When it's chilly outside, the thought of drinking a smoothie or picking at a salad as your meal might be enough to make you shiver. You want a healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but you also want it to leave you feeling full and warm. Enter the grain bowl. Like blended drinks or big bowls of greens, they're packed with clean, nutrient-dense ingredients, but because they're warm and hearty, they're a more comforting meal option on a cold day.

Building a Grain Bowl

This healthy, complete meal will leave you energized for hours and is easy to make. If you prepare your ingredients ahead of time—cook a big pot of brown rice or quinoa, roast your favorite veggies, or make a quick sauce or dressing in your blender—you'll have the components for a quick, healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner ready whenever you need it. Here's a step-by-step process to follow to create the perfect grain bowl.

1. Start with a whole grain.

Unsurprisingly, fiber-packed whole grains should form the base of your grain bowl. Old standbys like quinoa or brown rice are always good choices, but don't be afraid to branch out and try something new. Experiment with big, chewy grains like kamut, spelt, or wheat berries, or smaller, porridgelike grains like amaranth or teff. You could even combine a few of your favorites to make a signature grain blend.

2. Add a lean protein.

Protein joins forces with the complex carbohydrates in whole grains to fill you up and fend off cravings in between meals. Keep it simple with animal proteins, like shredded rotisserie chicken, roasted turkey breast, canned salmon or tuna, eggs, or plant proteins like beans, tofu, or tempeh.

3. Pile on the veggies or fruit.

You can't go wrong with a simple handful of berries (for breakfast) or shredded or steamed greens (for lunch or dinner). But don't be afraid to get creative by incorporating a variety of raw and cooked produce in different colors. Extra fruits and veggies make your bowl even more filling and nutritious, while adding a layer of pretty colors and textures—hello, Instagram-worthy meal!

4. Throw in a few add-ins.

Toppings are like accessories: you don't need much to make a statement. Pick one or two add-ins that'll fill your bowl with even more texture and flavor. Think crunchy nuts or seeds, creamy avocado, sweet and chewy dried fruit, crispy whole-grain croutons, or a dusting of wheat germ or ground flaxseeds.

5. Top it with a dressing or sauce.

Just like with salad, a great dressing or sauce adds richness and flavor, and helps to tie all of your ingredients together to really make them sing.

Delicious Grain Bowl Combos

If you're looking for some culinary inspiration, these ideas are a tasty place to start.

  • Simple, savory breakfast bowl: Brown rice + poached egg + steamed greens + sesame seeds + soy sauce
  • Sweet berry coconut bowl: Amaranth + Greek yogurt + blueberries + sunflower seeds and toasted, shredded coconut + honey
  • Spicy salsa bowl: Quinoa + cooked black beans + roasted zucchini and sliced red pepper + sliced avocado and shredded Cheddar + salsa
  • Mediterranean chickpea bowl: Whole wheat couscous + cooked chickpeas + sliced cherry tomatoes and cucumber + chopped olives and pickles + tahini sauce
  • Farmhouse bowl: Wheat berries + shredded chicken + roasted broccoli and sweet potato wedges + chopped walnuts and dried cranberries + apple cider vinaigrette

Building a satisfying grain bowl is all about mixing ingredients you love. Whether you try one of the suggested combinations or come up with your own, there's no right or wrong way to craft a delicious grain-based meal that will leave you feeling full during the winter months.