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Easy meals for a busy week: CYO grain bowls!

What are some of your favorite recipes to have on hand for hectic weeks? As a dietitian, I am always looking to make something balanced and delicious as efficiently as possible. One of my favorite ways to throw together a quick lunch or dinner is in the form of a grain bowl!

Grain bowl components

  1. Base layer. Choose your favorite grain for the bottom of your bowl. Whole grains are not necessary, but they do offer extra fiber and vitamins/minerals that can improve health. My personal go-tos are brown rice, farro, and quinoa. These can be cooked in advance in bulk to be stored in the fridge or even pre-portioned in freezer containers for long-term availability. In a pinch, I grab a microwave bag that is ready in as little as 90 seconds!

  2. Protein. Whether chicken, ground meat/poultry, pork, fish or legumes, make sure you aim for at least a palm (or >20g) of protein on your plate to promote muscle recovery. Leaner proteins such as chicken, turkey, and tofu are lower in saturated fat, which is a nutrient that the average American tends to consume in excess. Leaning toward lower-fat animal proteins as a staple can be protective for heart health, but this does not need to be 100% of the time. Red meats are a great iron source, so make sure you leave space for them as well if they are something you like!

  3. Vegetables. How do you most enjoy eating vegetables? Steamed, roasted, or raw? With dressing or without? Find for your favorite veggies prepared in your favorite way and layer them in for color, flavor, texture, fiber, antioxidants and lots of vitamins/minerals! Whether you're tossing them in raw and crunchy, pulling them from a freezer bag, or you've roasted a big ol' pan of them in advance, they're great for promoting gut health and aiding in recovery. Be mindful of the fact that if you have just finished a workout, you might be lacking appetite and your stomach might be more sensitive to high-fiber foods during this time. If this is the case, it's important to make sure you don't fill up on too many vegetables instead of other more energy-dense foods containing carbs and protein that your body is craving during the recovery window.

  4. Toppings. Now that the foundation has been set, it's time for some fun! My favorite toppings include cheese, sauces, seeds, avocado/guacamole, and plain Greek yogurt! You get to decide which combinations sound the best to you.

For some inspiration, check out a few recent grain bowls I threw together after a busy day of training and work. Enjoy!

Photo 1: Taco bowl with ground turkey taco meat, salsa, cheddar cheese, black beans, avocado, Greek yogurt, brown rice, and lime juice. Other topping ideas include fresh tomatoes, cilantro, and some crushed tortilla chips for extra carbs.

Photo 2: Cheesy ham and broccoli bowl with quinoa, havarti cheese, ham lunch meat, raw broccoli (lightly steamed from the microwave), and creamy sauce.

Photo 3: Roasted vegetarian bowl with roasted potatoes/cauliflower/broccoli, crispy tofu, shredded sharp cheese, and marinara sauce.


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