By: Julia Gagulska
Cook time: 45 minutes
As a college student, I always struggle to find the balance between going out to eat with my friends and maintaining a healthy diet. Here at UVA, a hot spot for lunch and dinner is a grain-bowl place named Roots™. The most popular item at this location is a bowl called the El Jefe. However, there are times when I’m short on cash or the menu doesn’t incorporate my favorite ingredients. Luckily, they are extremely easy to make yourself!
What I love most about these grain bowls is that every single food group is conveniently placed in one dish. Ever since grade school, the image of the colorful, laminated health poster with the plate divided into four sections: vegetables, grains, fruits, and healthy proteins with a small section for dairy on the side has been ingrained in my mind. According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, the healthy eating plate poster is an efficient way to build a healthy and balanced diet in all of your meals (Harvard 2021).
Although I’m not advocating for all of our meals to be a replica of the healthy eating plate poster, I am a believer in hitting all of the food groups at least once per day. Healthy proteins are rich in iron and magnesium which is beneficial for circulating oxygen through your blood and strengthening muscles. The fiber in whole grains, along with the vitamins and antioxidants in fruits, are a great source of protection against chronic diseases (A Healthier Michigan 2019). While I have only mentioned the health benefits of a few food groups, you can begin to imagine the final list of nutrients when all five food groups are eaten in one sitting
Not only are grain bowls a well-balanced meal, but they’re incredibly easy to personalize depending on dietary restrictions and preferences. Sub out chicken for tofu or mushrooms, take out the dairy and add vegan substitutes, or switch out tomatoes and avocado with your favorite veggies. This recipe is simply my favorite version, but the possibilities are endless!
- ½ cup Marinated & baked chicken breast, cubed
- Marinade: 3 tbsp olive oil, 3-4 cloves garlic, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 2 limes (zest and juice), ½ bunch cilantro (chopped)
- ¼ cup cooked brown rice
- 2 tbsp. Black beans, drained and rinsed
- 4 tbsp. Cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 tbsp. Red onion, diced
- ½ small avocado, cubed
- 1 cup Massaged kale
- Crumbled feta
- Roasted chickpeas (these can be store-bought or you can make them yourself)
- 3-4 tbsp. Cilantro-lime dressing
- ½ bunch cilantro, 2 cloves garlic, ¼ cup olive oil, juice of 2 limes, 1 tbsp agave nectar/honey OR water, 1 cup plain greek yogurt, salt and pepper to taste
- Lime squeeze
- Hot sauce
- Start by using a meat mallet or rolling pin to ensure all chicken breasts are of equal thickness, about ½ inch, at the thickest part.
- Marinate the chicken breast (up to 2 breasts) for 30 minutes up to overnight refrigerated.
- Cook the dry, brown rice in a rice cooker or on the stovetop (I usually cook 1 cup dry rice for meal prep).
- Preheat your oven to 425 oF and place your chicken on a parchment-lined baking dish with cooking spray or olive oil.
- Once preheated, place your chicken in the oven for 18 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165oF.
- While the chicken and rice are cooking, place dressing ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
- Prepare all other ingredients as directed
- Put all measured ingredients into a bowl, mix, and enjoy!
Notes: Although the recipe is enough for one serving, it is likely that you’ll have enough to meal prep for the week! The cooked chicken, rice, and dressing can be stored in the fridge for a few days, and the chickpeas can be stored in the pantry. This recipe is great for meal prepping, and you can continue using the same veggies or switching it up!
Harvard School of Public Health. (2021, March 16). Healthy eating plate. The Nutrition Source. Accessed by https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/ A
Healthier Michigan. (2019, February 1). Eating all 5 food groups. A Healthier Michigan. Accessed by https://www.ahealthiermichigan.org/2015/04/28/why-all-5-food-groups-are-essential-to-maximizing-your-health/