• Helen Phillips

Barley, Chicken, Spinach & Mushroom Risotto

If you're training for a marathon or half you need to be including plenty of wholegrains in your diet.

Carbs get bad press

When you think of carbohydrates, I bet you think of refined carbs such as white bread, sweets, biscuits and cake.

Eating too many foods containing refined carbs isn't great. It's bad for your weight and can also raise your risk of heart disease, diabetes and other health problems.

But not all carbs are bad ... Some can actually help prevent these health issues.


Eating foods that contain wholegrains provides you with essential nutrition such as vitamins and minerals (B vitamins, calcium and iron), as well as fibre, and they can also help protect from numerous health issues.

Earlier this year coaching my Eat Right for Your Marathon clients I challenged them, and myself, to eat more wholegrains. I started with porridge for breakfast and cooked quinoa and couscous to eat with tangines, curries and stews. I also challenged myself to try out new wholegrains ... and found a whole new world of eating!

I came across a recipe for a mushroom risotto made with barley rather than rice and made it my own by adding chicken and spinach.

If you're looking for something different for 'pre long run carb loading' how about giving it a go.

Barley, Chicken, Spinach & Mushroom Risotto

Start by gently frying off a couple of handfuls of spinach in a drizzle of olive oil. Once the spinach has started to wilt remove to a plate. You don't want the spinach to be mush, so this only takes a minute or so.

Cut 6 boned chicken thighs (or 3 chicken breasts) into bite sized portions, then fry until cooked in a little olive oil. Once the chicken is cooked through remove to a plate.

Now for the risotto magic!

In a large heavy saucepan heat a glug of olive oil and gently saute 1 finely diced small onion and 2 cloves of garlic crushed for a few minutes until the onion is soft. Then add 300g pearl barley, 250g chopped chestnut mushrooms, a few sprigs of thyme and 600ml chicken stock. Give everything a good stir then cook over a low heat for about 30 - 40 minutes until the barley is tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the chicken, spinach and 2 tbs of grated parmesan.

Serve with a few shavings of parmesan and a glass of white wine!

If you're looking to challenge yourself to change-up your diet for training check out 5 Days to Feed Yourself Fit.

5 Days and 5 Ways to tune up your diet for training!

You got this!

Helen, The Cheesecake Runner

#Chicken #Barley #Mushroom #Spinach