By Phillippa Spence

Like many people, I find I can eat mounds of white rice and pasta when given the opportunity – and I only feel full when I’ve really over indulged. But swapping these for a heftier grain or brown variety fills you up much more effectively. It means you might reduce your portion amount and actually feel like you’re getting the right type of carbohydrate.

Sure they might look a little frumpy and boring, staring at you from their clear plastic bag, but there are loads of grains to choose from that you can cook, dress and enjoy in less than 30 minutes. They’re good for the heart, full of slow-burning energy and fill you up. What’s more is they’re great value for money!

I love using grains in warm salads, bulgar wheat, farro and brown rice are a particular favourite because they suck up lots of flavour from zingy dressings and can help bulk out a salad and give it a bit of body.

For a really quick side or light meal, cook your brown rice or bulgar wheat according to the packet instructions, then toss it with a simple fresh orange and olive oil dressing and lots of chopped herbs like mint and parsley. Pair the dressed wheat or rice with spicy roasted butternut squash, sweet potato or sweet peppers, or toss with some finely chopped raw broccoli and salad leaves and serve with a roast chicken. Jamie has some lovely wholegrain recipes too – try his delicious summer four-grain salad with garlic, lemon and herbs or try quinoa as part of this recipe for a South American-style brunch with tomatoes, avocadoes, lots of coriander and a cheeky fried egg.  

Pearled spelt and barley are higher in protein and work beautifully as a substitute for rice in risotto. Another easy way to use these grains is to throw a handful into soups and stews. Sadly they don’t have all the benefits of wholegrain because the outer layer of bran has been stripped from them, but this makes them quicker to cook (25 – 40 minutes) as opposed to hours for the wholegrain variety.

It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, try using more grains and you’ll feel the benefits. And we’re always open to new ideas, whether its salads or pie fillings, so share your recipes and ideas for using grains below.


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  • Tuuli Reinsoo

    I do all this! Grains as porridge, orsotto, together with cabbage or soup is the foundation of the diet. I just made barley porridge today. it is so good when you add a bit of ground pepper and nutmeg. Barley likes a bit of pepper.

    My most common dish is buckwheat with different vegetables. sometimes an egg on top. and don´t forget millet, high in protein, low in fat. sometimes I use millet flakes and make this creamy millet-vanilla mousse. yum.

    and use buckwheat flour too. It makes sourdough bread sweeter and it makes delicious cookies. cause you dont have to be gluten intolerant to try and experiemnt with flours from different grains other than wheat. millet flour is excellent for muffins. rice is good for korean style dumplings. I am getting the hang of those btw

    if only I had a rice cooker cause red rice cooks so long. I would freeze some, but I havent got enough space. red rice is extremely good for the body…but has an extremely borin taste in my opinion :-(