How to Build Your Own Salad or Grain Bowl
Salads and bowl-style meals are perfect for lunch or even dinner. They’re super customizable depending on your food preferences and allergies. And chances are, you can make them with ingredients you already have on hand. With a little creativity, you can build your own salad or grain bowl in just a few minutes!
Why Salads & Grain Bowls?
Salads and grain bowls are easy ways to get proper nutrition without cooking an intensive meal. And better yet, you can probably make one with items you already have in your fridge and pantry. Here are a few other reasons people love grain bowls:
One of the best things about bowl-style meals is that they are the perfect way to get balanced nutrition. Most salads and bowls feature:
- Protein: meat, beans, seeds, etc.
- Carbohydrates: rice, quinoa, barley, tortilla strips, etc.
- Fat: dressings and sauces
This means that salads and grain bowls can fulfill all three of your major macronutrient needs. You’ll get sustained energy from your meal and won’t be hungry an hour later.
You can also customize your bowl however you like. Whether you’re working around allergies, a specific diet plan, or just a picky eater, there are options for everyone to enjoy. You might want to take your bowl from savory to sweet with the addition of fruit or a honey-based dressing. Meanwhile, another member of the family might go super savory for a completely different meal suited to their tastes.
Eliminate Food Waste
Part of the fun of salads and grain bowls is that anything goes. Have leftover chicken from dinner the night before? Chop it up and add it in! Yogurt that’s about to go bad? Turn it into an easy dressing and avoid another grocery item in the trash.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to salads and grain bowls. That means that you can toss in just about anything you’re trying to get rid of. Eliminating food waste in your home means less spent on groceries and more bang for your buck.
1. Choose Your Base
Start by choosing a base for your bowl. You might opt for a grain, some greens, or even some of both. Here are a few of our favorites to try:
- Rice is a classic bowl base. While white rice is a great option, whole-grain brown rice can provide additional nutrients like fiber and antioxidants.
- Quinoa is a slightly trendier option that offers additional fiber and protein. Its slightly nutty flavor can add something unique to an otherwise plain bowl. It’s also very filling and will prevent you from being hungry soon after eating.
- Barley is a less traditional but equally delicious grain. It adds flavor and texture while providing tons of fiber. Just note that unlike rice and quinoa, it does contain gluten.
- Pasta is another delicious base that brings personality to a simple grain bowl. Opt for a tiny pasta like ditalini or orzo, or go big and bold with rotini or penne. For extra health benefits, look for whole grain, chickpea-based, or veggie pasta.
- Spinach is a go-to option for salads and bowls. It is rich in vitamins and antioxidants and is considered a “superfood” by many. You can even try growing your own spinach at home!
- Romaine lettuce is high in vitamins A and C, and provides great crunch to salads and bowls. It also has a milder taste than spinach that picky eaters and kids may prefer.
- Spring mix is made of a variety of greens including romaine, spinach, radicchio, arugula, mustard greens, and chard. It provides many of the same benefits of romaine, but with a little extra excitement and flavor.
- Leaf lettuce is available in both red and green varieties. It contains similar vitamins and antioxidants to the other options and has a very mild taste that can please the whole family.
2. Add in Protein
Protein is a crucial part of building a good salad or grain bowl because it helps keep you full until your next meal. Alongside the carbohydrates from your base, it will provide you with sustained energy all day long. Consider these protein options when you build your own salad or grain bowl:
Meat is by far the most common protein source when it comes to salads and grain bowls. When building your bowl, consider:
- Chicken or turkey
- Fish like salmon, tilapia, or tuna
- Seafood like shrimp, crab, and lobster
Eggs are another delicious addition that can increase the amount of protein and omega-3s in your bowl. Try hard boiled, poached, or even sunny side up eggs for a ramen-style twist to your salad or grain bowl.
There are also a number of plant-based options for those looking to eat less meat, as well as vegetarians and vegans:
- Beans: black, pinto, garbanzo, kidney, cannellini, etc.
- Tofu and meat substitutes
3. Top with Fresh Fruits, Veggies, and Extras
Now comes the fun part: build your own salad or bowl just the way you like it with tons of fun extras. Get creative and try anything you think might be tasty, even if it’s a little outside the box. Here are a few salad and grain bowl ideas to get you started:
Start with a base of spinach. Add meat, tofu, or falafel. Top it off with feta cheese, fresh tomatoes, sliced red onions, olives, and Mediterranean Yogurt Dressing (recipe below).
Vegetarian Buddha Bowl
Start with brown or white rice. Add meat or tofu of your choice. Top it off with edamame, broccoli, avocado, and sesame seeds. Dress with Creamy Avocado Dressing (recipe below).
Start with romaine or leaf lettuce. Add meat (grilled chicken is our favorite) and/or beans. Top it off with tomatoes, corn, avocado, cilantro, and tortilla strips. Dress with Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe below).
Power Grain Bowl
Start with a base of spinach and quinoa. Add meat and/or plant-based proteins of your choice. Top it off with poached eggs, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, avocado, and Creamy Avocado Dressing (recipe below).
4. Dress It Up
Finally, you’ll want to add some sort of dressing. While you can always buy from the grocery store, it can also be fun to create your own simple homemade salad dressing. Tons of dressings can be made with just oil, vinegar, yogurt, citrus and a few spices.
The general formula for a dressing is three parts base, one part acid, and spices and seasoning to taste. Try these easy homemade salad dressings you can make with ingredients you already have at home:
- Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette: 3 parts olive oil + 1 part balsamic vinegar + garlic powder, salt, and pepper
- Mediterranean Yogurt Dressing: 3 parts yogurt + 1 part buttermilk + dill, parsley, and green onion
- Creamy Avocado Dressing: 3 parts avocado + 1 part buttermilk + onion and cilantro to taste
Ready to build your own salad or grain bowl? Get everything you need for a delicious meal at your local Stauffers Fresh Foods!