THEY look healthy enough — plenty of brightly coloured salad vegies, fan-cut avocado and an array of nutritious looking ingredients like raw fish, beans and carefully arranged seeds and grains … but are Buddha bowls or poke bowls all they are cracked up to be?
You only need to take a look at the local food court at a shopping centre to notice that poke bowls and any meal in a bowl really has become increasingly popular.
Poke bowls are commonly enjoyed in Hawaii where raw diced fish such as tuna and kingfish is served with an array of pickled vegetables, seaweed, soy and a little oil.
Generally speaking this kind of bowl is exceptionally healthy. Packed full of omega 3 fats, nutrient rich vegetables and minimal calories and processed carbohydrates, a traditional poke is a great choice nutritionally.
Things have gone a little off track in recent times since the poke bowl trend has become a little more gentrified.
Now we are more likely to see a large array of tasty ingredients ranging from noodles to fried meats with heavy dressings being served in the name of a “wellness”, or “buddha bowl” — and the price tends to match with the average salad style bowl clocking in at close to $ 20.
A closer look will reveal that your typical Buddha bowl will range from just 400-500 calories when the core ingredients remain salad, protein and a small serve of wholegrains such as brown rice or quinoa.
On the other hand, when the ingredient mix includes fried meat, a hearty serve of noodles, almost an entire avocado along with plenty of dressing, your healthy Buddha bowl can equate to more than 1000 calories per serve along with 60-80g of fat — the equivalent of two meals and more than a day’s total fat.
The other key issue nutritionally with wellness bowls is that they typically use Asian based dressings and sauces which are packed full of sodium.
For example a single serve of soy sauce contains more than 1000mg of sodium per serve, more than half your upper daily limit and this is not considering if any of the other ingredients such as smoked salmon or extra sauces contain added salt.
There is no doubt that compared to your average burger and fries or creamy pasta lunch, a wellness bowl is a healthier choice. You are consuming more fresh food often along with lean protein and good fats but it all about how much you eat and which ingredients you choose.
As a general rule of thumb poke bowls are a good choice — stick to raw fish or lean meat; load up on extra salad and vegetables; ditch the extra noodles and white rice fillers and compliment your bowl with a little dressing, avocado or seeds.
Small bowls will ensure you do not blow out your calories and remember a traditional poke does not contain grains or extra dressings. Avoid fried ingredients like the plague and any creamy dressing is unlikely to be healthy.
When it comes to premade options, or frozen bowls remember fresh will always be best and frozen foods tend to have a heavy rice or noodle base as opposed to fresh options that are more likely to contain raw fish, good fats via avocado, nuts and seeds and leafy and fermented vegetables which is what the health bowl is actually all about.
Just as the names suggest, a little poke is a great thing, but a massive fried Buddha bowl … not so much.