Single Bowl Plant Based Meals Are Very Popular
We are all extremely busy these days and it can be very difficult to maintain a healthy diet. A great solution to this is to prepare a balanced and nutritious meal in a single bowl. Veggie Bowl meals are very popular now and for great reason! These yummy meals can be created very quickly and easily, usually from items already in your fridge. They are quick and are great for using up things that are ripe need to be eaten. The goal of this article is to provide some background about single bowl vegetarian/vegan meals along with lots of inspiration for you to create your own bowls, based on your individual tastes, preferences and what ingredients you have available.
Single bowl meals are very easy and can be used for any meal. Bowls for breakfast might include some grain, fruit, nuts/seeds, non-dairy milk, and even some steamed vegetables. Rip Esselstyn, the passionate vegan firefighter and creator of the Engine 2 Diet, is a huge advocate of bowl meals. His breakfasts are most often bowl meals that he refers to as “Rip’s Big Bowl”. He says he looks forward to them daily and that no two of his bowls for breakfasts are every the same. A simple ones he enjoys includes just a few items – home-made hash browns, cooked chickpeas, and steamed kale, with a dash of a a low oil/low salt dressing or sauce on top.
Bowls for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Your breakfast “bowl” can also be blended. Tantamount to the ever-popular smoothie, a quick and easy breakfast for plant-based eaters is often a blended mix of a bit of fruit, some greens, perhaps some protein powder and/or seeds, many a little fat such as a avocado or nut butter, and water or a dairy alternative such as almond milk. This has also been called a “smoothie bowl” is a very easy, nutritious, and quick morning meal.
Suggested Ingredients for One-Bowl Meals
Most popular for lunches and dinner, the ingredients that can be used for single bowl meals are endless. A general guideline is to make about 20 to 50% of your bowl vegetables. These may include cooked or raw veggies such as carrots, broccoli, cabbage/kraut, cauliflower, zucchini/yellow squash, green beans, asparagus, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, sprouts, and delicacies such as hearts of palm or artichoke hearts. The next key element would be greens that might be 20 -40% of the bowl (depending on how many veggies you included). Popular greens for bowls are kale, spinach, swiss chard and bok choy.
Many also choose a grain or equivalent starch for their meal. This would be about 15 to 40% of the bowl. Suggestions include quinoa, millet, brown rice, buckwheat/kasha, potatoes/yams, polenta, or whole grain noodles. Leftover falafels also make great bowl additions. If you are limiting your starch intake, you can include “Miracle Noodles” made from the konjac yam or kelp noodles to fill you up without heavy starch.
You’ll also want some protein in your bowl – 5 to 20% is ideal. Veggie sources of protein include tofu, tempeh, lentils, beans (cooked or sprouted), seeds (sunflower, sesame, chia, hemp), nuts or nut butters, or even a crumbled up veggie burger. And if you eat little animal protein once in a while, two healthy options are sardines or wild salmon (packed in BPA-free containers). These are wonderful sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and are lower in mercury and other contaminants than other fish/seafood. Tuna is not recommended due to its high mercury content.
A bit of healthy fat in your bowl is also suggested. Fat slows the digestion of food and help to keep you full longer. Great additions are avocado, seeds/nuts/butters, cheeses made from nuts such as cashew cheese, or even a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. You could include hummus or baba ganoush (both of which are both protein and oil) or even just some fresh lemon or lime juice.
No bowl meal is complete without a topping. These are generally less than 5% of your bowl. You could complete your bowl with some salsa (fresh or in a jar), tahini sauce, tamari, pesto (with cashew for vegan), ginger (grated fresh or powdered), garlic, lemon juice or other salad dressing, herbs/spices, sliced avocado, unsweetened coconut, raisins/currants, or some nuts/seeds for a nice crunch. Edible flowers also provide a lovely element to your bowls for special occasions or to impress your guests.
Most also flavor their bowls for taste and variety. Possible seasonings might include:
- Asian (sesame, ginger, garlic)
- Mexican (cumin, salsa, avocado)
- Thai (lemongrass, coconut, curry sauce)
- Mediterranean (olives, capers, oregano, marjoram)
- Indian (garam masala, turmeric, curry) or
- Mideastern (dried chilies, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, nutmeg)
Bowl meals are great for weight loss. Vegetables can dominate the bowl while the starch and fat components are minimized or eliminated. If your bowl is mostly low-glycemic veggies, you can prepare it in large bowl to allow you to eat more to keep you satisfied. If your bowl has denser, higher-calorie ingredients, limiting your portion in a smaller bowl provides an easy way to control your quantities if you have overeating concerns.
Hot Bowls from Slow Cookers
Perhaps you are craving a more integrated bowl meal, or maybe you don’t have leftovers that you need to use up, or it could be that you know you won’t have time to prepare an healthy evening meal. A “cousin” of the single bowl meal is a meal prepared in a crockpot. Slow cookers (as crockpots are often called) are another great way to create healthy, plant-based, hot “bowl meals” with minimal work.
If you do not already have one, a crockpot may be a great investment for you. They come in many sizes to allow for meals for 1 or 2 people all the way up to larger ‘family’ quantities. It is a good idea not too buy one too small as you’ll be grateful for leftovers each time you use it. With a crock pot, you’ll fill it with all your ingredients, allow your masterpiece to cook all day, and later return to wonderful aromas throughout the house and tasty meal all ready for you!
There will be a little prep time for cutting up your recipe items at the beginning. You’ll likely include lots of veggies (including onions or garlic), some starch, grain, plant protein (like rice or beans), herbs and spices, and liquid such as water, vegetable broth or canned tomatoes and their liquid. Fill the cooker about half to ¾ of the way full with your food items. Then add the liquid, which may only be about ¼ to ½ of the pot, depending on the recipe. Keep in mind that unlike stovetop cooking, the crock pot lid stays tightly closed so there is little loss of the liquid. You may not need as much liquid as you think you will.
Most crockpots have at least a couple of temperature settings. You can choose low temperature for extended cooking over 8 to 10 hours (for example if you cook overnight or while you are away at work). A higher setting generally requires about 4 to 5 hours of cooking. Either way, you’ll set it and walk away. The unit will stop the cooking when it is done yet the dish will remain warm. It is best not to allow the cooked meal to stay on warm indefinitely as the veggies will be overcooked.
Enjoy the Simplicity of Plant-Based Bowl Meals!
Sometimes called “Buddha Bowls, single bowl meals are best eaten slowly and mindfully, with gratitude for all that went into bringing all the components to your bowl to nourish you. We do live in an abundant world and it is very powerful to give thanks on a daily basis. Enjoy these meals with your full attention and grace – each delicious bite by bite.
Plant-based single meals in a bowl are a great solution to simple healthy eating. These jiffy meals are tasty, filling, and great for you. Hopefully you’ve found inspiration in the suggestions here. Please share with us what you include in your favorite veggie bowls in the comment box below.