Who doesn’t like the idea of a convenient, healthy dish that has all the nutrients you need to be in top form throughout the day?
For many, bowls fit the description. Like salads, they let you throw a lot of different ingredients together, without any fuss. Even better, bowls can be tailored for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
“It’s a new, different way to eat food,” says MD Anderson Employee Wellness Dietitian Lindsey Wohlford. “Bowls are convenient because you can dump everything together and it doesn’t necessarily require a great deal of planning or preparation.”
There is a catch though. As with salads, you can easily turn your bowl into a high calorie, high fat meal if you don’t keep an eye on a few key things when you make it. Wohlford has these six tips to ensure you get the best from your bowl.
How to make a healthy bowl
Choose the right size bowl. Give yourself a head start by picking a bowl that ensures a reasonable overall serving size.
“You don’t need to be using a mixing bowl to fix these up,” says Wohlford. Pick a dinner bowl or large soup bowl around 8 inches in diameter.
Limit your whole grains. Whole grains are essential to a healthy diet. They provide fiber, which helps you feel full longer, and they help your body regulate blood sugar. But too many whole grains can add up to too many calories and that leads to weight gain. Excess weight puts you at increased risk for cancer.
One serving of whole grains is ½ a cup of cooked grains, whole grain pasta, or one slice of whole grain bread. You should aim for a minimum of three servings of whole grains daily.
Go big with vegetables. One area where you do not need to hold back is veggies. Add whatever vegetables you like. This could be leafy greens, red and orange bell peppers or carrots, and squashes of all varieties. In fact, pack in as big a variety as your taste buds can handle.
Fruits also can make up part of this section of your bowl. But be careful with dried fruits like raisins and cranberries. They can contain a lot of sugar.
If you include a lot of bright and deep colored plants, you will ensure you get a lot of valuable phytochemicals and antioxidants. These micronutrients boost your immune system and clear your body of harmful free radicals.
Even healthy additions like nuts and avocados can put you over calorie recommendations if you add too much. One serving of nuts or seeds is ¼ cup or 1 ounce. A serving of avocado is 1/3 of a medium avocado, or 50 grams.
Don’t add processed foods. Processed foods generally are any foods that comes in a box or package. These foods usually contain a lot of salt and sugar. Processed foods also may be cooked using unhealthy methods like frying.
If you find yourself adding chicken nuggets, tortilla chips or yogurt with added sugars to your bowl, think again. Always check the ingredient list and the nutrition label to see what is in processed foods and wherever possible, use a whole food alternative.
Measure your dressing. This classic salad pitfall also applies to bowls. Avoid high calorie, creamy dressings or sauces, and keep to the recommended serving size of 2 tablespoons per person.
Ultimately, it comes down to paying attention when you make your bowl.
“Some meals can develop a health halo,” says Wohlford.
Smoothies are one example of this and bowls are another. Just because you call it a smoothie or a bowl doesn’t make it healthy.
“If you follow these simple tips, you can avoid many of the biggest diet traps out there.”