Whole Food: The New Convenience Food

I’m fairly certain we can all agree that focusing our menus on the most pure, unrefined, and natural foods possible makes good sense. We all agree—at least in theory–that fresh fruits and vegetables, lean fish and meats, legumes, and grains provide our bodies with the easiest access to the nutrients we need and allow us to avoid the preservatives, trans-fats, and other undesirable elements of convenience foods. Eaten in reasonable portions, these foods help us to naturally maintain a healthy weight because they’re inherently balanced in terms of fat, fiber, sugars, and salt, and they’re filling to boot.

But in a world full of people living busy lives and balancing grocery budgets, this preferable model is very often perceived as near impossible to embrace because: 1) processed foods are often cheaper than their healthy counterparts; 2) our unfamiliarity with exciting whole food options breeds boredom with the status quo and a suspicion of new possibilities; and 3) there exists an assumption that non-convenience foods are neither convenient to make nor delicious to eat.

Wheat Berry Salad with Spinach, Orange and Almond

There exists a whole world of exciting, budget-friendly, and easy possibilities that I hope to highlight in my next few articles, and the recipe below highlights just how dynamic whole foods can be. Eschewed in favor of pasta or white rice, whole grains are very often overlooked as a convenient and neutral base for all sorts of interesting taste experiences. Quinoa, amaranth, millet, wheat berries, and barley are some of my favorites because they are texturally exciting, they’re low-cost, and they’re highly nutritious. When cooked, they can be combined when warm or cold with just about anything you like to create a main meal, a salad, or a side dish.

My wheat berry salad–adapted from Heidi Swanson’s recipe to accommodate the very specific dietary requirements of a catering client—balances the chewy texture of soft wheat berries with a bit of piquant feta cheese, healthy almonds, a very light citrus vinaigrette, and a ton of veggies.

If desired, this recipe can be served hot as a side dish. You can swap out the spinach, orange, and tomatoes for black beans, lime, and peppers for a Mexican flair. The recipe is infinitely adaptable, as are all whole food recipes; because, when the starting point is the purest and most natural permutation of food, your imagination is your only limitation.

Wheat Berry Salad with Spinach, Orange & Almonds

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This wheat berry salad balances the chewy texture of soft wheat berries with a bit of piquant feta cheese, healthy almonds, a very light citrus vinaigrette, and a ton of veggies.

Tip: This is a great dish to make in advance. Just leave the spinach out until you’re ready to serve.

Servings: 10 (107 g )

Prep Time: 15 min.

Cook Time: 1 hour 15 min.


  • 2½ cups wheat berries
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp. orange zest
  • 1½ Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. minced shallot
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • ¼ cup feta cheese
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 1½ cups grape tomatoes, halved


  1. In a large pan, combine the wheat berries, salt, and about 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and briskly simmer for about 1 hour, or until the wheat berries are chewy. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. Whisk together the orange juice, zest, lemon juice, shallot, olive oil, and pepper in a small bowl, and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, toss together the wheat berries, orange juice mix, almonds, feta, spinach, and tomatoes.

Guiding Stars Expert Chef Erin Dow balances three food worlds. As a mother of three young children, she’s fighting the battle every parent faces: how to keep her kids interested in the foods that keep them healthy. As the chef and owner of her catering company Eatswell Farm, she utilizes original recipes and techniques–focused on enhancing the enjoyment of locally-sourced ingredients–to best interpret the client’s vision. And as Consulting Executive Chef for Falmouth-based Professional Catering Services, a business specializing in production and backstage catering for concerts, she develops and executes menus that accommodate the strict nutritional requirements of the music industry elite. Erin and her family raise their own chicken for meat and eggs, have dabbled in pastured Narragansett turkeys, and have a very weedy but very large and productive garden.