Building a Balanced Bowl

Kate Killion, Junior Nutrition and Health Student, SAR ’18

Has anyone else noticed the current food trend of piling up ingredients into one big bowl of food? I always thought they looked pretty on Instagram, but I’m telling you—they taste even better than they look (try out a bowl at Whole Heart Provisions in Allston, and you’ll be hooked!).

Even better, they are super easy to make on your own. All you have to do is mix and match a few ingredients, top it with some flavor, and you’ve got a gorgeous, health-promoting meal that will keep you full for hours.

Step 1: Fill ¼ of your bowl with a base carbohydrate for quick energy.
If I have lots of time on my hands, I like to dice and bake sweet potato. If I’m looking for a quick bite, I’ll opt for some simple brown rice that I batch cooked earlier in the week.*

Step 2: Pick a protein for longer lasting energy and fullness.
Beans are my current go-to as I navigate a college budget. Otherwise, I will thaw and cook some frozen salmon or chicken breast. Eggs are also great low-cost, quick-prep bowl toppers. Make this about ¼ of your bowl.

Step 3: Load your bowl with colors from fruits and vegetables.
I like to choose a couple different vegetables to give the bowl some variety in color and texture. Any and all vegetables (cooked or raw) will work here. You could also add a sweet note to your bowl with some fresh fruit. Fill ½ of your bowl with these filling nutrient powerhouses.

Step 4: Spice up your bowl with flavor and heart healthy fats.
This step allows you to turn a plain old bowl of rice, beans, and vegetables into an incredible dish. I usually choose a heart healthy fat, add some acid, and combine with herbs and spices.

After a few times creating your own, it’ll come easy, I promise! Use the chart and examples below to give delicious bowl-making a go:

Whole grain/Starchy veggies Protein Vegetables Fat Acid Extra Flavor
-Whole Grains: brown rice, wild rice, farro, corn, quinoa, barley, bulgur, whole grain pasta
-Sweet Potatoes
-Russet Potatoes
-Legumes (black beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, etc.)
-Lean pork/red meat
-Leafy Greens
-Summer Squash
-Brussel Sprouts
-Any other veggies you like!
-Extra Virgin Olive Oil
-Nut butter
-Lemon Juice
-Lime Juice
-Vinegar (white/red wine, balsamic, rice, distilled white)
-Salt and Pepper
-Garlic Powder
-Onion Powder
-Soy Sauce
-Chili Powder
-Red Chili Flakes
-Chipotle Powder
-Curry Powder

1. Brown rice + black beans + steamed asparagus + brussel sprouts + drizzled with a quick tahini dressing (tahini, lemon, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper or hot sauce, and a bit of water to thin). If available top this bowl with fresh cilantro or cubes of avocado.

2. Corn + chicken + leafy greens + cucumbers + bell peppers + avocado + drizzled with lime-cilantro dressing (lime juice, cilantro, olive oil, salt and pepper – think Chipotle®!)

3. Quinoa + salmon + spinach + roasted zucchini + feta cheese + drizzled with simple oil and vinegar dressing (balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper

*My favorite tip for a busy college student: Batch cook! I like to cook a bunch of brown rice, roasted veggies, and proteins at the beginning of the week. Then, when I am low on time throughout the week, I can just throw a quick bowl together with my pre-made ingredients.