10 Surprising “Grain, Green, and Bean” Recipes You Can Make Tonight

Soup with different vegetables,beans, tuscan soup, ribollita.

Fifty words. That’s how many Dr. Seuss used to write Green Eggs and Ham, which went on to sell 8 million copies (and counting). Hard to imagine a better sale-to-word ratio than that.

The interesting part of the story, though, is that he wrote it on a challenge. A challenge to write a book using only that many words.

A great irony of creativity is that when you add constraints, you suddenly feel freed. It’s a lot easier to respond to a writing prompt than to stare at a blank page.

But what does this have to do with food?

Only that when you’re staring at a shelf full of cookbooks (not to mention an internet full of millions of free recipes), it’s hard to figure out which one meal to make tonight.

And so, like ol’ Theodore Geisel, you add a constraint. My favorite, for its health, simplicity, and tidiness, is a grain, a green, and a bean.

A Grain, A Green, and a Bean

A grain, a green, a bean (the phrase, more than the idea) is one of my greatest contributions to this world. My sincere hope is that this is noted on my tombstone when I die.

I’m not sure if there’s any controversy surrounding my claim to having invented it. Trader Joe’s made a frozen meal called Greens, Beans, and Grains, but to my knowledge this came later (and doesn’t freaking rhyme!).

Nowadays the term is everywhere on the internet, the genius inventor’s name long forgotten. But several blogs properly credit No Meat Athlete with it. Boom.

(Note: if you have examples of the phrase being used prior to 2011, please keep them to yourself. I need this.)

Ownership squabbles aside, there are plenty of reasons to love a grain, a green, and a bean:

  • It’s healthy and substantial. Chances are, it’s the healthiest thing you can make tonight that isn’t a salad. And with the calories and heartiness we’re looking for as athletes.
  • It reminds you to eat greens. In my opinion, greens are the single healthiest type of food you can eat. But it’s so easy to not get them, and I’m as guilty of that as the next guy or gal. The beauty of “a grain, a green, a bean” is that when you’re thinking in this framework, you’ve got that extra nudge to figure out a way to work something green into the meal. (And if you can’t, you add a salad.)
  • The protein thing. I don’t really think about macronutrients these days, and don’t believe you need to if you eat a plant-based diet based on whole foods. But for those who do: beans and grains do pack a good amount of protein, and together tend to create a broad amino acid profile. The “complete protein” idea is likely a fallacy — there’s no need to get all the essential amino acids in the same meal — but you do need to get them all in your diet. So when a single meal does provide a lot of them, all the better.
  • It’s a vehicle for other healthy foods. Just like with a smoothie and with salads (my typical breakfast and lunch before a GGB dinner), GGB allows you to add a lot of other foods you might try to get each day. For example, you can (and should) start just about every GGB meal with a saute of onions and garlic, two foods worth eating daily. And of course, you’ll want to add lots of spices.

And of course, there’s also the aforementioned simplicity and the power of constraint. It’s just enough to focus your thinking, to imagine how the foods in your pantry and fridge might work together, without being so limiting as to dictate exactly what you’re cooking, like any single recipe does.

But… there’s a problem.

Most instances of a grain, a green, and a bean — you know, the ones with the #whatveganseat hashtag — are better described as “big bowls of sadness” (another great term, this one borrowed from No Meat Athlete Cookbook co-author Stepfanie Romine).

So that’s my goal with this post. To demonstrate just how exciting — and surprising — a grain, a green, and a bean, can be.

With that, I present to you: the many forms of GGB — one of which, on just about any given night, represents dinner in my house.

1. Stiy fry

The grain: Brown rice, usually, or rice noodles. Could be something like quinoa if you’re not that into arsenic.
The green: Bok choy or broccoli.
The bean: Tofu, tempeh, black beans, or adzuki beans.

Example: Vegetable Teriyaki Stir-Fry from Dreena Burton.

