When you’re looking to get lean, exercise is only half the equation. You can do all the crunches in the world, but the foods you eat are every bit as important. As part of our Cook to Get Cut series, we’ll show you now to use some of the healthiest eats to sculpt your physique without sacrificing flavor. Getting fit never tasted so good.
Skipping carbs is a typical strategy folks use when trying to drop a few pounds. Eliminating this food group can actually backfire since it means cutting out whole grains, which provide loads of fiber to promote a feeling of fullness. Though it’s not technically rice or even a grain, wild rice is one of the smartest carbs to include in a healthy diet because it’s filled with B vitamins, essential minerals, and 7 grams of protein per cooked cup. Introduce the grain-like seed to your diet with these five fantastic recipes.
1. Crockpot Wild Rice Breakfast Porridge
Getting stuck in an eating rut is surprisingly easy, especially at breakfast. Most of us are too tired to think of something creative to cook first thing in the morning, so we find ourselves eating the same bowl of oatmeal. This wild rice porridge from PBS’s Fresh Tastes Blog is an easy way to shake up your usual. Because it cooks in a crockpot, you can make it with ease during the weekend, then reheat it in the microwave for quick breakfasts all week.
Like oatmeal, wild rice could help out your heart. A 2009 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found rats fed a diet including wild rice experienced a decline in total and HDL cholesterol levels. This was true even when the animals consumed a diet high in fat and cholesterol.
- 1½ cups wild rice
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup milk, plus more
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup dried cherries or cranberries
- ½ cup chopped toasted pecans, plus more
- Maple syrup
Directions: Combine rice, water, milk, salt, and cherries in the insert of a slow cooker. Turn heat to low and let cook for approximately 3 hours, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Stir in nuts and serve porridge topped with syrup, cinnamon, and additional nuts and milk.
2. Wild Rice Stuffed Squash
Whether you’re entertaining a vegetarian friend or just want to try out some meatless meals, this recipe for squash filled with wild rice from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food is sure to please. Tossing some dried cherries into the grains adds a bit of sweetness while some pecans give the filling a satisfying crunch. Though most people avoid the squash peel, it’s actually completely edible and boosts the fiber content even more.
If the protein and fiber levels in wild rice aren’t enough to encourage you to dig in, the ferulic acid content might change your mind. This antioxidant is a potent disease-fighter. According to a 2007 review published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, ferulic acid can help ward off cancer, cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
- 2 acorn squashes, halved lengthwise and seeded
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon dried rubbed sage
- Salt and pepper
- 1 (6-ounce) box wild-rice blend, seasoning packet discarded
- ½ cup dried cherries
- ½ cup pecans, chopped
Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange squash, cut-side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and roast until squash is tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add shallot, garlic, and sage. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in rice and 1¾ cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer, without stirring, until rice is tender, about 25 minutes.
Remove rice from heat and stir in cherries and pecans. Season with salt and pepper. Season inside of each squash half with salt and pepper. Divide rice filling evenly among squash halves. Serve.
3. Stir-Fried Wild Rice
Your favorite takeout fried rice might taste good, but it can leave you feeling pretty gross afterwards. Give the meal a nutritious makeover Williams-Sonoma’s wild rice and veggie dish. It’s perfect for a side to a simple supper, and you can also turn it into an all-in-one meal by tossing in some chicken or pork. No worries if you don’t have all the vegetables on the ingredient list because you can substitute whatever you have on hand.
Switching from white rice to a whole grain for this dish might be even smarter than your realize. The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published a study in 2009 that took a closer look at the difference between wild rice and the basic, white version. The research revealed the antioxidant activity in wild rice was 30 times greater than regular white rice.
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup wild rice
- ¼ cup sesame oil
- ½ cup chopped bok choy
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
- ¼ cup julienned red bell pepper
- ¼ cup diced poblano chile
- ¼ cup bean sprouts
- ¼ cup chopped scallions
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Directions: In a saucepan set over medium-low heat, combine chicken stock and wild rice. Cover and cook until tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for at least 10 minutes.
Heat sesame oil in a wok or large skillet set over high heat. Add bok choy and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 15 seconds longer. Stir in the bell pepper, poblano, bean sprouts, scallions, and wild rice. Add hoisin sauce, cilantro, and lime juice. Stir to combine and serve at once.
4. Slow Cooker Chicken Wild Rice Soup
Crockpot meals take the stress out of midweek cooking and often yield delicious results. This creamy chicken and wild rice soup from Pinch of Yum is no exception. Just toss the wild rice, chicken, some veggies, broth, and poultry seasoning in the slow cooker, and then let it simmer all day. When you’re ready to eat, shred the chicken, make a quick béchamel, and stir both into the soup mixture.
If you’re sick of forcing yourself to eat fish in order to get omega-3 fatty acids, you’ll definitely want to add this soup to your recipe rotation. Wild rice is a surprisingly good source of the nutrient. Omega-3s help support healthy brain and heart function, so dig in.
- 1 cup wild rice
- 1 pound chicken breasts
- 2 cups chopped celery, carrots, and onions
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk, plus more
- A few tablespoons white wine
- Salt and pepper
Directions: Rinse wild rice and add to the slow cooker along with chicken, veggies, broth, and poultry seasoning. Cover and cook on low setting for 7 to 8 hours. Soup is ready when rice is tender and chicken is fully cooked.
Remove chicken breasts from slow cooker and set aside until cool enough to handle. Using your hands or two forks, shred chicken into bite-size pieces. Stir chicken back into soup.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add milk in a steady stream, whisking constantly, until combined. Add wine and continue to cook until mixture thickens.
Stir white sauce into soup. Thin with additional water or milk, as needed. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
5. Grilled Dijon and Wild Rice Turkey Burgers
By replacing some of the meat in your favorite dishes with cooked grains, you can up the nutritional value without losing any flavor. Try it out with Betty Crocker’s turkey burgers flecked with wild rice. The added texture and hint of nutty flavor might make you wonder why you haven’t tried it sooner.
Many health-conscious folks have used this burger strategy with brown rice, but the wild stuff is probably best for those looking to slim down since it’s both higher in protein and lower in calories. Wild rice contains 166 calories per cooked cup compared to brown rice’s 216 calories.
Dilled dijon sauce
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill or ¼ teaspoon dried dill
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Burgers and assembly
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 4 medium green onions, chopped
- 1 cup cooked wild rice
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 6 french rolls, split
Directions: Heat a gas or charcoal grill for direct heat. Alternatively, preheat a grill pan. Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
In a large bowl, mix turkey, green onions, wild rice, dill, and mustard. Shape mixture into 6 oval patties, about ¾-inch thick.
Grill patties over medium heat for 12 to 15 minutes, turning once, until fully cooked. Add rolls to grates and toast during last 4 minutes of cooking burgers. Serve burgers on rolls and top with sauce.