Recent food trends have many wondering: Are bowls the new dinner plate? The one-bowl meal has become increasingly popular, emerging on menus of restaurants of all different kinds of cuisines. But do one-bowl meals really provide a balanced array of nutrients like that of a traditional dinner plate? Take a look into the history behind this emerging food trend, its nutrient and culinary profiles, and how you can recreate this meal at home in a healthful way.
The Prevalence of Meals in Bowls
There's actually quite a long history of one-bowl meals across cultures and continents. Pho, a classic Vietnamese dish, is a bowl of flavorful broth, noodles, veggies, and meat, fish, or legumes. The bibimbap of Korea is a one-bowl meal served in a stone pot with rice, meat, veggies, and sauce topped with a freshly cracked egg. The classic French dish, pot-au-feu, literally means "pot over the fire" and is a stew of meat, veggies, beans, broth and anything else the cook has on hand. The Italian minestrone is a nourishing soup full of veggies and pasta in a meat-based broth.
While many of these dishes are growing in popularity here in the U.S., American restaurants have expanded on the idea of the one-bowl meal with dishes like the quinoa bowl, burrito bowl, rice bowl, and taco salad.
The Balance in the Bowl
Interestingly, nearly all those examples of one-bowl dishes are incredibly well-balanced when it comes to nutrition, making them a perfect meal. If your dinner plate is supposed to be made up of one-fourth whole grains, one-fourth protein foods, and one-half fruits and veggies, many of the one-bowl meals served at restaurants align with these guidelines. Thus, the majority of one-pot dishes are balanced in both macronutrients and micronutrients, providing us with the appropriate amounts of fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for a given meal.
One-bowl meals are also incredibly satisfying for the soul. Oftentimes, these dishes combine a variety of spice, taste, texture, temperature, and food preparation, inciting a well-rounded, exciting eating experience that leaves you wanting more.
Cooking at Home
So, how might you go about creating your own healthy one-bowl meal at home? The key to a well-balanced bowl is making sure your major nutrient groups are covered.
- Carbohydrates: For a carbohydrate source that's full of fiber and micronutrients, look to brown rice, whole-grain noodles, or quinoa as a base to your bowl.
- Protein: The protein options for your one-pot meal are only limited by your imagination. Some great go-tos include meats, poultry, fish, tofu, tempeh, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and eggs.
- Fat: Make sure to use healthy fats like olive or canola oil for preparing your proteins, veggies, and broths. Including avocado, egg, nuts, or seeds will also help you incorporate a serving of healthy fat in your dish.
- Micronutrients: Load up your bowl with vitamins and minerals by using a colorful array of veggies (and maybe fruits depending on the dish) that have different flavors and textures, like kale, pea shoots, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, corn, peppers, squash, and dried cranberries.
One-bowl meals put all the nutrients you need in one convenient place. By keeping healthy eating concepts in mind, you can create a unique one-bowl meal at home with inspiration from almost any kind of cuisine.