To bowl or not to bowl….
I admit: my healthy skepticism got a bit of a workout in the beginning phases of the recent “bowl” craze. My Instagram and Facebook accounts were suddenly flooded with photos of bright, wholesome food bowls, accompanied by the usual social media hyperbole: “This tempeh-kimchi-bee pollen bowl is everything!” Bowl restaurants sprang up in cities like dandelions in springtime. After all, I thought, what is so different about eating veggies, rice, and some protein in a bowl, versus on a plate?
Now, I should say that I like eating out of bowls, whenever possible, for the obvious reason that food falls off a plate more easily than it does out of a bowl. I eat a lot of wily vegetables and leaves, which affix to my fork more easily against the side of bowl. So I started experimenting. What makes a bowl … a bowl ? Why so special? And I quickly changed my tune about bowls.
Texture, Sauce, and Variety
What I found is that I get a more balanced macronutrient intake (for me: plant carb, fat, fiber, protein) when I construct a bowl than when I pick out of the fridge, or eat my usual, quick protein-plus-greens meal. And the bowl IS more visually appealing, and since digestion starts in the brain – well, this confers real physiological benefit! I can get pretty utilitarian about eating – eating for fuel and nourishment – especially in busy or difficult times in my life. Following the tenets of the bowl, I found that eating was a more sensory experience overall: I add texture, colors, and some kind of sauce, which always makes me eat more vegetables! This encouraged me to pay attention to the experience of eating, to slow down, and to enjoy, and therefore feel more satiety and pleasure. I also noticed that my refrigerator contents changed.
Here are some ideas of what to have on hand:
Veggie: Steamed or roasted broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, lightly cooked asparagus, sautéed mushrooms, wilted greens, spiralized or julienned carrots, beets, or zucchini, slivered radishes, sugar snap, snow or sweet peas, shaved purple or napa cabbage, fennel bulb, bean sprouts, pea shoots, sunflower or microgreens sprouts. (After your nightshade re-introduction, you might add cherry or chunked heirloom tomatoes, and slivered red & yellow bell peppers).
Pickled/brined: Pickled beets, sauerkraut (I like Wildbrine brand), kimchi, Castelvetrano olives, any pickled veggie!, artichoke hearts, capers, etc.
Protein: Shredded chicken, salmon/halibut skewer, canned salmon or smoked trout, chickpeas, adzuki beans, lentils, free-range hen or duck egg (if you have already done an elimination diet and know these work for your body), hemp seeds.
Starchy: Quinoa or brown, Forbidden, or Bhutanese red rice. If grain-free, try purple sweet potato, yam, celery root, squash, roasted mixed root veggies (parsnips, beets, sweet potatoes, turnips), sweet potato pancake.
Toppings/Texture: Nori flakes, sprouted pumpkin seeds, crushed hazelnuts or pistachios, Gomasio (Eden Organics makes a good one), Cheezy Chickpea Crunch, chopped fresh herbs.
Of course, the possibilities are endless here. Go based on your palate, what’s in season, and aim for a rainbow of colors – plant pigments are potent anti-inflammatory antioxidants! What’s best about the bowl is that you can adjust it to any dietary accommodation needed – paleo, vegan, Whole30, and beyond.
Here’s one example:
¼ c julienned napa and/or purple cabbage
½ c steamed sweet potato chunks or brown rice
½ c wilted spinach or other steamed/sautéed green
¼ c pea shoots or bean sprout
¼ c chopped or grated carrot
¼-1/2 avocado, cut into small chunks
1 wild salmon skewer or ½ cup adzuki beans (Note: If you’re lucky enough to get sushi-grade salmon, you can do this as a poke—a chopped raw salmon salad!)
1 tbsp each chopped cilantro or basil and chives or green onion
Gomasio (a savory sesame seed/sea salt/nori flake comb)
Wild Brine Red Organic Kraut
Sauce for drizzling/dipping:
Easy Peasy Thai Sauce