Salads as a meal? Why not! When you add in vegetables, healthy, lean meats like fish and chicken, and grains, a salad can be a delicious and filling alternative to a tradition “meat and potatoes” type of meal.
Wait, grains? Yes, grains!
Adding whole grains to your salads adds nutty flavor. It gives a salad more texture, and provides a healthy, filling alternative to processed breads or rolls you might add as a salad side.
Here are some grains you can try adding to your salad. To make things easier, cook grains ahead of time and store in your fridge so you always have a healthy salad ingredient on hand. An appropriate portion of healthy grains is ½ cup- 1 cup, which will add approximately 80 to 160 calories to your salad.
Farro seems to be gaining popularity, and there’s a good reason why. Like most whole grains, farro is very versatile – you can eat it as a hot breakfast cereal with fruit, toss it in soups and salads, or even have it as a side dish. Farro is not wheat, but its own plant. It has a nutty taste with undertones of oats and barley. It has a consistency similar to risotto, while retaining its tender bite. In fact, it’s a favorite among rustic Italian restaurants and dishes.
Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wa") is a grain-like seed that has recently gained popularity for its unique super food qualities.
Originally found in ancient Peru, this nutty seed is packed with protein and nutrients making it a great choice for vegetarians and vegans as well as individuals following a gluten-free diet. It looks similar to couscous, however has a nuttier and more complex flavor.
Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all of the essential amino acids, including lysine. Many grains lack lysine, making quinoa an excellent addition to the diet. It is also rich in iron, vitamin E, potassium, fiber and magnesium.
Learn how to cook quinoa with this helpful article from Penn dietitian Danielle Rosenfeld, MS, RD.
Check out this recipe for Colorful Quinoa Grecian Salad here.
Why not sprinkle brown rice into your salad? Technically speaking, brown rice is hulled, or unmilled rice. While brown rice has the same amount of carbohydrates and calories as white rice, brown rice is processed in such a way that only the top layer (the husk) is removed. When subsequent layers are removed, such as in the processing of white rice, nutrients and minerals are removed as well. Thus, brown rice retains more nutritional value than white rice.
Bulgur is a whole grain cereal made from different types of wheat. Compared to white rice, bulgur has more fiber and protein and higher levels of vitamins and minerals. Per cup (uncooked) bulgur has 25 grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein.