Get Bowled Over: 9 Dishes that Go Great in a Bowl

The social sharing of pictures of smoothie bowls and savory cereal bowls has been a recent craze. The beauty of a bowl is that you can put the same foods in it you’d put on a plate, plus those foods you can’t put on a plate like soup, cereal and smoothies. But are these bowls as tasty and good as they look? They can be, with a little planning, portioning and pairing for the right flavor and texture combos.

Rule of thumb — for a snack, aim for two different food groups and for a meal aim for three or four food groups. This guide is a quick reference for how many servings from each group you should aim for each day to stay within a recommended calorie range.

Spark your bowl-planning by scanning this slideshow. These are simply inspirational vs. prescriptive.

1. Big Bowl Salad – This is more a total meal salad with about 1 ½ cups of raw/fresh vegetables (arugula on the bottom, tomato, cucumber, yellow pepper, carrots, 1/8 avocado), ½ hard-boiled egg, ¼ cup black-eyed peas, 2 ounces grilled chicken breast, ¼ cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, 3/4 cup cooked quinoa. 


2. Big Bowl Salad Mixed - Here we have our Big Bowl Salad all mixed together with ~1/4 cup Greek Yogurt Salad Dressing (mixed with chopped garlic, fresh lemon and fresh chives).

3. Breakfast Bowl – This is great when there is extra time in the morning – or wait to make it until dinner. Sauté about 1 ½  cups of vegetables (onion, zucchini, red pepper and mushrooms) then pour over two whisked eggs and scramble. Top with ~1/4 cup cheese (Manchego shown), add fresh herbs (cilantro and scallion shown) and serve with side salad (arugula shown). Add a glass of low-fat milk to bring protein up.

4. Snack Bowl – Try 1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese with veggies like tomato and cucumber and add some chickpeas for more texture, protein and fiber.

5. In a Rush Bowl – Long day? You can still have something warm and tasty. While the whole wheat pasta is cooking, add a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes (break up with a wooden spoon) to sautéed veggies (peppers, onions, mushrooms, etc.) with dried oregano, crushed red pepper, black pepper and a dash of salt and simmer. Mix together with cooked pasta and top with herbs and Parmesan and/or part-skim mozzarella.

6. Southwestern Bowl – This is another easy dinner with a mix of frozen, canned and fresh foods. Combine and cook in medium pot: 1 small can of rinsed and drained low-sodium black beans, 1 large can of low-sodium diced tomatoes and 1 small package of frozen corn with cumin, chili powder (or cayenne and/or chipotle pepper), while you also cook brown rice and mix up a low-fat yogurt topping with cumin, chopped garlic, lime juice and chive. Put 1 cup of rice and 1 ½ cups of the bean and tomato mixture in a bowl and top with part-skim mozzarella and yogurt.

7. Souped Up Bowl – Sauté onion, celery, carrots in olive oil for ~20 minutes. Toast dry herbs (cumin, red pepper flakes and oregano) for ~20 seconds, and mix with veggies. Add two peeled, diced potatoes and carrots and one peeled, diced sweet potato – sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover with unsalted broth and boil for ~40 minutes (until potatoes and carrots are soft) then reduce heat. Puree and adjust thickness by adding skim milk and stirring until velvety. Top with Parmesan and/or part-skim mozzarella and garnish with scallions and cilantro. Top with about six crumbled blue corn chips for color and crunch or serve with crusty whole grain bread. Note: Depending on a lunch or dinner portion, the recipe makes about six bowls.

8. Mediterranean Baby Bowl – This is great for a snack or appetizer. Cut fresh veggie sticks and dip into hummus, tzatziki and bulgur wheat tabbouleh (which you can make homemade or purchase).

9. Mediterranean Big Bowl – For a dinner portion, add some of these foods to the top of your salad or just add a variety of these Mediterranean style foods to a bowl: chickpeas or lentils, artichoke hearts, olives, tabbouleh, tzatziki, stuffed grape leaves (with rice and/or meat), nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, low-fat cow’s milk feta cheese, roasted peppers, radishes, fresh herbs, etc. You can top this with a small piece of grilled salmon or tuna, too.

Looking for more bowl recipes? Learn more about how to make your very own Acai bowl