Three Main Dishes that Pack in Produce and Healthy Grains

There's such a huge misconception that eating healthy has to be boring, or you have to stick to a super specific plan to be successful. I'm excited to start a blog series called "Three Dishes that..." focusing on some fun and creative ways to get more of those healthy ingredients we need and want in our diet. 
Today's post centers on main dishes that pack in a haul of fresh veggies and fruits, and a serving of those good-for-you whole grains. 
A major highlight of this series is valuable input from a registered dietitian! A dear friend of mine and a R.D., Erica Baty, was willing to give me some very helpful information on the benefits of whole grains and produce variety. Read on for to get some wellness wisdom, along with a few delicious recipes! 

Some health benefits of whole grains and produce, according to Erica Baty, R.D.:
So what are “whole grains?” Whole grains have all of the parts of the original kernel- bran, germ and endosperm. Refined grains have the bran and germ stripped away. To make sure a product is truly a whole grain, make sure that the actual grain is the very first ingredient listed in the ingredient list.
Now, what are the health benefits? One of the biggest benefits of whole grains is the fiber content. The recommended daily intake of fiber is at least 25g for women and 38g for men. Many Americans do not consume even half that amount! Whole grains have 2-3x the fiber than their refined counterparts. For example, 1 serving of brown rice will provide 6g fiber while 1 serving of white rice provides 2g of fiber. Because fiber digests slowly, it will help you stay fuller longer. It can also help you control blood sugar, reduce the “bad” LDL cholesterol and prevent certain types of cancer like colon cancer.
Whole grains can also help with digestion. The fiber content helps keep bowel movements regular and many grains contain lactic acid which helps healthy gut flora to flourish in the large intestine.

Get whole grains and tons of produce in with a sushi bowl. Seared ahi tuna, brown rice, cucumber, radish, avocado, mango chimichurri and spicy tahini sauce, from Erica's instagram itsaflavorfullife.

Just as important as whole grains, or even more so, is to consume a variety of fresh or frozen produce. Everyone knows fruits and vegetables are healthy, so why don’t we eat enough? The USDA recommends 2 ½ cups vegetables (or about 5 servings) and 2 cups fruit (or about 3-4 servings) per day. I even recommend upwards of 8-10 servings of veggies per day. Many people ask me, “should I be taking a multivitamin or other supplements?” My usual reply is that if you are getting a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet, save your money! A multivitamin is not necessary. Fruits and vegetables are simply packed with nutrients- vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and the list goes on.
A wide of variety of produce in your diet may protect against cancer, promote healthy gut bacteria, boost your immune system and maintain a healthy weight. If weight loss is a goal, vegetables and fruits are the “go to” since they are high in bulk and nutrients but low in calories.
There are a lot of bacteria in your gut, some of these bacteria love cheeseburgers and fries. Other bacteria love the fiber from whole grains, vegetables and fruits. If you consistently feed the cheeseburger-loving bacteria these are the bacteria that will grow and thrive. Unfortunately the “junk-food bacteria” do not promote a healthy microbiome. The good news is that if you consistently feed the plant-loving bacteria in your gut a variety of vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, these are the bacteria that will multiply and thrive. These healthy bacteria will help with digestion, boost your immune system and aid in maximum nutrient absorption.

Asian turkey meatballs with sweet potato noodles and lemongrass broth with mango, cucumber, peppers, lime and mint, from Erica's instagram itsaflavorfullife.

So what are you waiting for!? Sounds like it’s time to amp up the veggies, fruits, legumes and whole grains! For breakfast, try several handfuls of spinach and kale in your smoothie, fresh berries in your oatmeal or a veggie-packed omelet. For lunch mix a can of tuna with ½ avocado and serve on a bed of spring greens with a side of brown rice and a drizzle of olive oil. At dinner, veggies should be the star! Many people make one vegetable side dish, but why not more? Try a side salad and sautéed green beans, baked butternut squash and roasted asparagus or caprese salad with zucchini noodles. The options are endless and the more you know, the more you can eat!

If you enjoyed hearing from Erica and want to see some of her delicious, healthy recipe ideas in action, check her out on Instagram at itsaflavorfullife.

Main Dish One: Very Veggie Fried Rice

Fried rice from the average Chinese restaurant is delicious, but doesn't pack in quite the nutritious punch. Using brown rice instead of white rice adds whole grain, and gives the dish a nice, chewy texture. While traditional fried rice has a few veggies, this dish boasts carrots, corn, peas, bell peppers, broccoli, onions, and garlic. 
It can be topped off with soy sauce but has a delicious flavor on it's own. Check out Cooking Classy for the recipe details. 

 Main Dish Two: Super Food Salad 

This salad is so flavorful and unique and truly packed with those natural ingredients full of antioxidants and vitamins. The whole grain quinoa is mixed with fiber-rich black beans, avocado, cilantro, orange, red onion, corn, and pomegranate seeds. The mix is then drizzled with a delicious lemon vinaigrette. 
 It's also really wonderful topped with shrimp. Check out the recipe details at Iowa Girl Eats.

Main Dish Three: Mandarin Spinach Salad 

Pasta may not be the noblest of grains, but a whole grain choice can up the health benefits. This salad contains whole wheat bowtie pasta, a bunch of spinach, dried cranberries, pine nuts, and cilantro. 
The best part is the absolutely fantastic teriyaki vinaigrette. Seriously, you have to try it. You'll find the details for this one at Creme de la Crumb
 Trying healthy recipes can be hit or miss, so I wanted to share these delicious gems with you. I found all three of them on Pinterest, and they are some of my favorite cooking finds of all time!

Do you have any favorite recipes for packing in both produce and healthy grains? Are there any ideas or ingredients you'd like to read about for my "Three Dishes that..." series? Let me know in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this post, check out my other nutritious recipe posts like Fresh Summer Lunches or 6 Healthier Treats {I Can Actually Live With}.

Thanks for stopping by! 

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