Food Trends: New Grains & Leafy Greens To Diversify Your Diet

Wednesday, January 17, 2007 - 8:53am

By Michèle Turcotte, MS, RD/LDN

Colorful vegetables and whole grains should make up the foundation of our diet. While spinach and brown rice are very healthful foods, they are not the only options. Try out the hottest trends in the grain family like amaranth and spelt or leafy greens like kale and bok choy. 

Kale is low-calorie and rich in nutrients

The leaves of the kale plant provide more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food. Kale is available year round but is sweeter when in season (from mid winter through the beginning of spring). Kale is rich in caroteniods and a good source of calcium, vitamins C, Vitamin K, and B6, manganese, dietary fiber and riboflavin. Try combining chopped kale, pine nuts and feta cheese with whole grain pasta drizzled with olive oil or chop kale leaves for a healthy homemade pizza topping. 

Bok choy - low-calorie and rich in calcium

Otherwise known as Chinese chard cabbage, bok choy is a low-calorie vegetable that resembles celery. Bok Choy is available almost year round but is best when purchased in the fall and winter. It is growing in popularity because of its mild taste and versatility It can be used in many recipes. You can eat it raw and cut up in salads. It’s also great steamed and stir fried. Baby bok choy is best when cooked whole and used as a side dish. To cook mature bok choy you should first separate the leaves from the stalks and wash and cut both into pieces. All of the vegetable is edible. Bok choy is a great source of calcium and vitamins A and C.

Amaranth - both a vegetable and a grain

Amaranth is technically both a vegetable and a grain. (The leaves of the plant are the vegetable and the seeds are the grain.) It is grown in several states and can be found in natural food stores. Amaranth can be cooked as a cereal, popped like popcorn, sprouted, or toasted. It is a good source of protein, calcium and iron. Amaranth seeds can be ground into flour for use in baked goods or pasta. Amaranth flour must be mixed with other flours when baking yeast breads (one part amaranth flour to 3-4 parts other grain flours) but for non-yeast baked goods (flatbreads and pancakes), you can use 100% amaranth flour. Add the flour to soups and stews as a thickening agent.

Spelt is a good wheat alternative

Spelt has a deep nutlike flavor and is a distant cousin to wheat. It can be used in many of the same ways as wheat but does not seem to cause sensitivities in most people who are wheat intolerant. In addition to spelt flour, spelt is available in its hulled, whole grain form (referred to as spelt berries), which can be prepared and eaten like rice. Spelt is an excellent source of vitamin B2 and manganese. Use spelt bread for your next hearty sandwich or combine spelt pasta with olives, tomatoes and feta cheese for a quick and easy Mediterranean salad. 

For further information on new whole grains on the market see the following article from TheDietChannel: 3 New Delicious Whole Grains.


“Why 5 A Day the Color Way.” Accessible online at:


Vartan S. “To Be Green, Eat Green: Discover the Benefits of Leafy Greens.” Available at: