One of the most common questions I get asked by people trying to move to a more whole-food plant-based diet is “What do I have for lunch?”. It’s particularly challenging for people who are avoiding gluten due to an intolerance or chronic health problem. It’s not so easy to rely on a sandwich or other bread option.
And to be honest, most of the bread bought in the supermarket is not the best option for anyone, even the ‘healthy’ ones. Have you looked at the list of ingredients on a bread packet recently? Here’s a wholemeal version of a well known brand. There’s a surprising amount of refined ingredients in here, not just wheat derivatives but oils as well, particularly pertinent if you are avoiding saturated fats like palm oil. And emulsifiers are beginning to be connected to poor gut health (more about that another time).
And the ‘free from’ versions don’t fare any better when it comes to refined ingredients. Here’s what’s in a supermarkets ‘brown’ gluten free bread. No good if you’re plant-based or have an egg intolerance for a start, but there’s right old mix of starches and extracted fibres in there – not a lot of ‘whole’ ingredients that’s for sure. And the brown comes from cocoa powder rather than any wholegrain!
Real bread doesn’t need that many ingredients, but it’s hard – and expensive – to find traditionally made and healthful bread. So unless you live near an artisan bakers (lucky you!) or make your own at home, other options are needed.
One super tasty option is this rice salad. It’s made with wholegrain rice so it’s packed with loads of fibre that will fill you up and feed your microbiome at the same time. Whole rice also has a surprising range of nutrients, including protein and healthy fats. Yes, you read that right! It’s one of the reasons why placing a food in a nutrient group – carb, fat or protein – can create confusion and misinformation about certain foods.
Rice so often gets a bad name, particularly by the low carbers. It’s true that highly refined white rice is not a healthy option; stripped of most of it’s essential nutrients and fibre, it is mainly starch and empty calories (I talk about this more in my book Eat Well Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie). But whole grain rice retains its nutrients, including protein and a wide range of minerals like manganese and magnesium. Red rice has a similar nutrient profile to brown with one more benefit – it’s red! So it contain a group of healthful phytonutrients called anthocyanin that provide support to the body.
I’m going to talk more about the benefit of rice in a series of blog posts soon, so for now, here’s a simple lunch time recipe that is packed full of flavour and rainbow nutrients that will keep you fuelled all afternoon. It has a lovely nutty taste from the rice combo – I made this recently for a BBQ we went to and everyone was surprised just how tasty it was. The key to having this for lunch is to be prepared, so cook the rice the night before when you’re doing dinner, then you’re all set to throw it together in the morning.
I hope you enjoy this as much as we do. You can mix it up with whatever ingredients you have in your fridge or cupboard. Let me know how you get on.
Wholesome rice salad
- 100 grams red rice
- 100 grams wholegrain rice
- 1 small red onion finely diced
- 1/2 pomegranate seeds only
- 40 grams parsley and/or coriander chopped
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds/sunflower seeds
- 1 lemon juice only
- cooked broccoli, roasted peppers, grated carrot
- Place the red and wholegrain rice into a medium-sized saucepan. Cover with 500ml of water, pop on the lid and leave to soak for at least an hour.
- Bring the pan to the boil without removing the lid. Once steamed is coming out, reduce the heat to a simmer and leave it cooking for 20 minutes - but don't forget about it! Lift the lid to see if all the water has been absorbed - once it has, turn off the heat and leave to steam for 5 minutes, then tip out into a bowl and leave to cool. All this can be done the night before you want the rice.
- Tip the cooked and cooled rice into a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Check the flavour and add more lemon, herbs or seasoning as needed.