Grain Bowls are a Great Sandwich Swap Out

by Amy Hendel, P.A. Health Writer

In my previous blog, I suggested that sandwiches may be the #1 new public enemy. They are typically loaded with too much meat and cheese, or contain mayonnaise-rich tuna or egg salad, and all those ingredients feature saturated fat and sodium. The bread also is usually loaded with salt. The condiments can be high in sugar or salt, or they can be creamy and rich in unhealthy fats. You also get a whopping dose of refined sugar from the white bread, bun, or roll, and typical sandwiches contain little, if any vegetables. What's a sandwich lover to do?

For a quick fix, you can choose only one slice of bread (open-face sandwich), and choose high fiber, whole grain types of bread, or breads like rye or sourdough, which tend to digest more slowly. Add loads of vegetables to add bulk and fiber, as well as antioxidant-rich nutrients. Choose lean cuts of meat and aim for a three ounce portion, or choose beans, grilled fish, a vegetable burger, or slices of egg sans mayonnaise. Good-quality tuna does not need mayonnaise, though you may enjoy mixing it with pickle relish. There's also another type of dish that's a filling meal for lunch or dinner. It's called a "grain bowl" and it's becoming a food trend across America.

Initially popular in Japanese and Chinese restaurants, a grain bowl typically features a grain-like brown rice with layers of meat or fish, vegetables, and pickles or fermented slaw, and certain vegetables. Melissa Clark recently wrote about these popular offerings in the New York Times. She points out how these grain bowls now feature a variety of ancient grains like quinoa , freekeh, and farro, as well as kasha and amaranth as a base, too. According to Ms. Clark, the grains or grits can be soaked in nut milk, and a variety of fresh herbs can be added to enhance the taste. Chipotle offers a burrito bowl, and it's one of the most popular dishes on their menu. I personally like the presentation, because a bowl tends to send a subliminal message of comfort food. I also like one-dish meals since they can help with portion control, and the layering allows you to really savor the different tastes as they blend together. Grain bowls "Finding healthy whole grains") also lend themselves to seasonal variety - in the fall you can enjoy baked pumpkin chunks, or root vegetables. And because grains can be mild, nutty or have other textures and tastes, you can create dozens of combinations. I've been eating a variation on this recipe for more than a decade.

Consider steamed fish or grilled chicken, or add cooked egg as the protein choice. Greens like kale, mustard greens, collard greens, and sautéed vegetables marry well with a variety of grains. If you're vegetarian or vegan, consider tofu, tempeh, seitan or beans. If the beans are canned, rinse them first to remove excess sodium. Using roasted peppers can enhance taste, allowing you to use less oil or other high calorie condiments. Consider crunchy toppings like crushed nuts, seeds, toasted seaweed, or fermented carrots or radishes.

There is one caveat to this wonderful meal-in-a-bowl: you need to use strict portion control when adding the grains, the protein, and crunchy toppings, like nuts. Your waistline, blood pressure, general health - along with your tummy - will thank you for it

Amy Hendel, P.A.
Meet Our Writer
Amy Hendel, P.A.

Known as "The HealthGal", Amy Hendel P.A. is a medical and lifestyle reporter, nutrition and fitness expert, health coach and brand ambassador. Trained as a physician assistant, she maintains a health coach private practice in New York and Los Angeles. Author of The Four Habits of Healthy Families, find her on Twitter @Healthgal1103 and on Facebook @TheHealthGal. Check “Daily Health News” at Her personal mantra? “Fix it first with food, fitness, and lifestyle.”