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Get out the forks and knives - It's Bowl Season!

by Lisa McDowell / Team Sports Nutritionist, Detroit Red Wings

Bowl season, for most, means studying the 40-game college football spreadsheet and picking the winning teams. For me, though, it meant putting together recipes for full-meal bowls that are nutritious and delicious.

Bowls are becoming more popular. Restaurants like Greenspace Cafe and Sweetgreen offer bowls with choices ranging from quinoa and veggies to savory mushroom broths with the ancient grain, faro. This trend is being driven by a couple factors: bowls are convenient, easy to prepare and offer a visibly-pleasing display of food choices.

I like bowls for the Red Wings because they allow me to offer as many fruits and vegetables with each meal as I can to help the players recover after workouts and games. The ideal meal includes a variety of phytochemicals, so blending 5-10 fruits and vegetables in one bowl is the most efficient way of reaching this goal.

Additionally, introducing new ingredients to the team can be tricky, and the flexibility provided by bowl meals makes expanding one's palette much easier.

Bowl combinations are nearly endless, and can be tailored to any cultural food preference, but some have grown more popular, including:

The açaí bowl:
Açaí is a small, dark purple berry from the palm tree that grows in Brazil's Amazon Forest. These berries taste like a combination of dark chocolate and blueberries. Açaí berries contain some of the highest concentrations of phytochemicals, essential fatty acids and antioxidants, which make them an ideal addition to any bowl. Antioxidants support the immune system, prevent inflammation and help the body recover from intense exercise. Açaí berries also are high in Vitamins K and B, and zinc, iron and potassium. They simply are a nutrition powerhouse.

Açaí berries can be purchased as frozen packets or as a powder. I like the frozen Unsweetened Sambazon Açaí Smoothie Pack or Navitas Naturals Organic Açaí powder.

To build your Açaí bowl, start by blending one pack of frozen Açaí berries with a cup of your favorite berries - like raspberries, strawberries or blueberries. I always add a handful of spinach for the extra nutrients it provides. That may sound odd, but trust me, you won't even notice you added the spinach - but your body will thank you for the nitric oxide infusion. Next, choose your favorite milk - we use one cup of cold coconut milk. Blend until smooth and pour into your favorite bowl. Then arrange your favorite toppings by color and you are ready to enjoy to your Rainbow(l).

Here are some suggestions for toppings for your Açaí bowl:

  • Chia seeds
  • Blueberries
  • Pomegranates
  • Banana slices
  • Mango
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Walnuts, almonds, pecans and pistachios
  • Kiwi slices
  • Oats
  • Ground flax seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Granola
  • Cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg
  • Vanilla
  • Manuka Honey

The Buddha bowl:
Where Açaí bowls excel with fruits, Buddha bowls excel with vegetables. Start with a large bowl and fill with an abundance of organic greens such as fresh spinach, kale, beet greens, arugula, watercress or Swiss chard. These greens are packed with antioxidants and nitrates to help relax the arteries and improve blood flow to the muscles.

Next, add raw or steamed vegetables which help to vary both the texture and taste of the bowl.

Here are some of our favorites you can add to your Buddha bowl:  

  • Avocado
  • Roasted beets
  • Squash
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower
  • Butternut squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Roasted garlic
  • Caramelized shallots
  • Asparagus

Next, add protein options like chick peas, black beans, quinoa, sorghum, faro, brown rice, eggs, nuts, seafood, tofu, tempeh, chicken, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and edamame.

Finish off your Buddha bowl with a dressing. We make ours from scratch and use simple ingredients like olive oil, ginger, herbs, spices, citrus juice and zest, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, mustard and peppers. We also like to garnish with microgreens and seeds.

Açaí and Buddha bowls are easy to find in many restaurants, but here are some other bowls that are growing in popularity as well:

  • Vietnamese Pho
  • Ramen noodle bowls
  • Korean bibimbap
  • Poké
  • Burrito
  • Oatmeal
  • Sorghum
  • Faro
  • Teff
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