2. Tacos

The grain: Corn or whole-wheat tortillas.
The green: Lettuce. Or better, cabbage. (I count red cabbage as a green, too.)
The bean: Crumbled tempeh or black beans.

Example: Spiced Tempeh Soft Tacos from Engine 2.

3. Soup or stew

The grain: Whole-wheat pasta, bulgur wheat, or rice.
The green: Kale or spinach.
The bean: Any. Chickpeas, white beans, kidney beans, split peas…

Example: Hearty Chickpea Pasta Soup from No Meat Athlete.

4. Curry

The grain: Brown rice. Sometimes white rice with curry is just really, really good though.
The green: Usually spinach (kale is a little too toothsome for most curries, I think).
The bean: Lentils, split peas, chickpeas, black-eyed peas.

Example: Red Lentil Curry (stir in baby spinach during the last few minutes of cooking) from Anjum Anand.

5. Beans & rice

The grain: Hmm. Maybe rice?
The green: Spinach, kale, or cabbage.
The bean: Black or pinto.

Example: Hawaiian Beans & Rice from my sister, Christine!

6. Pasta

The grain: Whole-wheat pasta, usually.
The green: Arugula works well. Or basil, in a pesto. And sometimes I just dump a pile of steamed kale on top of pasta with red sauce.
The bean: Fava beans or cannellini beans. Or if you want to get really tricky, you can use lentil pasta (Trader Joe’s makes a great one).

Example: Fire-Roasted Tomato Pasta with Chickpeas and Arugula.

7. Buddha bowl

The grain: Any.
The green: Any.
The bean: Any.

(I don’t actually know what defines a Buddha Bowl. Maybe it’s just a less clever way of saying “a grain, a green, and a bean”?)

Example: Build your own Buddha Bowl from Cookie and Kate.

8. Hummus & dippers

The grain: Whole-wheat crackers (I like Engine 2 brand).
The green: Broccoli or cabbage.
The bean: Chickpeas, usually.

Example: Really? You just dip the things in the hummus. Roots (from Asheville!) makes a great oil-free hummus you can get in most Whole Foods stores. Or you can make your own, of course. The buffalo hummus that my sister created for the first No Meat Athlete book is still one of my favorites.

9. A smoothie (!?)

The grain: Oats.
The green: Baby spinach or baby kale. (The baby varieties seem to impart the least flavor.)
The bean: Silken tofu or even white beans. Ask the vegan bodybuilders.

Example: Green Goddess Smoothie from Pickled Plum. (note: I don’t actually put tofu or beans in my smoothies. Just showing that it can be done.)

10. The classic

The grain: Up to you.
The green: Any!
The bean: Whatever you’ve got.

Example: Millet in the Pot with Adzuki Beans and Collards from Terry Walters.

The classic is the one that runs the biggest risk of becoming “the big bowl of sadness”. A good GGB dish requires a good sauce, so use the Sauce System to make one.

Your turn!

I hope this list helps you. More than that, I hope it demonstrates just how varied a grain, a green, and a bean can be.

But this is just my list. Surely I’ve forgotten a few typical meals that, upon examination, fit the GGB mold. What are your favorites?



The No Meat Athlete Guide to Buying Your Perfect Running Shoe (and the Only Question that Really Matters)

Young woman tying laces of running shoes before training

There’s nothing like a new pair of running kicks.

They look crisp, smell fresh, and — if you’re anything like me — instantly add a little extra pep to your stride.

I’ll even go as far as to say that it’s a sure bet that my first run in a new pair of shoes will be a good one.

But after that freshness wears off, after the smell turns sour and you’re left with just the miles on your training plan, what makes one running shoe better than any other?

Walk through a specialty running store and you’ll see dozens of brands and models to choose from, each with a different set of features that look and sound like the next best thing…

…New performance foams, shoe shapes, spring boards, and random other made-up-word materials, all promising to help you run faster or prevent your next injury.

So how do you decide?

