The Only Formula You Need to Make Mouthwatering Healthy Grain Bowls

A 5-step guide to making your own healthy lunch and dinner grain bowls.

The Only Formula You Need to Make Mouthwatering Healthy Buddha Bowls

Pictured recipe: Green Goddess Grain Bowl

Grain bowls are one of the year's most popular meals-and for good reason! They're healthy, affordable and easy to make. But what exactly is a grain bowl anyway? Each bowl is made up of 5 key components:

  • Whole grains
  • Veggies
  • Protein
  • Dressing
  • "Sprinkles," such as nuts, seeds, herbs or sprouts

Loaded with veggies, grains and lean proteins, grain bowls are highly versatile and easy to tailor to all tastes and dietary restrictions. They also can be made ahead and are easily packable-the perfect candidate for meal prep and work lunches.

A well-balanced grain bowl comes together in 5 easy steps-use this guide to build the perfect healthy bowl every time.

1. Select and Cook Your Grains


Seek out whole grains, such as brown rice, farro, buckwheat, millet, rye berries, black rice, wheat berries or quinoa. Cooking times vary greatly-farro can take upwards of an hour to get tender, for example, but quick-cooking rice or quinoa will only take 15 minutes. So if you're cooking on a busy weeknight, pick a quick-cooking grain and start it simmering on the stove first. Another easy approach is to pick one grain for the week and make a big batch on Sunday. Cooked grains last 5 to 6 days in the fridge.

2. Prep Your Veggies

Veggie prep

Roast veggies, such as cauliflower, mushrooms, bell pepper, beets, carrots, zucchini, peppers and/or onions, in a 425°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Chop, dice, shred or grate any raw veggies you like. Try grated carrots, diced cucumbers, shredded jicama, grated beets, shredded cabbage, sliced tomatoes or sliced radishes for added texture and crunch.

3. Prep Your Protein

Buddha bowl

Pictured recipe: Tofu & Roasted Vegetable Grain Bowl with Pumpkin Seeds

Grain bowls are generally vegetarian, leaning heavily on beans or tofu for protein. But feel free to pump up the protein by adding lean fish or chicken. If you're using canned beans, make sure to drain and rinse well. You can heat them up or leave them cold. Dried beans will need to be soaked a day ahead, then simmered for 1 to 2 hours, so plan accordingly-and beans, like the grains, can be made in a big batch on Sunday for the work week. If you're short on time, precooked lentils are readily available in many upscale grocery stores. Cook any lean meats by either roasting in the oven (along with any veggies) or quickly pan-searing. Tofu can be baked in a marinade of equal parts olive oil and low-sodium soy sauce for added flavor and improved texture.

4. Dress Your Bowl


Here's where the delicious flavors come in. You can dress your grain bowl with store-bought dressings if you're short on time or make your own creations at home. Think tahini sauce, creamy avocado dressing, sesame vinaigrette-the possibilities are endless. You can even dress your bowl with a simple drizzle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice) and salt and pepper.

5. Bedazzle Your Bowl

Bedazzle Your Bowl

This is where it gets fun. Sprinkle your beautiful bowls with toasted seeds or nuts, such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, toasted slivered almonds, pecans, walnuts and/or pine nuts. Scatter fresh herbs on top, such as basil ribbons, mint, dill, cilantro or tarragon. Top with fresh sprouts, such as sunflower sprouts, radish sprouts or even pea shoots.

Voilà! A healthy delicious meal that is versatile and fast! Perfect for lunches to go or quick weeknight dinners.

Watch: How to Make a Healthy Grain Bowl

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