Meal Bowls can be made with a variety of ingredients Photo Source: USDA
Power meal bowls, or complete meals in a bowl are becoming popular. Restaurants from fast food to casual dining establishments are offering meal bowls on the menu in growing numbers. Choose wisely when selecting meal bowls because some may add a significant amount of fat, sodium and calories to the diet. Meal bowls can be done for just about any meal. Breakfast and lunch bowls are very popular and can be made from a wide variety of ingredients. The key to using meal bowls as a breakfast or lunch meal is to select healthy ingredients. Meal bowls are easy to assemble. You can have a healthier bowl that is less expensive if you learn to make your own meal bowl. They are simple to prepare with ingredients that you probably have in the refrigerator or pantry. Bowls are also a great way to use leftover meal components like rice, meat or vegetables. With only a few easy steps, you can have a bowl ready in just minutes for a breakfast or lunch you can enjoy on the go.
The formula for assembling a meal bowl is quite simple and can be easily adapted to meet individual taste. Before assembling the bowl, select a flavor theme. Be imaginative when deciding which flavors to build into your bowl. Tasty bowls can have a Southwestern, Asian, or even Indian flare depending on the ingredients you choose. Select a bowl large enough to hold the ingredients of a meal bowl, but not so large that it packs excessive calories.
The first step is to select a healthy grain base. Leftover brown rice is an obvious choice. But, don't limit the possibilities. There are several healthy options that can make a wonderful ½ cup grain base for a meal bowl. Grains such as quinoa, farro, barley, polenta or wheat berries cooked in meat or vegetable broth all work well in meal bowls. If short on time, try couscous or instant brown rice, they can both be prepared in just a few minutes. Grains are not only a great base ingredient for the meal bowl, they will also increase the nutritive value of the bowl. According to the USDA, grains are important sources of many nutrients, including dietary fiber, several B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate), and minerals (iron, magnesium, and selenium).
Next start building your bowl with a healthy layer or section of vegetables that can add a variety of nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Select vegetables that build on the theme that you selected for your bowl. For example, if you are building a Southwestern Bowl, chopped tomato, avocado, corn, peppers and cilantro would be excellent additions. Leafy greens, such as kale or spinach, work well in meal bowls, but don't go overboard with greens and end up with a salad. Roasted vegetables are packed with flavor and work well in meal bowls. Add ½ - 1 cup of vegetables to the bowl.
Protein is the next addition to the bowl. Find a protein that will match the flavor of the vegetables selected for the bowl. Three ounces of leftover chicken, beef, pork are obvious additions. Other protein options include tofu, boiled egg, beans and/or cheese.
The last addition to the bowl would be a sauce or dressing. A homemade vinaigrette can give the meal bowl a unique flavor. Other choices are bottled dressing, salsa or pesto. It all depends on the other flavors chosen for the bowl. Keep the sauce low in fat, calories and sodium.
Anyone in the family can build a healthy meal bowl. Try this recipe for a healthy Southwestern Breakfast Bowl which reminds us that beans are not just for dinner.
Southwestern Rice Breakfast Bowl
Makes 3 servings
- 1 cup instant brown rice
- 3/4 cup rinsed and drained canned kidney or black beans
- 1/2 cup salsa
- 1/4 cup (1 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 medium avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
- Cook rice according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, in small saucepan, combine beans and salsa. Cook and stir over medium heat until hot. (Or, combine beans and salsa in microwave-safe bowl. Loosely cover and microwave on high about 1 minute or until hot.)
- Spoon rice into 3 serving bowls. Spoon bean mixture, cheese and avocado on top.
- This recipe has 330 calories per 1 cup serving, 14 grams of fat, 440 mg of sodium, 10 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber.
Recipe source: Purdue Extension Nutrition Education Program