants involved in GrainUp! that will delight you with delicious whole grain items on the menu, like this fabulous dessert from the kick-off dinner at Spoonriver.
It was an honor to participate. Look for the eventual expansion of GrainUp! into other metropolitan areas in 2014.