What are Buddha Bowls?
Larissa and I are busy people, as are most of the folks in our community. Full-time jobs, kids, pets, and finding time for friends and family can make it challenging for anyone to plan meals, much less plan healthy meals. The siren song of Grubhub beckons all too often when we realize, after working, that we forgot to take a lunch break and failed to plan for dinner.
Enter the Buddha Bowl…
I follow a LOT of vegan and vegetarian accounts on social media so I definitely see my share of Buddha bowl pictures. If you follow the same type of accounts I guarantee you’ve seen them too, even if you didn’t know what they were called.
Buddha bowls, sometimes called power, nourish, hippie, sunshine, or macro bowls, are essentially bowls filled with vibrant, healthy food. While they are typically plant-based (and dairy-free), I have seen some variations that include fish or meat.
Why Are They Called “Buddha Bowls”?
I’ve read several explanations of why these delicious meals are called “Buddha Bowls”:
- The shape of the bowl signifies Buddha’s belly
- It’s “balanced”, just like the Buddha
- It’s what the Buddha himself ate
While there’s no single definitive explanation regarding the name, one thing for sure is that these have absolutely helped us solve a few challenges we’ve faced with respect to our own eating and nutrition.
3 Reasons You Need Buddha Bowls in Your Life
When I really started researching Buddha bowls, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with them. They seem like the perfect solution to several food-related issues Larissa and I face with as two very busy people.
- Meal Planning. While we certainly have moments when our meal planning is on point, things can get pretty crazy. A Buddha bowl is a super easy, healthy meal to create on the fly. While some ingredients you choose may require advanced preparation (grains, noodles, etc.), there are many ingredients that won’t take much time at all. Once you have your ingredients prepped, you’re pretty much ready to go. The only thing you need to do is assemble them! While you can assemble ingredients ahead of time, some foods will keep better kept separately until you’re ready to eat them (dressings and sauces, for example).
- Variety. Many of the folks in our community have households made up of both omnivore and plant-based family members. This can make it tough to plan a meal that is healthy and versatile enough to accommodate everyone’s needs and tastes. By including Buddha bowls in your meal rotation, you can easily meet your vegan requirements and satisfy your gluten-free omnivore spouse or kids as well. Ingredients can be tailored in a way that pleases everyone.
- Meeting Nutritional Needs. Once you understand the basic components of a Buddha bowl (which we’ll discuss in the next section), you’ll realize how completely these amazing meals can fulfill all of most of our basic nutrition requirements. Your body is rewarded nutritionally by your creativity!
The Anatomy of an Amazing Buddha Bowl
Buddha bowls typically have five ingredients, though not just any five. The key components are:
- Veggies and/or fruits
- Whole grains
- Nuts and/or seeds
The reason these specific components are important is that the combination of fiber, starch, protein, and grains provides you with a burst of energy and enables you to feel full longer.
The ratio of ingredients can vary, but the majority of the bowl should consist of vegetables (35-40%). This certainly isn’t set in stone, however; you should feel free to adjust amounts to accommodate your taste and any personal dietary needs or goals.
Additionally, the idea of “contrast” plays a big part in the making of a great Buddha bowl. A nice mix of colors, textures, shapes, flavors, and temperatures is key to a healthy and fun meal!
Veggies and/or Fruits
One thing that makes those Instagram pictures of Buddha bowls so eye-catching is the vibrant colors of the vegetables. Including a variety of veggies in your bowl will help you get a range of essential nutrients. Consider using raw vegetables, roasted vegetables, or a combination of both to switch things up!
Beets, bell peppers, sweet peppers, avocado, sweet potato, red pepper, and red onion, jalapeno peppers, brussel sprouts, and green beans.
Healthy whole grains offer a powerful combination of fiber and starch. Starchy foods provide energy, while fiber helps you feel full for longer (and keeps everything “moving along”!).
Brown rice, white rice, roasted sweet potatoes, millet, quinoa, or farro.
For omnivores, adding protein is easy-peasy, with many animal-sourced options from which to choose. Vegetarians and vegans aren’t exempt from the protein component just because we don’t eat meat. Fortunately (and contrary to popular belief!), there are just as many options for plant-based protein!
Tofu (my favorite), seitan, tempeh, eggs, beans/legumes, peas, chickpeas, edamame, black-eyed peas, or lentils. If you are using canned beans, rinse them well. Home cooked beans are great for batch-cooking on a Sunday afternoon!
Nuts and/or Seeds
Nuts and seeds can provide your bowl with a variety of texture while also providing a dose of healthy fats.
Walnuts, almonds, cashews, hemp seeds, pine nuts, and chia seeds.
Keep your bowl interesting with a tasty drizzle or dressing that compliments the other ingredients.
Making your own dressing can be a fun and healthy choice, but something as simple as vegan soy sauce, a splash of sesame oil, olive oil vinaigrette, or salsa can zest up any Buddha bowl!
Two Tips for Incorporating Buddha Bowls into Your Weekly Routine
Tip 1: Batch Cook When Possible
While it’s true that Buddha bowls have saved us a lot of time planning out individual meals, there is still an element of planning involved, mainly in the form of batch cooking. Taking even a couple of hours at the beginning of the week to batch cook beans, legumes, quinoa, or tofu can make the entire week much easier with respect to planning.
Tip 2: Get Creative!
Anything can get boring after a while if you don’t mix it up every now and then. Keep your bowls exciting by trying new foods and food combinations. Consider creating “ethnic” Buddha bowls by incorporating foods from a different country.
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Further Reading and Resources Used for this Episode:
- How the Buddha Bowl Got Its Name
- Build Your Own Buddha Bowl
- Why Do We Keep Calling Things Buddha Bowls?
- Anatomy of a Perfect Buddha Bowl
- Nothing But Buddha Bowls (Our Pinterest Board)
Thanks for listening!
Peace and Veggies,
Vickie and Larissa