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Complete guide to whole grains and building nutritious grain bowls

February 8, 2020

Whole grains are a delicious may to get key nutrients and fibre in your diet. However, many individuals are not eating the right types of whole grains, aren’t aware of other grains out there or fall for health washing labels that say “whole grain” bread.

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Complete guide to whole grains and building nutritious grain bowls


Whole grains are a delicious may to get key nutrients and fibre in your diet. However, many individuals are not eating the right types of whole grains, aren’t aware of other grains out there or fall for health washing labels that say “whole grain” bread.

So what exactly is a whole grain?

Whole grains still contain the germ and the bran whereas a refined grain only contains the endosperm which is the starchy section. The germ contains a lot of essential nutrients and the bran contains fibre and other nutrients as well. When a grain is refined you are left without the fibre and key nutrients. Some examples include whole wheat flour to white flour and brown rice to white rice. 

 A Note on Health Washing

We have all seen those breads in the bread aisle that have a nice picture of a farm or someone jumping in the air with a smile and the package says “12 grain”, “whole grain”, “superfood/whole grain blend”, etc. If you actually look at the nutrition labels of most of these breads, you will actually notice the sugar content is higher in the perceived “healthier” breads than your regular white processed loaf of bread.

And if you are celiac or gluten intolerant, don’t be fooled by the gluten-free bread options in the health food section. Many contain added ingredients in order to make them hold together and taste better.

So why should you stick to whole grains?

Well for starters, they are higher in fibre. This fibre content is what will help keep blood sugar levels more stable. The fibre also helps promote healthy bowel movements. It can support heart health, may prevent cancer growth and is high in antioxidants. Some of the key nutrients in the germ are Manganese, Thiamine, and Selenium. Wheat bran on the other hand contains high amounts of Magnesium, Vitamin B6, Iron and more.

Get the Most Out of Your Grains

Although grains can be a great part of your diet, its important that you soak them ahead of time in order to make them more digestible. Many humans have a hard time digesting grains, and this process removes the phytic acid.

Grains to Include in Your Diet:

-Brown Rice- gluten-free grain that contains high levels of manganese and selenium

-Quinoa – a gluten-free grain and complete protein that contains high levels of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and more

-Amaranth – gluten-free grain that contains high levels of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and other important nutrients

-Buckwheat – gluten-free grain that contains high levels of manganese, magnesium, and protein.

-Oats – can be gluten-free (but be careful) and contain high levels of manganese, phosphorus, selenium and more

-Teff – a gluten-free grain that contains high levels of manganese, magnesium, thiamine, phosphorus, iron, copper and protein

-Plus others like spelt, millet, and wild rice

Build Your Own Grain Bowl

Pick a grain, some protein, some veggies, maybe some nuts and seeds, superfoods if thats your jam, and a sauce of your choice. Don’t feel like cooking everything? Then try some raw veggies. Trying to use up what’s in the fridge? Perfect – no one likes seeing their hard earned money going to waste! 

Here is how it works:

-Choose 1 grain, 1 protein, 1 sauce, 3+ veggies (just make sure you portion yourself), and then top with some other fun ingredients. 

-One you choose your desired ingredients and have cooked/prepared them to your desire then throw them in a bowl and you’re good to go. 

Suggested ingredients:

Grains: 

  • -Brown rice
  • -Black rice 
  • -Wild rice
  • -Quinoa 
  • -Millet

Fruits and Vegetables: 

  • -Squash
  • -Brussel sprouts 
  • -Sweet potato 
  • -Mushroom
  • -Carrot
  • -Celery 
  • -Onion
  • -Corn 
  • -Zucchini
  • -Beets
  • -Cabbage
  • -Avocado 
  • -Cucumber 
  • -Broccoli
  • -Cauliflower 
  • -Green beans
  • -Peas
  • -Asparagus 
  • -Cabbage 
  • -Raddish
  • -Olives
  • -Bell pepper 
  • -Hot pepper
  • -Spinach
  • -Kale
  • -Tomato

Sauces:

  • -Pesto 
  • -Cashew cream cheese
  • -Balsamic
  • -Salsa
  • -Peanut
  • -Hot sauce 
  • -Tahini 
  • -Tomato 
  • -Coconut Milk

Proteins: 

  • -Salmon
  • -Chicken
  • -Tofu or tempeh 
  • -Beans and legumes 
  • -Fried or hard boiled egg

Other: 

  • -Spices and herbs of choice 
  • -Sprouts 
  • -Nuts
  • -Seeds
  • -Fermented foods (i.e. sauerkraut)
  • -Other “superfoods” (i.e. hempseeds)
  • -Seaweeds (i.e. arame)

Some combinations I like: 

Combinations I Like!

Taco Bowl – Serves 1

  • -3/4 cup cooked brown rice
  • -1/4 cup cooked corn 
  • -1/4 cup diced tomato
  • -1/4 cup onion 
  • -1/4 cup pepper (mild or hot)
  • -1/2 cup of cooked black beans
  • -Top with cilantro
  • -Sauce: Guacamole (mash up 1/2 avocado with some lime juice, chilli flakes, and tomatoes [optional])

Arame Bowl – Serves 1

  • -3/4 cup cooked brown rice
  • -1/4 cup arame (soaked in water first)
  • -1/2 cup of steamed chopped celery 
  • -1/2 cup of steamed shredded carrot 
  • -1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
  • -Sprinkle with sesame seeds
  • -Sauce: Cashew cream cheese (that contains tamari) 

Warm and Wholesome Bowl – Serves 1

  • -3/4 cup cooked black rice
  • -1/2 cup cooked sweet potato 
  • -1/4 cup cooked mushroom
  • -1/4 cup cooked brussel sprouts 
  • -1 fried egg
  • -top with almond slivers or pumpkin seeds
  • -Sauce: Balsamic vinaigrette (combine balsamic, EVOO, honey dijon mustard, sea salt and pepper)

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Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Owner of Simply Nic and 1:1 Digital health coach with a passion for all things intuitive nutrition and wellness!

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