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Making Whole Grain Protein Lunch Bowls

Making Whole Grain Protein Lunch Bowls

Lunch on the go is a struggle, right?  It takes planning and a little bit of looking into the future in order to prepare it the night before or even the weekend before. Read more to find out how creating whole grain protein lunch bowls is the easy and healthy answer to this dilemma.

Lunch on the go needs to…

  • Be something that isn’t too difficult to prepare.
  • Include ingredients that can be prepared ahead of time and hold well.
  • Transport well.

NOTE:  This post may include affiliate links which means that if you click through and purchase, I do receive some small financial benefit which helps me to continue to provide you with free content.    

Whole grain protein lunch bowls fills all these requirements!!

These lunch bowls are full of plant-based goodness but super easy to prepare ahead of time.  AND…whole grain protein lunch bowls give you lots of flexibility to change up the ingredients and flavors, so you don’t get tired of eating the same old thing all week. The addition of the dressing or sauce is what really gives the dish its WOW factor!!!

Whole grain protein lunch bowls also provide great satiety.  They are well-balanced, full of protein and healthy fats.  Making sure that meals contain enough protein and fat are important to the satiety after eating and the enjoyment of a meal. 

Perfect for prepping ahead

Creating a whole grain protein bowl can be done in just a bit of time on the weekend or the night before.  I prefer to get myself setup on the weekend.  You cook off one or two grains, some legumes (if you aren’t using canned), roast off your veggies and prepare your sauces.

Some strategies I use when meal prepping:

  • If you don’t mind leftovers, then select two of the suggested bowls and alternate your lunch meals.  It gives you a little bit of variety during the week but also doesn’t create quite as much work for you.
  • The dressing recipes make enough for two servings, but feel free to make extra to keep on hand.  The dressings should keep for about a week in the refrigerator as long as they are properly chilled and the ingredients you use to make them are fresh.
  • It’s important when cooking the grains and legumes that they are properly cooled and stored so that they will also stay fresh throughout the week.

Steps for cooling cooked items

  1. Cool the cooked item to below 70 degrees F within two hours of removing them from cooking.
  2. Next, cool all the way to below 41 degrees within six hours.  This is best accomplished by transferring the ingredient to a shallow pan and allowing it to cool under refrigeration.
  3. Once it is completely cool, you can transfer it to containers for storage and cover it.


Selecting your whole grains

My top choices for whole grains grains to use in grain bowls are quinoa, bulgur, wheatberries, brown rice and buckwheat noodles.  There are others that I’ve experimented with but these are truly my faves.

Cooking times for these various whole grains vary greatly.   The wheatberries take the longest to prepare and require about an hour of cook time to reach the proper consistency.  The brown rice is next at around 30 minutes to get to the right consistency.  The quinoa cooks in about 20 minutes and the bulgur in about 10 minutes.  The fastest cooking item is the buckwheat noodles which depending on their thickness may take as little as five minutes to prepare.

Whole grains are the base of your lunch bowl.Cooking your whole grains

Outlined below are the basic cooking instructions for approximately two lunch bowls allowing approximately about ½ – ¾ cup of cooked grain per lunch bowl.  If you are preparing lunch bowls for more than one person simply double the amounts listed below.  Or if you are cooking for one, then you have enough for two different days.  It’s all flexible.

Quinoa (2 to 1 ratio)
½ cup quinoa to 1 cup water = 1½ cup of quinoa

Wheatberries (4 to 1 ratio)
½ cup wheatberries to 2 cups of water = 2 cups cooked

Bulgur (2 to 1 ratio)
½ cup bulgur plus 1 cup water = 1 ½ cups cooked

Brown Rice
1 cup rice plus 1 ¼ cup water = 1 ½ cup cooked**

To prepare the grains, simply combine the grain, water and salt, and bring to a boil.  Once it boils, reduce the heat and cover.  The grains are done when the water absorbs, and the grains are tender.  In some cases, the water cooks off too fast.  If the water disappears, but the grain isn’t quite ready, add a couple tablespoons of hot/warm water until the grain is cooked.

For the buckwheat noodles, you cook them in the same way as pasta.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the noodles.  Cook until tender.  Check the package of the noodles you buy and follow the times they recommend as the time may vary depending on the product.  You want the noodle to have some bite and not be too mushy so don’t overcook.

