I was not always this way - I grew up with the standard protein + starch + vegetable meal plate. I found myself turning to the bowl as I began to eat more and more plant rich meals, that don't always fit into the typical "meal plate" formula. Bowls are such a staple in my diet now that I forget that this was not always how I built meals, which is why I want to share my EPIC BOWL FORMULA with you all today. Drumroll PLEASE...
What makes an EPIC BOWL?
GREENS + PROTEIN + GOOD FAT + SPECIAL SAUCE + EXTRA GOODIES = EPIC BOWL
- GREENS - Duh! I try to incorporate greens into as many meals as possible, and bowls are no exception. If its hot out and I want something light, I'll go with raw greens; If I'm looking for something a little heartier, more warming, I'll do a quick sauté of some greens to mix into my bowl. I use at least 2-3 cups of greens per bowl.
- PROTEIN - Protein helps you build muscle and stay full longer, so it's a crucial component of a good bowl. Contrary to public opinion, you don't need excessive protein, so a small portion is sufficient. My top protein sources are quinoa, various beans, and lentils (although I also love nuts and seeds, see GOOD FAT bullet below). I aim for about 1/2 cup of a protein source per bowl.
- GOOD FAT - Yup, fat can be good for you! It helps you feel satisfied while also fueling your cells with essential nutrients so that they can perform at optimal levels. Some sources of good-for-you fat are avocado, high quality olive oil, nuts, and seeds. A little goes a long way - I try to stick with about 1/4 cup (or 2 tbsp) of healthy fats per bowl (which may be included in the SPECIAL SAUCE, see bullet below).
- SPECIAL SAUCE - I've found that topping a bowl with a special sauce can really take it to the next level and pull all the ingredients together. This doesn't have to be anything fancy! Some easy options: maple syrup + olive oil + lemon juice, hummus thinned out with a little water, pesto, or some good balsamic. Start simple, then you can begin to experiment with different recipes and ingredients.
- EXTRA GOODIES - This is what makes each bowl unique and fun! Add other vegetables, fruits, herbs, etc to give your bowl a complex flavor and diverse nutritional profile. Here are some ideas:
- Roasted or grilled veggies
- Shredded raw vegetables (root veggies and cabbage are especially nice when shredded)
- Thinly sliced red onions
- Fresh herbs (cilantro and basil are my favorites, but also dill, parsley, mint, the list goes on!)
- Raw fruits (apple, pear, or orange slices, berries, mango, pineapple)
- Dried fruit (tart cherries, cranberries, goji berries)
- Cooked grains or roasted root vegetables like sweet potatoes (for a heartier bowl)
- Fermented or pickled vegetables
- Whatever is in your kitchen cabinet (tortilla or pita chip crumbs? awesome! leftover dip from last nights party? great! little bit of extra soup you don't know what to do with? YES! Really, whatever!)
As you can see, the possibilities are endless! Which I know can be a little intimidating if you are new to the bowl train, so here are some of my favorite combinations for inspiration:
- Fiesta Bowl - Brown rice, black beans, frozen corn, sautéed spinach, avocado + salsa (add crumbled tortilla chips for extra crunch!)
- Spring Greens Bowl - Arugula/spinach, grilled asparagus (or any other spring veggie), frozen peas, sprouts, hemp seeds + drizzle of olive oil & lemon juice
- Hummus Lover's Bowl - Baby kale, chickpeas, sliced cucumbers, olives, roasted red peppers + hummus & lemon for dressing (add crumbled pita chips for extra crunch!)
- Hippie Bowl - Baby lettuce, quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, raw radish slices, sprouts, sauerkraut, avocado + squeeze of lime or lemon
Ready to build your bowl? I'd love to hear what you make in the comments below. Or even better, show me! Snap a picture and upload it to Instagram - tag @emilynachazel and #wellnesswithemily . Can't wait to see your creations!