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Dietitian’s Choice: Build Your Own Power Bowl

The meal-in-a-bowl concept has really taken flight. From widespread availability via fast-casual restaurants to the homemade smoothie in a bowl, it seems that Americans really like to eat a full, nourishing meal out of a bowl. The “power bowl”, as it’s often called by health nuts and food bloggers, is easy to assemble, and doing so yourself is more cost effective than buying from a store or restaurant.

Very simply, a power bowl should consist of the three macronutrients—protein, carbohydrate, and fat—to be considered a complete meal. This usually means that it has some combination of protein, grain or starchy vegetable, and healthy fat. And vegetables! Vegetables are what take the power of the bowl to the next level.

Example of the popular smoothie in a bowl

Below are a couple of recipes for constructing your own power bowl while you are over the road. You may use them exactly as written or simply as a guide, because the beauty of the power bowl is that it’s customizable to your preferences—taste, availability of ingredients, ease of prep, etc. The first, a savory breakfast bowl, is really wonderful for any meal but gets the breakfast tag due to the inclusion of eggs. The Southwest bowl can be completely plant-based if you’d like and can be made ahead in a jar for easy fridge/cooler storage on the road. The key with these bowls is to have ingredients prepared ahead of time so that assembly is quick. Preparing rice or sweet potatoes or sautéed vegetables during downtime makes for no-fuss assembly on the road. That being said, the meal-in-a-bowl is a really great place to combine any leftovers you have that may otherwise be forgotten. The only rule with the power bowl is that there are no rules. Well, except for the protein, carbohydrate, fat, vegetable part. But that’s the only one! Get creative, use what you have, and don’t get too caught up in measuring ingredients.

Savory Breakfast Power Bowl


2/3 cup cooked brown rice (or can substitute cooked farro or potatoes)

1/2 cup sautéed kale or collard greens

1/2 cup sautéed mushrooms and/or onions

1-2 eggs, cooked to preference

1/2 tablespoon low-sodium tamari or soy sauce

1/4 cup sauerkraut

Dash hot sauce (optional)

Directions: Create bottom layer of bowl with rice. Drizzle apple cider vinegar over top. Add sautéed kale, mushrooms, and onions, followed by egg(s), and drizzle with low-sodium tamari or soy sauce. Top with sauerkraut and optional hot sauce. Enjoy immediately!

Benefits: This bowl contains servings of protein, whole grains, and cruciferous vegetables. Raw apple cider vinegar and sauerkraut are both fermented foods, so they are a good source of probiotics. This bowl can serve as a well-balanced, complete meal. It is satisfying and filling due to its fiber content.

Southwest Power Bowl


1 cup romaine lettuce or spinach

1/2 cup cooked sweet potato or brown rice

1/2 cup cooked black or pinto beans

Pinch cumin, oregano, chili powder

Salt to taste

1/4 – 1/2 cup salsa

Sprinkle cheese of choice

1 tablespoon sour cream

1/2 cup sliced avocado or guacamole

Sprinkle chopped fresh cilantro

Juice from 1 wedge lime (optional)

Directions: Create bottom layer of bowl with romaine lettuce or spinach. Add sweet potato or brown rice, followed by beans and spices/salt. Top with any combination of salsa, cheese, sour cream, avocado, cilantro, and lime.

Notes: This bowl can be assembled with warm or cold ingredients. If warm sweet potato or rice is layered on top of greens, it will wilt them slightly, which may make them more or less desirable depending on personal preference.

Variations: Instead of (or in addition to) sweet potato and brown rice, tortilla chips can be used as a layer of the bowl.

Benefits: This bowl is a good source of plant-based protein and healthy fat. In addition, it provides 1-4 servings vegetables, depending on chosen ingredients. The variety of ingredients also lends a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. If included, sour cream provides a dose of probiotics.

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