As a long-time ultrarunner and regular shoe reviewer for sites like Competitor, I find myself trying out a new pair of shoes almost every month, and I’ve come to realize fancy marketing words have very little to do with a shoe’s performance.

While it might feel overwhelming in the store, finding the right shoe for you is not as complicated as you might think.

Below I share my tips for how to choose the perfect shoe to carry any plant-based athlete through their training and across the finish line.

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Ocean Robbins on Superfoods, Sustainability, and the 31-Day Food Revolution


I owe a lot of my health — and now my parents’ — to Ocean and John Robbins.

Ten years ago, I decided to try a plant-based diet. I was inspired, believe it or not, by a Tony Robbins seminar, and it turns out that Tony’s nutrition philosophy was heavily influenced in the mid-1980’s by John Robbins’ Diet for a New America.

Nowadays, John and his son, Ocean, put on the Food Revolution Summit every year, in which they interview 20 to 30 of the top minds in the health and nutrition world. They’re incredible at distilling broad, sometimes complicated topics into succinct, motivating advice, which is what makes the summit so appealing every year.

That’s what caught the attention of my dad in 2016, when a Food Revolution Summit talk convinced him to start eating a plant-based, nutritarian diet.

And finally, my mom started eating this way too: her motivation in the moment was a heart scare, but the foundation had been laid by several years of listening to the summit interviews.

Now, Ocean has taken the wealth of nutrition knowledge he’s amassed over his life, and compiled it into a “health manual” of sorts — The 31-Day Food Revolution: Heal Your Body, Feel Great, and Transform Your World — in stores today.

I had the privilege of reviewing an advance copy of the book, and I can tell you it’s every bit as insightful and actionable as the summit is each year.

It’s my pleasure today to feature Ocean Robbins as our guest on the latest episode of No Meat Athlete Radio. In the interview, Doug and I pick Ocean’s brain with questions both broad — like how he filters the overwhelming amount of nutrition information out there — and specific, like the foods he makes sure to eat every day.

Check out The 31-Day Food Revolution, and then listen to the episode here:


If you like what we do at NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

Episode Sponsor

This episode of No Meat Athlete Radio is brought to you by Hemp Daddy’s and their full spectrum CBD products, created by a runner for runners.

Learn more at hempdaddys.com and use code nomeat at checkout to save 10% off and free shipping on your first order.


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High Carb Hannah on a Starch Based Diet and How She Lost 70 Pounds


Matt first met Hannah and Derek, who you likely know from Hannah’s YouTube channel High Carb Hannah, at the roulette table on the vegan cruise, and they immediately hit it off.

(Having spent many hours with Matt at a roulette table before, I can say that them getting past his unique betting strategy to the point where you actually want to talk to the guy is a miracle. 😉 )

The three of them hit it off mostly, it seems, because Hannah and Derek like to have fun… An approach to life that has not only helped grow her YouTube channel to more than 650,000 subscribers, but has shaped the way they think of food and diets.

In today’s episode, Matt sits down with both of them to discuss weight loss, the vegan YouTube scene, and why Hannah replaced her fruitarian approach to weight loss with a starch-based diet.

Click the button below to listen now:


If you like what we do at NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

Episode Sponsor

This episode of No Meat Athlete Radio is brought to you by Hemp Daddy’s and their full spectrum CBD products, created by a runner for runners.

Learn more at hempdaddys.com and use code nomeat at checkout to save 10% off and free shipping on your first order.


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The Ending Doesn’t Matter


Closeup hand of boxer with red bandages

Corny as it sounds, I’m still a sucker for the movie Rudy.

But my favorite scene isn’t the ending, where he fulfills his lifelong dream by not just getting into a game, but making a sack (though I admit I love this part and cry every single time).

Instead, it’s this one:

No drama, no triumph. Just a guy getting bludgeoned on the practice field, over and over and over.

If we didn’t know he was ultimately going to make it, we’d pity him — the way the coaches, the other players (the ones who belong there), and even his peers do.

