Bowl food is an ongoing trend in healthy eating that simply upgrades and expands on the idea of mixed foods traditionally served in bowls, not unlike a pasta dish, hearty stew, or even oatmeal with fruit and nuts.
In any meal prepared for someone with diabetes, balance is just as important as portion control and carb count. A well-balanced bowl includes the three major nutrients—protein, carbohydrates, and fat—carefully chosen and in healthy proportions.
The more variation in color, taste, and texture in your bowl, the more likely you are to be getting all the vitamins, minerals, fiber and you need. At its best, bowl food combines a complementary variety of foods, side-by-side, in one dish and, when correctly prepared, covers all your nutritional bases.
Here are some healthy examples (along with their total calories and carbs, for those who are counting). Feel free to vary the ingredients, substituting other vegetables and proteins whenever you like, and adjusting the seasonings, but keep the suggested proportions of different types of food in mind. (These recipe ideas are for one individual serving bowl; double, triple or quadruple the ingredient amounts to serve more.)
This perfect one-bowl morning meal combines ½ cup cooked steel-cut oatmeal or 1/3 cup raw muesli, ½ cup blueberries, raspberries or sliced strawberries, and 6 ounces of plain low-fat yogurt in a small bowl. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts or almonds, 1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds (optional) and 1 teaspoon flax meal (ground flax seeds).
Per serving: 337 calories, 40 g carbohydrate
For breakfast, lunch or snack, this bowl contains all the ingredients you might use to make a thick, rich, tropical-flavored smoothie, but you don’t need a blender! Fill a breakfast-size bowl with 3/4 cup plain Greek or regular lowfat yogurt and ½ cup mixed diced pineapple and mango or papaya. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes and a tablespoon of chopped peanuts, pistachios or pecans.
Per serving: 445 calories, 31 g carbohydrates
All the makings of your favorite Tex-Mex meal, without all the fuss. Line a bowl with baby spinach leaves, chopped Romaine lettuce, or finely shredded green cabbage. Fill with 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes, ½ cup warm black beans or shredded cooked chicken, 1/3 cup cooked brown rice, 1/4 small, ripe avocado and ¼ cup diced mango. Drizzle with a little olive oil and lime or lemon juice, and sprinkle with ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro.
Per serving: 365 calories, 48 g carbohydrate
Line a bowl with baby kale, watercress, or spinach leaves. Add 1/3 cup warm, cooked wild and brown rice mixture, ½ small sliced avocado, ½ chopped tomato, 3 oz poached or grilled salmon. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce and 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds. (To toast seeds: Heat a single layer of sesame seeds in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until just golden brown, tossing gently from time to time to prevent burning. Remove from heat and store in covered container.)
Per serving: 431 calories, 40 g carbohydrate
In place of wheat or rice noodles, use edamame noodles (thin spaghetti made from green soybean flour) for fewer carbs and a lot more fiber and protein. Fill a large bowl with 1 cup baby spinach, kale or tatsoi leaves, 2 oz. edamame noodles, cooked according to package directions, 1 cup steamed snow peas or bean sprouts. Sprinkle with thinly sliced red radishes and scallion. Add ½ cup warm chicken or vegetable broth and one halved hard-cooked egg. Drizzle with 1 tsp sesame oil and 2 tsp light soy sauce. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. ((Optional: To toast seeds, see Sesame Rice Bowl, above, for directions)
Per serving: 401 calories, 33 g carbohydrate
Rub the inside of a bowl with a piece of smashed garlic. Add 1 cup cooked lentils, ½ cup cooked, cubed sweet potato or winter squash, and 1 cup steamed broccoli. Sprinkle with ¼ cup chopped basil and 2 tablespoons chopped almonds. In a small nonstick skillet, heat ½ teaspoon of curry powder in 1 tablespoon light olive or coconut oil over medium heat for 1 minute; stir in 2 tablespoon canned coconut milk. Drizzle evenly over food in bowl. Sprinkle with ¼ cup chopped cilantro.
Per serving: 416 calories, 51 g carbohydrate
Traditionally, this Korean specialty is comprised of a bowl of white rice topped with various seasoned vegetables and chili sauce. You can make a similar-but-better-for-your-blood-sugar bowl by pairing 1/3 cup cooked brown and wild rice mix with 1 cup steamed bean sprouts or sliced zucchini, 1/4 cup sauteed shitake mushrooms and ¼ cup shredded raw carrot. Top with ½ cup sauteed tofu cubes, a fried egg, or an ounce or two of cooked meat, poultry, or fish. Drizzle with a combination of 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil, 1 teaspoon light soy sauce and 1/8 teaspoon chili paste or red pepper flakes. Optional: Serve with additional chili paste and kimchi on the side.
Per serving: 401 calories, 43 g carbohydrate
Most grains are so neutral in flavor, you can combine them with just about anything you want. Start with ½ cup cooked quinoa, bulgur wheat, farro, barley, or mixed grains in each individual bowl. Add 1 cup chopped fresh spinach or kale, 1/3 cup chickpeas, ½ roasted sweet red pepper, finely chopped, and 1 thinly sliced scallion. Make the avocado dressing: In a blender, combine ¼ avocado, 2 tablespoons water, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon lime juice, a ½ inch piece of peeled gingerroot, and ½ garlic clove; whirl until smooth. Drizzle dressing evenly over food in the bowl.
Per serving: 422 calories, 53 g carbohydrate