Assemble your lunch bowl

Step 1 — Choose your grain and cook

  • Quinoa
  • Bulgur
  • Wheatberries
  • Brown Rice
  • Buckwheat noodles

Step 2 — Pick your flavor


This bowl is my favorite when I am craving tacos.  I think it works best with quinoa or brown rice.  The dressing is a bit spicy, but I think it adds a nice flavor to the bowl.

Ingredients: black beans, roasted corn, diced avocado, bell pepper slices, red onion slices, diced tomatoes, shredded romaine

Sauce:  Creamy Chipotle Yogurt


Roasted Vegetable Grain Bowl

Combines chickpeas and delicious roasted vegetables served with a tahini garlic dressing.  I like to use a sturdier grain with this bowl and highly recommend trying it with bulgur or wheatberries.

Ingredients:  chickpeas, eggplant, bell pepper, mushrooms, zucchini, onion

Sauce:  Tahini Garlic Vinaigrette


Asian lunch bowls are shown packed up to go in jars.Asian Rice or Noodle Bowl

Sweet and spicy are the flavors in this bowl with an asian spin.  I recommend brown rice or buckwheat noodles for this salad.

Ingredients:  Soy and Garlic Marinated Tofu, shredded carrots, diced green onions, black sesame seeds, shredded cabbage, avocado, tomatoes, cucumber

Sauce:  Carrot Ginger Dressing



This recipe features oregano and garlic roasted vegetables and roasted chickpeas served up with creamy hummus dressing and pairs well with quinoa or bulgur in this recipe.

Ingredients:  spiced chickpeas, spinach, tomatoes, seasoned roasted vegetables, feta cheese, kalamata olives

Sauce:  Creamy Hummus Dressing

Step 3 — Prep Sauce and Other Ingredients

Here you may need to stop and think about what you can really prep ahead of time.  Cooked items most definitely work well to make ahead and transport, and you may even be able to do these as far ahead as a few days before.  But most fresh ingredients really need to be cut the night before and more delicate items like lettuce or other greens, tomatoes and avocados are really best when prepped as close to eating as possible.

One way around is to pack the greens separately and then add them when you are read to eat.  When transporting avocado you can add a bit of lemon or lime juice to keep them from browning but personally I would wait and just cut those right before I left in the morning.

Step 4 — Pack them up and go

NOTE:  This post may include affiliate links which means that if you click through and purchase, I do receive some small financial benefit which helps me to continue to provide you with free content.    

Another key component here especially if you plan to take these lunch bowl creations with you to work is to come up with reliable and sturdy containers.  I like to use something in a rectangle or circle so that I can neatly arrange my salad. Another option is to transport the ingredients in separate containers and then plate them up nicely on a plate.  I will admit that usually when I transported bowls to work, I kept the ingredients separate.  I just liked it better and I had the space and equipment at work to do so.  It simply depends on your preference.

Here are a couple of my favorites to use for transporting my meals!!

Ball Mason Jars Wide Mouth 32 oz Bundle with Non Slip Jar Opener- Set of 4
These quart size jars are the perfect size to use if you want to transport your salad in a jar. Then you can simply drizzle the dressing and shake to coat your ingredients.
Buy online

Set of 5 Glass Meal Prep Containers, 36oz | 4.5cups, Airtight Glass Bento Boxes with Lids, BPA Free & FDA Approved & Leak Proof
These containers work great for transport. The lock lid prevents leaking and spills. Choosing glass over plastic is preferred for health reasons.
Buy online

Presentation and making your food look appealing is a huge part of eating and the better it looks, the more excited you are going to be about eating your meal. AND, you may experience more enjoyment while eating.

I hope you enjoyed this post and that the next time you are thinking about what to plan for work you will return to this page and let your creativity loose.

Did you try out these lunch bowls?  If so, share your pictures on Instagram and be sure to tag  If you have any comments on this content or if there is something particular you would like to see, please comment here on the blog or send me a message via any social media or the contact me page.

Here are some other great meal prep ideas and tips!!

Vegetarian Meal Prep Ideas and Recipes


My secret to healthy meal prep


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