Because despite the fact that he’s made some progress — getting himself onto the practice squad as an undersized kid with bad grades, for whom just getting into college was a major hurdle — everybody knows he’s not actually going to get to play for Notre Dame.

It’s sad to see someone so full of delusion, accepting so much pain, seemingly for no reason.

Of course, in this case, we all know it leads to that happy ending. All the pain, failure, and disappointment is ultimately worth it, because in the end, Rudy wins.

What I realize now, though, is that the ending doesn’t matter.

It’s been ten years since I qualified for the Boston Marathon, and gave a happy ending to my own, seven-year-long version of the Rudy story, in which I shaved 104 minutes off my time to get in. And it’s now been five years since last time I trained seriously for anything, since I’ve considered myself a runner.

Now that I’m back, something has changed.

What’s different now is I realize I don’t need the happy ending scene anymore. It doesn’t matter.

In doesn’t matter that Rudy ultimately gets his goal. Instead, it’s when he’s getting beaten up on the practice field where he has won. This is the entire point.

They say the reason we set goals is for who we become in pursuit of them. A tired cliché, maybe. But now I know it’s true.

When I finally did qualify for Boston, I was on a cloud.

Elated. For a week.

Then for about month, I felt good every time I thought about it.

And then… nothing. The fire of seven years was extinguished.

I didn’t even train for Boston itself. Just did the bare minimum I could to make sure I’d get across the finish line.

A few years later, I wasn’t even a runner anymore.

My point is that I was better before I had achieved the goal — when I was failing, miserably and embarrassingly, because I had told everyone I knew that this would be the time I qualified, and they just had to come watch me.

Failing, completely oblivious to the tragedy it must have been to watch me… but aware that I had failed just a little better than last time.

That was the best I ever was as a runner. When I was failing, but feeding off any bit of progress I could find, I would lie in bed at night, barely able to wait until the next morning when I could go out and do it again.

That’s the best part of the story, not the ending. And what I learned about myself there is the part that matters.

The success itself? Overrated, and probably unnecessary.

I’ve said before that if I had been smarter about the whole process, I could have done it in three years, instead of taking seven.

But now I realize the failure was what it was all about. If I could go back and do it all much smarter — with half the failure and suffering — I wouldn’t.

Getting knocked down and then standing back up — over and over and over — that’s the good part.

Fast forward 10 years…

I got into Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) four months ago, and it’s the first time I’ve felt really excited about fitness since those Boston years.

And I’m really quite bad at it.

Largely, it’s because my hips are tight. I’m the least flexible person in class. Fifteen years of training for marathons and ultras taught my body that hips and legs are for moving forwards and backwards — not for twisting to correctly throw a punch (with your core, not your arms), and especially not for pivoting on one leg and turning over your pelvis to deliver a body kick with the other.

In my first month of training, I brought home new bruises every day. Feet, shins, chest, you name it. I even bruised — or maybe cracked — a rib in my second class, when the force of someone’s kick to the pads I was holding (incorrectly, I now know) drove my fist into my body. I immediately knew something was wrong. It was a month before I could sleep on that side again, and two before it wasn’t agony to sneeze.

Every time I think I’m starting to get somewhere, the instructor corrects my form, points out a fundamental problem that prevents me from generating enough power. Or, more humbling still, hits me in the head after I throw a punch and don’t bring my hands immediately back to protect my face again.

And so this is hard. Harder than running ever was, even when I was new.

So how, I wonder, did I get addicted to it? Why, for those first few months, did I go every single day that my rib injury (and others) allowed me to?

I think it’s because of the failure thing.

When I’m the least experienced, least flexible person on the mat, all I really have to fall back on is what running marathons and ultras taught me to be good at: how not to quit, even — no, especially — when it sucks.

So if I can’t punch as hard, kick as high, or defend myself as well as everyone else, at least I can be the guy who never, ever stops. Who gets up every time. Who doesn’t ever quit.

