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Build Better Bowls

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bowl of grains and vegetables

Save calories and cash with custom bowls, not to mention higher nutritional values. Building a bowl with vegetables and fruit, lean protein and whole grains is an excellent way to pack in the nutrients. Buildable bowls are easy to meal prep for the week or throw together in a pinch. Check out these practical ingredient options for assembling a healthy bowl for a filling, cost-effective and convenient meal.

Step 1: Start with a base layer of whole grains
Recommended serving size: ½â€‹ to 1 cup 

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa 
  • Wild rice
  • Farro
  • Millet
  • Amaranth
  • Riced cauliflower or broccoli

Step 2: Toss on some leafy greens
Recommended serving size: 1 to 2 cups

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Swiss chard
  • Arugula
  • Mustard greens

Step 3: Add lean protein of your choice
Recommended serving size: 3-5 ounces 

  • Chicken
  • Salmon
  • Turkey breast
  • Lean beef
  • Lean ham
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Black beans
  • Tofu

Step 4: Make it colorful with your favorite fruits and veggies
Recommended serving size: ¼ to ½ cup each

  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Pepper
  • Onion
  • Corn
  • Sweet potato
  • Apples
  • Raisins
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries

Step 5: Top with a dose of healthy fats
Recommended serving size: 1 to 2 tablespoons 

  • Avocado
  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Olives
  • Pine nuts
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Sesame seeds

Step 6: Give it a flavor boost
Recommended serving size: 1 to 2 tablespoons

  • Lime juice
  • Lemon juice
  • Light vinaigrette
  • Fresh or dried herbs
  • Seasoning of choice
  • Apple cider vinegar

Benefits of building your own bowl

Most commercially-prepared foods in restaurants are high in sodium, unhealthy fats and added sugars and are generally poor sources of dietary fiber—all of which are associated with unfavorable health outcomes. Learning to build your own bowls at home will enable you to limit these while adding items loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, heart-healthy fats and protein.

Preparing bowls at home is the best way to control what goes into them and the nutritional value of the food consumed. Be cautious of toppings such as croutons, wonton strips or high-fat dressings—which add calories but no nutritional value.

Customizing your own bowl at home not only saves you calories but cash as well. The average takeout meal costs $13-$15, before tips or delivery fees in comparison to the average cost of meals prepared at home ranging $4-$6.

Those of us who have hectic schedules can throw together a week's worth of bowls in close to no time at all. While there could be some preparation, such as chopping or slicing fruits and vegetables,  most of these ingredients can be purchased pre-cut and prepared making it even easier to include a variety of ingredients in your bowls without tacking on time.

Begin customizing your bowls with a variety of your favorite grains, proteins, toppings and flavorful seasonings. By building your own bowl, you get  a nutrient-dense meal that won’t empty your wallet, break your caloric bank or take a lot of time to prepare.

For more information or to schedule a nutrition consultation,visit or call 972.560.2655. Article provided by Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.