A quick tour of the food court or the local cafés will alert you to the rise of ‘bowl foods’. Buddha Bowls, Acai Bowls, Poké Bowls, Smoothie Bowls and more. So, what are they and are they healthy? Let’s take a look.
Truthfully? Who knows? It’s just become trendy. Some items need to be in a bowl because they’re more like a hearty semi-liquid soup but others? Well it’s currently cool to serve food in a bowl instead of on a plate. Also, I guess it means that if you’re going to serve it all stacked up in a bowl you can do the same in a take-away container and it sort-of looks the same.
There are many different foods available in bowls and, of course, the celebrity chefs are all over it. Jamie Oliver for instance has “15 delicious and healthy one bowl recipes” pretty much all of which seem to fall into one of five categories – soups, salads, Asian noodle dishes, Asian rice dishes and cereal based dishes.
Here are a few you can try for yourself which are healthy and make for a good office lunch.
So, what is it and how did it get its name? This is harder to ascertain than you might think and theories abound. The Buddha, himself, ate little and didn’t focus much on food at all. However, he did eat from a bowl and, like the Buddhist monks in traditional societies, ate what was placed in that bowl by villagers and followers out of charity. Today there is a ‘mindfulness’ and ‘Zen trend’ and this has spilled over into food and nutrition. For ideal digestion and weight loss success, we are advised to eat mindfully; to pay attention to what we eat; what it tastes likes; and to chew it well and listen to our body’s signal about when it’s had enough. All of which makes good sense to me.
Contents vary. Originally these bowls were Vegan and so contained no animal products. Think any of the following: cooked grains – rice, quinoa, farro etc., tofu, lentils, chickpeas, noodles and, vegetables – grilled, steamed or raw plus some sort of dressing. It’s usually a pretty healthy lunch and if the grains are whole grains then it will keep you feeling satisfied through to dinner and boost your fibre. You can make your own quite easily. There are literally thousands of recipes out there on the net. So why not give it a go?
Acai is a trendy ingredient and has been for a few years now.
One suspects that creating an Acai Bowl is a way of maintaining its popular appeal. The fruit itself is a berry that grows on palm trees in South America. It’s main claim to fame is that it is super-rich in antioxidants but you’ll find many other health claims made by its proponents.
It’s most usually sold as a freeze-dried powder or a frozen puree.
Acai can have side effects so you should be aware that it can cause bloating, cramping and diarrhoea in some people. These are alleged to diminish as your body becomes used to the food. However, Acai berries are high in potassium so not suitable if you are on a low potassium diet and as they can reduce blood sugar they are not advised for those taking diabetic medications.
Take your powder or frozen puree and add either yoghurt or milk, and often banana (to give it thickness) and blitz it all up in a blender. Pour the thickish blended Acai into a bowl and then layer with whatever takes your fancy for breakfast – muesli, blueberries, raspberries, sliced banana, shredded coconut, slivered almonds, chopped hazelnuts – it’s only limited by your budget and your imagination. With its fruitiness and sweetness, this is more of breakfast bowl to my way of thinking.
Poké Bowls originated in Hawaii. Traditionally they contain cubes of raw fish, rice and vegetables. We recently posted a recipe here on the Foodwatch site if you’d like to have a go at making your own. Poké Bowls, depending on the dressing and grains used, can be a very healthy and satisfying lunch or dinner.
Smoothie bowls are similar to Acai bowls but use other bases as the smoothie part. They are usually sweet and so more suited as a breakfast bowl. Make up any of your favourite smoothies as a base and then layer up with fruits, nuts and cereals as before.
There are many Asian foods that are natural bowl foods such as Korean Bibimbap, noodle bowls, rice bowls and noodle salads.
Not all are healthy - it just depends on the ingredients. If you’re looking for a healthy Asian food fix, pick a bowl that has less salt, less salty sauces such as teriyaki or soy, more raw ingredients and preferably wholegrain rice or noodles.
There’s no doubt bowl foods are trendy and fun to eat. If you want to eat healthily though, check the ingredients, and don’t feel you have to eat the whole bowl.