On November 14th, Neil and I attended the "Whole Grains Go Mainstream" Conference at the Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel in New Orleans, sponsored
by The Whole Grains Council and Oldways Preservation Trust. On first glance to many, representatives from
a publication called "Low Carb Luxury" seemed out of place at a grains conference... I mean, we're
against grains, right?
The truth, of course, is that we are not anti-grain at all. As seasoned low carbers know, most of
us seek out products that contain whole grain, as opposed to processed grain products that are
striped of most everything but their base-starch. In fact, the more the lower-carb eating movement has grown,
the more attention has been paid to foods that are fiber and nutrient rich, and that offer up a lower glycemic
response. Enter whole grains...
The conference was a three day affair, with speakers from large and small companies and organizations with an
interest in whole grains. From ConAgra to Frito-Lay, there was a strong corporate presence afoot.
A new whole grains seal was unveiled at this conference. Their hope is that the seals illustrated above will make it
easier for shoppers to spot whole grain foods and will help close the Whole Grain Gap.
Of particular interest was the keynote speech from USDA Executive Director, Eric Hentges. Eric spoke of the upcoming
changes to the USDA's Food Guide Pyramid and what changes we might expect to see. The scientific advisory committee
has recommended tripling the consumption of whole grains. Our opinion is that if this recommendation is adopted, it
could be a very good thing, providing consumers understand that these portions should replace the same portions
of processed grains and empty starches (white breads, white rice, etc.), rather than simply adding them in.
Each day of the conference brought cooking demonstrations by noted chefs as well, showing that whole grains — from
Amaranth and Buckwheat to Grano and Quinoa — are not at all as mysterious as they sound, and offer up both hearty flavor,
as well as nutrition.
So, we learned a lot, and networked a lot, and I hope we changed some minds about what "low carb" means, and more importantly,
doesn't mean. Does this mean we were universally accepted? Well, no... In fact, some speakers made no secret of
their disdain for "that dangerous fad" that's done so much damage to their industry. While others spoke favorably about
low carb and illustrated how the trend has caused a new spotlight to be placed on natural whole foods, and whole grains.
As we spoke with the organizers at the close of the conference, we began to realize we had more similarities than differences.
They'd paid close attention to the media frenzy that drove the low carb movement this year. They watched as it went from a
select specialized group to TV-Star status. And as that involvement grew, they felt the impact on their own industry
as well. It's their hope to avoid falling prey to the same pitfalls that befell low carb — the over commercialization and
the ill-fated fall of so many who got in "for the quick buck" at the expense of honesty and good nutrition.
In the end, we are all against added sugars, over processing, and foods striped of fiber. We're all concerned about the
future of government labeling and the fate of the Food Pyramid. We're all fearful of large corporations going for the
maximum profit margin with nutrition and proper ingredients taking a back seat. We're all keeping a watchful eye on
school lunch programs, something we'd each like to become more involved with. We thank the organizers with Oldways Preservation
Trust for allowing us to attend, and for their hospitality.
Neil's Photo of The Month:
Click the image below to download a 1024 x 768 image to use as wallpaper!
Copyright © December 2004 Low Carb Luxury. Photography
Copyright © 2004 Neil Beaty.