Not all bowls are created equally healthy.
Even photogenic grain bowls can overdo it on the carbs, and warm vegetable dishes could still be smothered in fat, says chef and nutritionist Mareya Ibrahim, author of the book “Eat Like You Give a Fork: The Real Dish on Eating to Thrive” (St. Martin’s Griffin, out June 4).
To keep your grain bowl as nutritious as a salad — with the same weight loss benefits to boot — keep in mind what Ibrahim calls “the anatomy of a bowl” equation: 40 percent protein, 30 percent carbs and 30 percent fat, in addition to heaps of veggies.
Start with your grains, about half-a-cup, she says. Make them whole grains, too, such as amaranth, freekeh or farro. And don’t be afraid to mix them up, making larger batches of two or three varieties of grains ahead of your week, then measuring out fun mixtures of them.
“[Whole] grains can give you a lot of fiber and magnesium, and are wonderful for keeping you satiated without spiking your blood sugar,” Ibrahim says.
Then think about your vegetables. And here’s where you can really go buck-wild.
“Layer on lots of greens — as many greens as you can stomach,” Ibrahim says. “They’re the most nutrient dense foods you can select.”
She recommends sautéing rainbow chard in ghee, or clarified butter. Top it off with some lightly sautéed heirloom tomatoes and summer squash (because it’s seasonal, she says).
For protein, stick with something lean like chicken or fish — she’s been loving seared ahi tuna lately — or beans if you want to ditch meat. Nuts will also add a plant-based textural crunch.
Onto fats: Avocado is everyone’s favorite go-to-fat, but no more than half a cup if that’s your only fat. Also, “Sauce makes the world go round,” Ibrahim says. Consider making a sauce that can contribute some healthy fats.
Use base sauce ingredients like Greek yogurt or tahini mixed with something acidic like lemon or vinegar, plus more greens like mint or cilantro to pile on the fiber and aroma. Tomato-based sauces are easy to make and nutritious as well, she says.
Lastly, top it off with superfoods like chia or flax seeds. You’ll end up with a colorful, healthy lunch that “won’t break the carb bank.”
“You eat with your eyes first,” she says. “So the more color and variety you get will feed more parts of your body.”
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