I have a very hectic schedule during the week so meal planning is a must. If I didn't, we would not eat healthy meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But meal planning does not have to be hard and it doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. In fact, if you do a little research or talk to family and friends about their favorite short-cuts, I bet you would get some great ideas and recipes that would help you eat healthier.
That is what I love about this whole grain vegetable salad. We all know that whole grains are really good for us. They provide fiber, vitamin E, minerals such as magnesium, iron and zinc. They also are a rich source of B Vitamins and contain amino acids. (Source: The World's Healthiest Foods). Wheat is a whole grain but it is also a common allergen. This recipe uses a prepackaged mixed grain and does contain wheat. So you have to read labels if wheat is an issue for you.
But first, let's talk about using prepackaged grains for salads. This is an easy way to make a healthy salad and not have to spend a lot of time cooking individual grains and then combining them. The core of this salad is Kashi 7 Whole Grain Pilaf. The reason I like this product is that it doesn't have an added spice packet.
There are a lot of great brands out there that sell whole grain products but they contain a spice packet. I find the spices to be high in sodium, which is not an ingredient I need in my diet. So if I buy a product with a spice packet, I actually use maybe 1/2 of the packet - not the whole thing. Then I add my own spices to enhance the final product. But the Kashi product is plain, which let's me add my own spices to it!
It cooks in 25 minutes and then I add chopped fresh veggies, make a dressing and lunch for the week is complete! The recipe I am sharing below makes 4 servings and is very versatile. You can use any vegetables you may have in the house, the garden or what was on sale at the grocery store.
For example, I used kale because I have it growing in the garden but if fresh baby spinach is available, use that. I used grape tomatoes because cherry tomatoes are not yet available. Mushrooms are always available and I love them! So I put them in everything. Mushrooms contain B vitamins and selenium, which is an antioxidant that supports the immune system and prevents damage to cells and tissue. (Source: BBC Good Food).
Additional add-ins can also be used. For example, if you are trying to get more fiber in your diet, add chick peas. If you like something crunchy (outside of celery) add cucumbers and red onions. The key here is that you can make this salad your own or make a substitution if you are missing an ingredient.
The anti-inflammatory properties are from almost every ingredient in the salad. First, did you know if you deprive your body of adequate servings of vegetables, our bodies do not get the vitamins and minerals necessary for many functions in the body. In fact, if we don't eat enough vegetables, it can result in low energy levels and a reduced immune function. (Source: The World's Healthiest Foods).
More anti-inflammatory benefits are derived from the turmeric and garlic in the dressing. Now don't get me wrong, inflammatory response is a natural response of the body to injuries and other harmful things that get into your body, such as a cold. But what happens is inflammation can be an unhealthy response when the immune system attacks its own cells. This happens with diseases such as Chron's disease or a chronic skin disease. (Source: PubMed Health). By eating whole foods that can help the body's cells get the energy and nutrients they need, the inflammation response can be reduced and may even help reduce the chances of getting a disease.
If you make my 7 Grain Vegetable Salad, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram as @heatherleehurst and use the #heathershealthhabits hashtag. I love seeing your takes on my recipes! Also, if you'd like to get healthy living tips and recipes for free, follow my blog on Bloglovin.
INGREDIENTS FOR SALAD:
1 Bag of Kashi 7 Whole Grain Pilaf, cooked according to directions
1 cup chopped Kale (or baby leaf spinach)
1 cup chopped celery with leaves (or without leaves if you don't care for them)
15 grape tomatoes sliced in quarters
4 medium baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 TBSP chopped garlic
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp black pepper
1) Cook the pilaf according to directions. Let cool
2) Chop all vegetables. Mix into whole grain.
3) Combine all dressing ingredients. Mix well. Pour on top of salad.
4) Chill for four hours or overnight.