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Whole Grain Salads: Creative and Healthy Dinner Ideas

Whole Grain Salads: Creative and Healthy Dinner Ideas

If tonight’s meal is the tired old trio of meat, potatoes, and salad, here are some healthy dinner ideas that will break the mold. The gist is this: Create meals based on whole grain salads. Government dietary guidelines call for at least three servings of whole grains a day, and a grain salad — unlike your basic lettuce, cucumber, and tomato salad — will leave you feeling full.

How to Make a Whole Grain Salad

According to the New York Times, grains add heft to a one-dish meal, and if you select a few judicious protein sources, you may not need the meat, either. The selection of grains can range from the exotic — bulgur, quinoa, couscous, or farro — to the old standbys of rice or barley. Cook as directed, and add to the salad either hot or cold.

For protein, consider adding nuts, such as pecans, or cheese (feta, mozzarella). Your choice of fruits and/or vegetables can be as varied as you wish. Get creative! Try any combination of sun-dried tomatoes, coconut, mint, sliced grapes, onion, cucumber, beets, radishes, or, even apricot.

Toss it all with a vinaigrette dressing, and enjoy.

Cooking Light magazine also sings the praises of a whole grain salad and notes that you can add leftover chicken or shrimp if you’re the type who doesn’t feel “full” unless your meal includes meat. Their selections for extra flavor are fresh dill, mint, green onion, and lemon juice.

Importance of Whole Grains

The Whole Grains Council, a nonprofit group that promotes the health benefits of eating whole grains, points out that meeting the three-servings-a-day threshold can reduce the risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Whole grain contains the entire grain seed. If the grain has been processed in any way — for example, rolled or crushed — the product should still have the same balance of nutrients as before processing.

One tasty salad recipe from the Whole Grains Council website combines wheatberries with green and red apples and hazelnuts, tossed with a dressing made from orange juice, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and mint. Adding crystallized ginger to the dressing recipe will give it an even more distinctive taste. This dish is best eaten fresh, as wheatberries tend to harden if refrigerated.

While you’re mixing up tonight’s dinner, don’t forget the anti-aging properties of avocado, broccoli, bell peppers, oranges, and sweet potatoes. With whole grains — and a little culinary adventuring — you can rejuvenate your meal plans.

Eating well is an important part of your overall health. So, next time you feel like breaking out of the dinner mold, try one of these healthy dinner ideas that includes a grain salad.

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