We’ve written in the past about the snowballing pace at which grain bowls are popping up at SweetGreen and other fresh-and-healthy concepts. Of course you’d expect hearty bowls of quinoa or farro or brown rice at restaurants that have been serving healthy food since Day 1. Now, though, hearty grain bowls are going solidly mainstream, with new product introductions at places like Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s.

Chick-fil-A’s new creation is its Harvest Kale & Grain Bowl, featuring a whole grain blend of red quinoa, white quinoa, and farro, along with roasted butternut squash and apples, on a bed of chopped kale. Nuts, feta cheese and dried cherries top it off, along with the option of grilled chicken.

Chik-fil-A Harvest Kale and Grain Bowl
Chick-fil-A Harvest Kale & Grain Bowl (photo courtesy of Chick-fil-A)


If you’re looking for breakfast instead, you can get an Egg White Grill Grain Bowl to start your morning, with the same grain blend (red and white quinoa, and farro) topped with scrambled egg whites chicken and cheese. I wanted to run right out and try one of these bowls, but there’s a catch: only restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, Tampa, FL and Huntsville, AL are offering these bowls; for now, they’re part of a test. Rumor is the company will roll the grain bowls out nationally to its 2000+ locations in 2018 if the test is successful. If you live in one of the test areas, give one of these new dishes a try, and tell us what you think in the Comments of this blog.

While Chick-fil-A is dipping its toe in grainy waters in a few locations, Wendy’s has been splashing around in the deep end of the pool for four months. Last May, their Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad aced its testing period, and became a permanent feature on menus at Wendy’s 6500+ locations across the USA. It combines greens, veggies and chicken with quinoa, chickpeas and white beans, all drizzled with creamy hummus and a balsamic vinaigrette. Not feeling like a salad? As of last week, their “newly redesigned” grilled chicken sandwich now comes on a toasted multi-grain bun made with red quinoa, bulgur wheat, oats (and flaxseed).

Wendy's Power Mediterranean Salad
Wendy’s Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad with Quinoa (photo courtesy Wendy’s)


About now you’re probably saying, “Hey, what’s with the Whole Grains Council? Did they get paid to feature these dishes on their blog?” Nope. We’re spotlighting them here because we believe that the best way to change our food system for the better is to make sure that companies do well when they try to go in a healthier direction. If a salad (or a grain bowl) falls in the forest and nobody hears it, it drops off the menu in no time. There are always three steps:

  1. Companies create healthier options that – in the best of all possible worlds – are also really tasty.
  2. People like us who care about food try those options, and if they really are good, we tell our friends.
  3. Companies look at the bottom line and say, “Gee, we’re making more money on our Real Food than on that other stuff” and they make more good stuff.

When it works, we can all be part of a virtuous cycle, spiralling up and improving the choices available away from home. Here are some other options we’ve spotted lately, that you might want to look into:

Applebee’s Pepper-Crusted Sirloin on a bed of Whole Grains

California Pizza Kitchen’s Quinoa with Arugula Salad, and Halibut with Farro

Subway’s newest multigrain flatbread (which qualifies for the Whole Grain Stamp) made with whole wheat, oats, barley, triticale, rye, amaranth

Applebee steak, CPK Halibut, Subway flatbread
L to R: Applebee’s Sirloin on a bed of Whole Grains; Subway’s Multigrain Flatbread; CPK’s Halibut with Farro (all photos courtesy of these restaurants)

We’re also psyched to learn that Pico House, a food truck, is roaming the streets of Los Angeles selling whole grain bowls. These grain bowls sound to die for. They start with a blend of whole grains including farro, barley, spelt, wheatberries and rye, then add toppings like house-cured beef bacon, harissa-braised lamb, and pickled and shaved veggies. It’s also a very cool concept, but only available in one truck – where the Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s dishes can reach people across the country. It’s all good, and it all contributes to the momentum of whole grains.

Pico House Grain Bowls
Whole Grain Bowls from Pico House Food Truck (photo courtesy of Pico House)

We’re on a mission to multiply the number of whole grain options available away from home – especially those that go “beyond the bun.” (Yeah, we love whole grain buns, but they’re kind of a gateway grain – the real excitement is seeing intact whole grains showing up in quick serve restaurants!) If you’d like to join us on this mission, here are two good ways:

  • Attend our conference – less than two weeks away now – called Whole Grains Away From Home. The conference will be held September 25-27 in Chicago. You can check out the full program here, and register here, if you’d like to get the absolute latest details on restaurants across the country that are serving whole grains – and how they’re succeeding with these tasty (and, oh yeah, healthier) choices.
  • Enter our #SpotWholeGrains Instagram contest. Just post a photo of a whole grain dish you found anywhere away from home – in a restaurant, your school cafeteria, or even in a food truck –and you may be one of four winners of a $100 restaurant gift card.





Yeah, Wendy's has a multigrain bun, but by all accounts do far, it is not a whole grain...
Hi Greg, While we haven't been privy to the exact formulation of the bun, the fact that fast food restaurants are making even half-hearted attempts to move in this direction is huge sign of progress. What's more exciting is that many restaurants like Wendy's are going beyond the bun, and offering intact whole grains like quinoa.

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