Quinoa and Brown Rice Alternatives

Buckwheat Groats

To maintain a mainstream "healthy diet," we're told it's important to include several servings of whole grains per day. That can be a bit tricky when diet restrictions mean that even whole wheat pasta and breads are not an option. So when I was eating gluten-free last year, I started eating more oatmeal and quinoa. I'd also given up sugar and dairy, so we started eating products sweetened with brown rice syrup and drinking rice milk. Those habits just stuck even after I started eating those forbidden foods again.

But just when I thought I was doing my body good, I read an article like this one ("Quinoa's Dark Secret") that tells me our need for quinoa is so intense that it's causing prices to skyrocket so much so that the very farmers who grow it can't even afford to eat it. Say what?

Then I overheard someone mention that brown rice is contaminated with arsenic. Hmm, come again? At first I thought, hey, we're all right because we rarely ever eat rice. But then I was all, duh, look at that big box of organic rice milk cartons you bought at Costco. Made with brown rice!

Now what?

If I don't want to cut quinoa out of my diet, I need to make sure it is Fair Trade certified. In fact, it's not necessarily in quinoa farmers' best interest if everyone stops buying this crop, but you can make a small impact by seeking out Fair Trade quinoa and asking your grocer to carry it.

As for alternatives, here are a couple I've rounded up. We've already begun to phase out rice milk and drink more coconut and almond milks. As for grains and grain-like seeds, try buckwheat groats for a gluten-free choice and farro for a non gluten-free option.

Like quinoa, buckwheat groats are actually seeds. They plump up into chewy little morsels when cooked. Recipe ideas:
Vegetarian Chili (super easy weeknight meal!)

As for farro, it is an "ancient grain" wheat product that reminds me of rice in texture and flavor. 
Recipe ideas:
Toasted with an Egg

UPDATE: I just read about another grain that's gluten-free. I want to try it soon! Amaranth!

What's your take on the current events surrounding quinoa and brown rice?


  1. since i'm on that whole 30 diet, i've been using cauliflower rice! its lovely!

    1. awesome! and by the way, I totally just edited this post after reading about your diet. I've been reading that it's really not all that healthy to eat a lot of grains.


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