I can be the guy the younger, better fighters pity for all the pain he takes. I want to be that guy.

What I’ve learned about myself is that if I can find progress — even just a little, even when it’s invisible to anyone but me — then I’m happy. That’s why I’m having so much fun.

I have no goal with Muay Thai. The people in my class fight on weekends, but I don’t know if I’ll ever want to do that.

At first this concerned me, made me wonder why I was putting so much energy into this new hobby. If there’s no goal, what’s the point?

Now I get it.

Get knocked down, stand back up. Among all the failure and suffering, find the shred of progress, and keep going. That’s the point.

The ending doesn’t matter.



I’m Upgrading My Daily Diet, Here’s How

Food for Thrive diet

At the beginning of this year, I set the goal to get into the best shape of my life in 2019.

This meant a return to running. Building strength, muscle, and quickness through Muay Thai. And probably lifting some weights, too.

One thing it didn’t mean, I thought, was a change to my diet.

I was already eating 100% plant-based, and mostly whole foods, when I told Doug in a recent episode of No Meat Athlete Radio that I was grateful not to have to worry about my diet in order to achieve this goal.

Well, I was wrong.

Since then, in thinking next-level about what it’ll take for me to achieve my fitness goals and others this year (I set nine of them!), I’ve realized how important anything that affects my energy levels — and indeed, anything I do every single day — is.

Hence more closely examining my supplementation routine, my daily schedule, and of course, my diet.

Upgrading My Daily Meal Plan

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The 7 Supplements I Take, 2019 Edition

Healthy supplements on wooden spoon

Yep, seven. Kind of a lot for a “whole foods” guy, right?

Don’t worry, I’ll explain.

If you’re even a casual NMA reader, you know it’s been a loooong time since I wrote two blog posts in a week. We’re talking years, I think.

Well, I’m here to boldly declare that I’m back. My goal for the year, No Meat Athlete’s 10th anniversary year, is to write a blog post per week, on average. Not because I should, but because I really want to — the time away has renewed my enthusiasm. And after going for so long without writing regularly, I’ve got a lot I’m excited to share.

But writing more is just one of my goals. This year, I gave myself permission to set a bunch of them — not just one or two, like I usually tell people is best — and to make them BIG.

Upgrading the OS

It didn’t take long, though, for me to realize that in order to do more, my “operating system” needs to be better — which means upgrading my daily habits, and to pay particular attention to nutrition, since that affects just about everything else.

For several years now I’ve been careful to cover the bases: vitamin B12, vitamin D, and DHA/EPA, just to safeguard myself against common deficiencies of a vegan diet (and many other diets, too, by the way). But now I’m paying more attention to things like sleep, recovery from workouts, nagging injuries, and even long-term prevention — and because of that, I find myself both more diligent and more experimental with supplements.

Don’t worry, this isn’t the post where Matt turns into a biohacker. In general, my philosophy is still “whole foods first,” and probably always will be. (Not the store — in that case, it’s actually “Whole Foods second,” after we’ve gotten everything we can at a cheaper place!)

In fact, you’ll see that several of what I call “supplements” actually are whole foods; it’s just that I take them like a robot would take fuel. If robots ran on fuel.

So here goes. I’ve listed the daily dose I take next to each.

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Run a Race this Year: Developing Your Ideal Training Plan

colorful silhouettes of people running in the city

It’s a new year, which means new running and racing goals. But for many of us, the cold winter, post-holiday lack of activity makes running a big race feel nearly impossible.

So in today’s episode, we look at the entire year, not just the next few months.

Here’s a breakdown of how to develop the perfect training schedule for your goals, whether they’re 3, 6, or 12 months away.

Click the button below to listen now:


If you like what we do at NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

Episode Sponsor

This episode of No Meat Athlete Radio is brought to you by Hemp Daddy’s and their full spectrum CBD products, created by a runner for runners.

Learn more at hempdaddys.com and use code nomeat at checkout to save 10% off and free shipping on your first order.


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