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How to use Wholegrains
Source: Newtown Nutrition

We know that wholegrains are great for our health, but what actually are they, and how do you use them? Rolled oats and brown rice are the most famous wholegrains, but there are so many more to experiment with! Some of my clients worry that grains are bad for you, however, research has shown that including 2-3 serves of this food group every day can help manage weight, diabetes and cholesterol levels.

Don’t limit your wholegrain options to rice, quinoa, oats and wholegrain bread! Experiment with alternative wholegrains to add flavour and texture

Wholegrains are important to include in your diet each day because they:

  • Give you a boost of plant-protein, fibre and slow-burning carbohydrates to keep you full and energised throughout the day.
  • Are packed with micronutrients including B group vitamins, vitamin E and magnesium to help our body function
  • Are so easy to use once you know how, and are a great way to add variety               

Amaranth, buckwheat and freekeh are my some of my favourite of the lesser-known wholegrains. Keep on reading to find out why!


How to use Amaranth

Amaranth is a gluten-free pseudo-cereal, which means although it’s technically a seed, it has a similar nutrition profile to wholegrains. It comes from South America, and research has found that it was used thousands of years ago by the Aztecs.

Today, you can find it whole, or rolled into amaranth flakes in most bulk food shops and some supermarkets. When it’s cooked, it stays quite fine, and has a soft texture. It’s a great source of iron, zinc, calcium, and fibre, and is a great plant-based source of protein.

How to cook Amaranth:

I like to use the whole seeds. After rinsing, I cook it pretty similarly to rice, just pop a ½ cup of amaranth in a pot with 1 cup of water and boil for about 20 minutes. Once it’s cooked, it tastes smooth and creamy.

Amaranth is also great as a porridge, I’ll use soy milk instead of water to add more creaminess, some extra calcium and protein, and a bit of maple syrup and banana at the end. Make sure you stir the pot often so it doesn’t stick!

How to use Amaranth:

I like to use Amaranth

  • in salads or a Nourish bowl
  • served as a side dish to compliment veggie and lentil stews
  • cooked in some soy milk as a porridge
  • Amaranth flakes can be eaten like cereal and is delicious with some banana and strawberries added to it
  • In On-the-go Brekkie Bars for an easy, portable home-made breakfast option

Eating wholegrains is such an easy way to boost your fibre and micronutrients at lunchtime


Buckwheat is also pseudo-cereal! Buckwheat is native to East Asia but can now be bought in shops all over the world. It can be found in bulk food stores and supermarkets hulled (meaning it’s had the outer layer removed), as puffs and flakes, ground into buckwheat flour, or as soba noodles.

Source: Newtown Nutrition

Buckwheat has a nutty flavour, and the seed itself is bigger, which creates a nice texture. Buckwheat is a great source of iron and protein, and is high in fibre too. Buckwheat is naturally gluten free (despite the word ‘wheat’ in its name). If you’re coeliac and wanting to try soba noodles, make sure you read the ingredient list for any gluten-containing extras that might be added.

Learn more about Buckwheat and how to use it: Grain Gains: Boasting about buckwheat

How to cook Buckwheat

If you’re using whole buckwheat, soak it in some water for a few hours or overnight, then drain and rinse before using. I use 1 cup of water for ½ cup of buckwheat, bring it to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.

How to use Buckwheat

  •  I put cooked buckwheat in grain bowls, salads and soups.
  • Buckwheat flakes and puffs make a great addition to muesli or homemade bars.
  • Soba noodles are delicious in Asian-style salads and stir-fries.


Freekeh (pronounced freek-ah) is made from young wheat which has had it outer shell removed, often through smoking or roasting, leaving a green grain with a beautiful, smoky flavour.

Freekeh is actually the name of this shell-removal process, and although wheat is the most common grain it’s used on, more and more food innovators are starting to use it to make freekeh from other grains like barley and triticale.

Freekeh is a great low GI option and is packed with protein and fibre. It comes as whole and cracked varieties.

How to use Freekah
Source: Newtown Nutrition

How to cook Freekeh

Freekeh needs a little bit more water than our other grains; add 1 ½ cups of water to ½ a cup of freekeh in a pot. If you’re using whole freekeh, boil for about 45 minutes. If you’re using cracked freekeh, boil for about 25 minutes.

How to use Freekeh:

  • Freekeh is delicious in salads with roasted vegetables, especially pumpkin or sweet potato to balance out the smokey and nutty flavours.
  • Freekah can be used in any dish where you would use rice
  • Freekah adds a nice texture to vegetable and lentil soups and can help casseroles hold its’ shape.


Quinoa is a seed that sprouts when cooked (Editors note: the sprout pops out a cute curly tail which is  my favourite part of cooking quinoa!).

Quinoa originated in South America and has roots tracing back thousands of years to Peru, Chile and Bolivia. It has become popular in Australia over the past decade, and is now found in most supermarkets. Quinoa comes in 3 different colours: red, black and white, and can be bought dried, flaked, puffed, or in microwaveable sachets.

Once cooked, quinoa has a light and fluffy texture, is a great source of folate and iron, and has all 9 essential protein-building amino acids.

How to cook Quinoa

If you’re using whole, raw quinoa, soak it in some water over night, or for a few hours before use. Rinse. To cook, bring ½ a cup of quinoa to 1.5 cups of water to the boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes, or you can make it in a rice cooker on standard settings. If using in a salad or bowl, I like to add a little bit of vegetable stock for some extra flavour

How to use Quinoa

  • I use cooked quinoa in buddha or burrito bowls, soups, salads, or under curries to replace rice or cous cous
  • Microwave ready quinoa is an easy option to keep at your desk to add to your work lunch.
  • Quinoa flakes and puffs add a nice texture to porridge, overnight oats or coconut yoghurt in the morning.

There are so many different grains to try and so many different ways to use them. If you’re keen to learn about how you can maximise the micronutrients found in these grains and how these grains can enrich your plant-based eating, click the link below to book an appointment.

Dana Segal

Author Dana Segal

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