5 Healthy Grain Bowls to Try in 2022

Leah LeMoineJanuary 13, 2022
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Looking to take a healthy hiatus from fast food? Find our picks for the Valley’s finest specimens of fiber-packed, heart-healthy grain bowls.

Original Photograhy by Izabella Hernandez & Mirelle Inglefield

Vegetarian Grain Bowl from The Golden Pineapple

Vegetarian Grain Bowl from The Golden Pineapple

Consider, for a moment, eruca vesicaria – otherwise known as arugula. First used as a medicinal herb and aphrodisiac by the Romans, the leafy, peppery plant hails from the same agricultural gene pool as broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts. Like its cruciferous cousins, arugula contains high levels of nitrates (which lower blood pressure) and glucosinolates (sulfur-rich compounds that can inhibit the cancer-spreading HDAC enzyme). So, it’s very good for you. Thanks to the glucosinolates, which give the leaf its distinctive tart flavor, arugula also provides the grace note in chef Dell Morris’ spectacular grain bowl at The Golden Pineapple in Tempe. Jeweled with charred sweet potatoes (Vitamin A allowance: met and exceeded), heirloom pinto beans, fire-roasted chiles and squash over a fundament of Hayden Mills grains, and drizzled with a playful avocado-honey vinaigrette, the bowl is a hearty swirl of simple sugars and smoky starches. But it’s the austere arugula, with its no-nonsense bitter bite, that ties everything together and lifts it to the grain bowl A-list. 2700 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, 480-590-5703, thegoldenpineappleaz.com

d’Veggie Bowl from d’Lite Healthy on the Go

d’Veggie Bowl from d’Lite Healthy on the Go

This local, health-focused fast-food franchise was developed in 2007 in the Scottsdale dining room of husband and wife Chad and Brooke Knudson, who were looking for healthy alternatives to traditional drive-thru dining establishments. D’Lite’s vegetarian grain bowl features fiber- and protein-packed steamed quinoa, broccoli (contains cancer-preventing compounds), feta (great source of calcium), creamy chipotle aioli and earthy portobello sauce, which help heart, muscle and nerve function. Five Valley locations, dlitehealthyonthego.com 

Ancient Grains Bowl from True Food Kitchen

Without an interplay of flavors, textures and temperatures, grain bowls can be drearily one-note – mushy like oatmeal, or mealy like a bowl of birdseed. True Food Kitchen sidesteps these scenarios with a bowl that feels more like a composed dish than a hippie casserole. Nutty, protein-packed red quinoa, farro and brown rice serve as a foundation for wee piles of produce, prepared in various ways. Burnt orange hunks of beta-carotene-boosted sweet potato are glazed with umami-rich miso and sesame seeds. Charred onions and grilled portobellos bring earthy smokiness. Avocado and snap peas brighten everything up with their sweet grassiness. Turmeric adds warmth – plus anti-inflammatory benefits, if you make it a regular part of your diet – and cilantro-pumpkin seed pesto contributes creaminess and an antioxidant punch to the vegan dish, to which you can add tofu or an animal protein. Three Valley locations, truefoodkitchen.com

Ancient Grains Bowl from True Food Kitchen
Navarro Bowl from Pa’La

Navarro Bowl from Pa’La

Though the Navarro Bowl is one of few constants on chef-owner Claudio Urciuoli’s ever-changing menu at the original Pa’La in Central Phoenix, it also varies based on what’s seasonal and fresh. Springy, fiber-rich grains might include organic farro, durum wheat, emmer wheat or Sonora wheat. There are vegetables from McClendon’s Select – typically beets, sweet potatoes (Japanese or yams) and carrots, with seasonal additions like Brussels sprouts – roasted in Pa’La’s signature wood-burning oven. Cannellini beans and a trio of seeds (sesame, sunflower and pumpkin, all packed with plant protein, magnesium and vitamins and helpful in lowering blood pressure) are always in the mix, as is a dressing of extra virgin olive oil from Lazio, Italy, Catalonian vinegar from Spain and smoked soy sauce. Protein toppers change, but Urciuoli says the most popular is the sweet Sea of Cortez shrimp, seasoned with nori and togarashi and roasted among the wood. 2107 N. 24th St., Phoenix, 602-795-9500, palakitchen.com

Buddha Bowl from Giving Tree Café

Rumors swirl about the origins of the Buddha Bowl. Some say the name stems from the the bowl’s ingredients, reflecting the Buddhist principle of balance. Another possible explanation: The bowl itself resembles the Buddha’s round belly. Giving Tree Café’s owner David Warr says the moniker alludes to the revered religious figure going from door to door to gather various ingredients to make a meal. It was considered a sacred process that fulfilled the provider’s karma. One thing’s for sure – this nutrient-packed offering from Giving Tree Café is next to nirvana. Antioxidant-rich roasted maple acorn squash, mood-boosting and heart-friendly turmeric-seasoned cauliflower, shishito peppers (a delicious dose of vitamins A, C and E, which benefit your skin, immune system and eyesight) and fiber-filled Brussels sprouts mingle with your choice of hand-harvested wild rice or quinoa, while Bangkok peanut sauce provides a tangy, protein-packed finale. 2024 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 480-630-0200, givingtreecafe.com

Buddha Bowl from Giving Tree Café
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