When it comes to increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, the next question that comes to mind is how am I going to prepare them? It is easy to find complicated recipes online, which often require a lot of cooking time. Unfortunately, many enzymes, phytonutrients, vitamins and antioxidants are reduced or even eliminated completely when food is exposed to certain cooking processes. An easy way to help you reach your goal of 5 fruits and vegetables a day (including raw veggies), is by making grain bowls, also called meal bowls or Buddha Bowls.
Grain bowls are healthy, trendy and beautiful. This creative dish is packed with tons of phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber. The goal is to have an all-in-one plate including whole grains, a variety of veggies, a lean protein, dressing, and sometimes (depending of the combination) fruit. The bowls are very popular for lunch time, but the breakfast versions are also delicious andmay include a combination of milk, chia, fruits, oatmeal, nuts, and spices.
It is a good idea to balance your bowl with different foods groups and flavors. Try to make your bowl look like a rainbow - the more colorful the better! Colors are an indicator of the type of phytonutrient and health properties a vegetable can offer to you. For more information please click here.
Grain bowls are easy to eat and transport and can be adjusted to all budgets, seasons and health conditions. If you are planning to enjoy this ingenious meal frequently, I recommend investing in a food processer or a mandolin to save time chopping and slicing the vegetables.
Follow these 4 simple steps to build your grain bowls:
1) Choose a whole grain
2) Choose a lean protein
3) Choose your veggies
Multicolor bell peppers
Note: Be creative with textures. You can combine raw, grilled, marinated and roasted veggies. This will make your bowls more fun and tasty.
4) Add your favorite dressing
Be careful of how much dressing you use – most of the calories in salads come from the dressing. You don’t need to choose a fat-free option, and in fact, fats can increase the bioavailability of some vitamins and phytonutrients such as betacarotenes. However, you should limit creamy salad dressings and choose ones made with olive oil, and always avoid dressings that list hydrogenated oils in their ingredients. Finally, keep an eye on the sodium and sugar content and choose dressings with natural ingredients. An easy rule is to avoid products whose ingredients you cannot pronounce.
Portioning Your Dressing
Small servings of dressing are best – you may even want to use a measuring spoon. You can portion the dressing in advance and put it in sealed containers in your fridge, so it’s ready to go with you anywhere.
Recipe of the Week: Chicken Gyro Bowls
1/4 cup of water
1/4 cup of cider vinegar
2 teaspoons of sugar
1/2 cup of very thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup of 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons of tahini
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons of water
2 cups of cooked quinoa
2 teaspoons of olive oil, divided
1 cup of baby kale, chopped
3/4 cup of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
2 (4-ounce) of skinless, boneless chicken breast cutlets
1/2 (6-inch) of whole-wheat pita, cut into 6 wedges, then separated
1 cup of grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup of thinly sliced cucumber
1/2 cup of canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
12 kalamata olives, thinly sliced
1.5 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled
Step 1: To prepare pickles, combine 1/4 cup of water, vinegar, and sugar in a medium microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 2 minutes or until boiling. Stir in onion. Remove from heat; let stand 20 minutes at room temperature. Drain.
Step 2: To prepare sauce, combine yogurt, tahini, juice, and 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Step 3: To prepare bowls, combine quinoa and 1 teaspoon oil in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Add kale and 1/2 cup parsley. Toss to combine.
Step 4: Combine onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle chicken evenly with spice mixture; gently pat onto chicken (chicken will be heavily coated). Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes or until golden brown. Turn and cook 2 minutes or until done. Let stand 5 minutes. Thinly slice chicken.
Step 5: Preheat broiler to high.
Step 6: Arrange pita triangles in a single layer on a baking sheet; coat pita evenly with cooking spray. Broil 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until crisp.
Step 7: Place about 3/4 cup quinoa mixture in each of 4 bowls. Top each serving with 1/4 cup of tomatoes, 1/4 cup of cucumber, 2 tablespoons of chickpeas, one-fourth of olives, one-fourth of cheese, one-fourth of pickled onion, and one-fourth of sliced chicken. Drizzle evenly with yogurt mixture. Top evenly with pita wedges. Sprinkle bowls evenly with remaining 1/4 cup parsley.
*Recipe provided by MyRecipes.com
Enjoy your weekend!
Karen Alexander, BSND, MSCN