Corn – The Forgotten Whole Grain

Slama lama ding-dong, let’s kick off this Wednesday with a discussion on the long forgotten whole grain, corn. It is a vegetable people often write off their diets (much like peas) when it comes to eating ‘low carb’. Sure, the summer months bring this vibrant grain back around, but why do we forget about it the other 9 months of the year? It deserves more attention than that! You see, carbohydrates are an essential part of the human diet. They provide our bodies with the energy necessary for day-to-day living and it’s a macronutrient found in many different types of foods. Whole grains live in one featured corner of the carbohydrates world. Wheat, wild rice, oats, quinoa, millet and barley are just a few of the heavy hitters. These days, it seems as though everyone is either swearing off grains all together or trying to find the next ‘it’ grain. We’re here today to talk about one sadly forgotten whole grain, corn.

For a refresher on whole grains (what are they and why are they important?), please see The Healthy Revival’s Holy Whole Grains post.


When we think of ‘bad’, natural foods many will reference potatoes, peas and corn. Corn. Psh! It’s just a carbohydrate trying to pass itself off as a vegetable! In some ways, sure. But corn is not the enemy nor should it be forgotten. Taco shells are one prime example of this corn misconception. While out to lunch with a friend a few short weeks ago, I recall my eating partner changed her entrée of choice due to the fact her fish tacos were to be served in corn tortillas. When I inquired what made her change her mind, she simply replied ‘corn tortillas’. Now I wasn’t about to get into the fact that she probably could have asked our server for an alternative option because it took her a solid 20 minutes to decide between Fresca and lemonade. I’ve learned to pick my (nutrition) battles. But really? Are we all under the impression white flour tortillas are healthier than their corn counterparts? I got news my friend, they ain’t.

Corn Tortillas

To focus on tortillas for a minute, corn tortillas have fewer calories than flour tortillas. They are also a whole grain, unless you’re buying whole wheat tortillas – then it’s all the same. Corn tortillas are typically smaller than flour, so you’re also exercising portion control in the process. Don’t let the fact that something is made from wheat fool you like it did my dear lunching friend.  The key when looking for corn tortillas (or anything corn derived) is to make sure the words ‘degerminated’ are not used in the ingredients list. Opt for products with ingredients listing ‘whole corn’.

You see corn is a great source for fiber (both soluble and insoluble), folate, vitamin C, potassium and protein.  Corn is a grain that has a lot to offer your diet and as long as you don’t confuse it with eating a vegetable, I think we’ll all be okay. It’s a grain developed nearly 7,000 years ago in Mexico, spread to the United States and Peru (thanks to Columbus) and is now grown on every continent expect Antarctica.  Corn also happens to be an agricultural titan of the United States’ food industry – which I think may be another turn off for some. Corn syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup. Guess what. I’m not some corn junkie asking you to go to your nearest food store and purchase their last 20 bottles of Karo syrup. It should be clear by now I am pushing for whole corn.

Beyond tortillas, as mentioned above, other sources of whole grain corn include popcorn, polenta, corn muffins, corn on the cob, and corn cakes. Not to mention, eating corn with beans creates a complementary mix of amino acids (protein) which increases the protein value for our bodies. Just be sure that when you’re combining the two, you have plenty of non-starchy vegetables on the side.

Corn can be used a multitude of ways; fold it into salsa, steam corn kernels as a side dish, mash with cumin and tomatoes, throw into salads or added to soups. Bringing this dietary staple back into your diet is simple! Fresh, frozen or canned, it’s available 365 days a year! A food often featured in the summer months has plenty to offer your diet September through May.

Come back next week for a featured whole corn recipe!


Easy Weeknight Dinner: Part Five

Where was I? Oh yeah, loosing my independence and learning how to be at the bottom of the totem poll. The dietetic internship has started and I am quickly learning the cold, hard realities of what it means to be an intern. I am going to try to get back into posting more seriously, but I have to be honest – when I get home at night, the last thing I want to do is think about nutrition. So to ease myself back into it, I thought I would do yet another Easy Weeknight Dinner. You’re welcome.

This little number is one I turn to frequently on nights when I am pressed for time.  It’s the perfect dish to over-make and pack the leftovers for lunch the following day.  I, like so many of you, love carbohydrates.  The love affair dates back to God knows when, but I could honestly survive on Italian bread, pretzels, pita and granola. Dinner is possibly my biggest meal of the day (although some days breakfast takes that title). Two maybe three servings of vegetables are not an uncommon thing to see piled on my plate at night.  In order to make eating them more fun, folding in pasta or brown rice is my go to move.  It just makes it more…what’s the word….bearable.

Picture by Kimberly Sabada

Picture by Kimberly Sabada

Whole Wheat Farfalle with Sautéed Kale and Kalamata Olives

Serves 1

  • 2 ounces of dry farfalle
  • 1/2 bunch of kale, trimmed, washed and torn into bite size pieces
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 heaping tsp kalamata olive tapenade (premade)

Cook pasta according to directions.  Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet heat oil over med-high heat.  When oil has heated, add prepared kale and sauté until tender.  Add cooked pasta and kalamata olive tapenade to skillet.  Toss to heat through. Enjoy! Add some parmesan cheese if you so desire. YUM. 

Homemade Granola

Last weekend was in-sane. Similar to most twenty-three year olds I know, my weekends are a spectacle. And by spectacle I mean my book club is getting out of control. You put too much paprika in the deviled eggs and the claws really come out. Not to mention the fact that on Saturday twelve, eighty-something year-olds received their disappointment of 2011 when I ruined the ending of this month’s book. In my defense, I think we all knew how A Farewell to Arms was going to turn out. The unrest that followed grew intense, then disorganized, then confusing and ultimately ended with my dismissal. It was both aggressive and unanimous. When Hester left to go to the bathroom for the fifth time that hour, my one ally, much like her bladder control, was gone. The room managed to become so cold and damp that during the vote stalactites began to descend from the ceiling.

I should have seen this coming. The lipstick stained dentures club, better known as Delores, Cecelia, and Ruth, have never been my biggest fans. After the Stephen Hawking/Stephen King debacle of January 2008, my forced departure was merely impending. All the old bags wanted to discuss was the Big Bang and I didn’t read The Shining for nothing! Book jockey vigilantes. Looking back, it was a recipe for disaster. Then again, I’ve always been one of questionable judgment and taste. I like to think the Naked Gun films are O.J.’s greatest legacy and Ringo is my favorite Beatle. While keeping this in mind, I promise olive oil granola isn’t as crazy or as gross as it sounds.

This granola is my favorite (to date). It’s simple, but delicious. The thing about most homemade granola is it often comes coated in butter and sugar. Instead, I’ve made one that is both heart healthy and tasty to boot. So I present to you Kimberly’s Olive Oil Granola. Bowl, spoon and milk – enjoy this stuff the traditional way as the perfect breakfast or evening nosh. Use it to top your yogurt or ricotta cheese and add some fresh berries for a great afternoon snack. Stir into ice cream for a little extra crunch. Add pretzel pieces and dark chocolate chips for the best trail mix EVER. The possibilities are endless. You are so very welcome.

Kimberly’s Olive Oil Granola

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1 frothy egg white

Add Ins:
1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries and/or apricot pieces

In a large bowl combine oats, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, shredded coconut and cinnamon.  In a smaller bowl mix oil, maple syrup, honey, and salt together. Add wet mixture to larger oats bowl. Stir to combine. Fold in frothy egg white. Spread onto cookie sheet with a lip that has been lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 300F for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Allow to cool. Add raisins and store in airtight container(s).