Build a Better Bowl

Build A Better BowlEvery once in a while, I go on a bowl food kick, partly because it’s an easy way to assemble a healthy, tasty meal (and use up leftovers), partly because bowl food is popular, and any pretty image on a blog or Pinterest page tends to send me down the bowl food path again (I recently created a Bowl Food board on my Pinterest page, fyi). I think a recent outing to get bibimbap at my favorite Korean restaurant (photo above) fueled my latest obsession.

My most recent incarnation of the Bowl used leftover lamb, quinoa, chickpeas, lots of fresh kale (massaged with olive oil and then further dressed with lemon juice and salt and pepper), avocado and Greek yogurt. What I love about bowls is that it’s not about a recipe, it’s about a template. I find that templates are much more user-friendly, especially during those times when you’re tired and busy but still want to prepare a healthy meal for yourself. Here are the basics:

  1. Start with a base of non-starchy vegetables (raw, roasted, steamed, sautéed or stir-fried)
  2. Add protein (seafood, tofu, tempeh, chicken, turkey, lean meat)
  3. Toss in some healthy carbs from whole grains, legumes or starchy vegetables (quinoa or brown rice, lentils or beans)
  4. Add a bit of healthy fat (nuts or seeds, avocado, olive oil)
  5. Flavor with a sauce or seasoning (lemon juice, vinegar, sea salt, tamari, chili paste, salsa, fresh herbs)
  6. If you like add an “extra” (sprinkling of cheese or nutritional yeast)

This template allows for infinite variations. Bowls can be vegan or paleo. They can be lower in calories (use a larger proportion of non-starchy veggies) or higher in calories (use more protein or healthy fat). They can be low-carb. They can be all cooked, all raw, or a mix.

You might wonder what the difference is between a bowl and a salad. If your bowl includes mostly (or all) warm foods, the distinction is pretty clear, but otherwise I would say that a bowl tends to be heartier than a salad. Play around with bowls, have fun with them (yes, I’m telling you to play with your food. Here are a few ideas to get you going:

  • Veggies roasted in olive oil + grilled salmon + buckwheat + lemon juice
  • Kale + leftover cubed chicken + cubed butternut squash + walnuts + walnut oil + white wine vinegar
  • Stir-fried veggies + stir-fried tofu + brown rice + sesame seeds + tamari
  • Sautéed peppers and onions + shredded cabbage + pinto beans + quinoa + avocado +
    lime juice + salsa + cilantro