For many diners, their first encounter with grains like farro, wheat berry or quinoa is at the salad bar. There are many composed salads that are made absolutely great with grains: quinoa and kale, wheatberry and mango, or a bulgur salad dressed in summery lemon, mint, tomatoes and olive oil.

“Salad bars are a good entry-level way to bring grains into your operation,” says Ryan Conklin, CEC, executive chef at Rex Healthcare, Raleigh, NC.

“But now, we’re taking them throughout the menu and throughout the day.”

And why not let grains do more on the menu? There are some delicious possibilities: A black bean and quinoa quesadilla, a greenwheat freekeh and lamb taco, wheatberry chili or even wild rice hush puppies. Obviously, the salad bar is just the beginning.

Good Morning, Grains

First thing in the morning, employees at Rex Health can get a strong whole-grain start with Vitality Porridge, an appealing bowl with four different grains, fresh fruit and sweet honey.

It’s a great way to start the day, especially for those participating in Rex Health’s employee wellness program, Vitality.
Whole grains are basically tops in terms of nutrition.

“They’re higher in fiber, potassium, magnesium and selenium than refined grains,” says Amanda Newton, recent graduate of the Coordinated Program in Dietetics at the University of Akron. “And fiber can help you feel fuller for a longer period of time.”

When different varieties of grains are offered in amazing ways throughout the day, this creates what Conklin calls a “whole grain culture.”

Fun and Friendly at Lunch

As the day progresses, familiar feel-good lunch items get the whole grain treatment in Rex’s retail locations. Chili and tacos are two of Conklin’s favorite ways to add whole grains to items that are known and loved already. Plus, chewier grains like wheat berry and farro “can hold up to the sauce.”

Just treating cooked grains as you would cooked ground beef, combining it with your favorite taco seasoning and then creating trendy tacos (kimchi, anyone?) will create a lunch item that’s a super easy sell.

“You can turn someone on to a grain they’ve never tried by using a familiar dish as a vessel for that grain,” Conklin says. “We started with trendy basics, like steel-cut oats and quinoa. Those things became staples. Now we’re introducing farro, grano and heirloom barley. I want to get more people to try greenwheat freekeh, which has an earthier flavor.

It has more depth than, say, quinoa, and it goes great with a citrusy dressing.”