A Nutritional Expert’s Guide To The Perfect Buddha Bowl!

When a Nutritionist with more than 12 year of experience and a Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences starts talking about Buddha Bowls – we get kinda giddy. Laura Thomas is more than a seasoned expert. She’s studied everything from cell and molecular biology, to the behavioural psychology of food choice, among some of the US’s top nutrition researchers.

So what’s a Buddha Bowl (aptly named because it’s rounded belly shape) got to do with molecular biology? Whilst we’re not sure exactly how to answer that; rest assured that the bummed out feeling you get when you want something healthy to eat but don’t want to come home from work and spend hours in the kitchen, is about to be banished forever – by a total expert.

According to our Leeds-based guru, here’s what to do to stop the funk…

At the beginning of the week buy a bunch of different vegetable; one or two whole grains, and a bag of dried beans. Cook them all up, whip up a kickass sauce, then all week long you can mix and match and come up with fun combos that suit your mood that day – AKA building your very own Buddha Bowl. Since you’ve done all the prep work, everything comes together in a few minutes, and the clean up is nothing!

The Buddha Bowl rules…

There are no hard and fast rules to bowls, you can keep it low key, or take it next level. Maybe one week you’ve got no time and keep it no frills and the next you shake it up a bit and get a little fancy. That’s totally cool, it’s YOUR bowl!

In this go-to guide, we’re keeping it nutrient dense with plant based, whole foods: they’re great for keeping your energy levels up, awesome for digestion, and will make your skin gorgeous from the inside out!  If you want to add in some animal proteins, perhaps keep it to one or two meals a week, giving them more of a supporting role and letting the veggies be the star of the show.

Bowl: Choose a fun bowl to build your creation (totally Instagram ready). A wide, shallow bowl works well because it shows the food off.

Veggies: Raw, or steamed, roasted or sautéed. It doesn’t really matter; just make sure veggies are the biggest component of your bowl (around half). Make sure you have a variety of colours and textures to keep it interesting. You could include more raw and steamed veg in the summer and choose more roasted veg in the colder months. Choose 1 or 2 options from each of the groups below for the week.  Don’t worry about whether or not veg ‘go’ together, as long as you have an awesome sauce, it’ll all taste delicious.

Greens: Spinach, rocket, Swiss chard, broccoli, sugar snap peas, green beans, Brussels sprouts, kale, courgette, asparagus, peas, mangetout, savoy cabbage, watercress and other salad greens. SPOILER – iceberg doesn’t count!

Tip: Baby greens have more nutritional bang for their buck so choose these varieties over their more mature counterparts when you can (think spinach, kale, rocket etc…)

Orange/Yellow Veg: Sweet potato, butternut squash, carrot, pumpkin, bell peppers, sweet corn/ baby corn, yellow squash.

Red/Purple Veg: Beetroot, red pepper, tomatoes, red cabbage, radicchio, aubergine, red onion.

Other: Cauliflower, radish, daikon, leeks, turnips (try roasting with maple and chilli), mushrooms.

Beans: Choose dried beans and cook them with your favourite spices, like chipotle black beans (see super easy recipe below) or cumin and chilli roasted chickpeas. If you don’t have time for all that soaking and cooking, canned beans are great too, just make sure you get ones that are in water only – none of that sugar and salt business. Bring them to life with fresh herbs like dill, mint, and coriander, fresh lemon or lime juice, and a sprinkle of sumac.

Try: Chickpeas, black beans, black eyes peas, tofu, tempeh, edamame, lentils, adzuki beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans

Whole Grains: Good source of fibre, protein, magnesium, manganese, and B vitamins (to help use the energy in your food). If you cook them a little bit of low sodium vegetable broth it gives a little extra flavour.

Try: Brown/black rice, polenta, black, white, or red quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet

Sauces: Keep it simple and just go for a squeeze of lemon, a dash of tamari or a drizzle of tahini, take it next level by trying a dairy free cheese sauce, an almond butter miso sauce, or guacomole! A good hot sauce is always a great default too.

Toppings: Totally optional but you can soup up your bowl using things like nori sprinkles, lightly toasted nuts and seeds, freshly chopped herbs, sprouts, quick pickled onions, finely sliced chilli peppers.

A guide to the perfect Buddha Bowl with Laura Thomas
Image: Buddha Bowl

Ok, so with all that in mind… if you’re still not sure where to start…

Try Laura’s Black Bean Bowl: A healthy take on a burrito with chipotle black beans, quinoa and butternut squash!

Veggies: Butternut squash, cut in half lengthways, skin still on, seeds scooped out, flesh salt and peppered and sprinkled with chilli, roasted for 40 mins. Once it’s done, I just cut the skin away (you can eat actually eat it too though!), and cut into cubes. Watercress; naked. Pico de gallo (tomato and red onion, with some lime juice and spices).

Whole Grain: Quinoa

Beans: Chipotle black beans – Soak 1.5 cups of dried black beans in water overnight. The next day drain the beans and put them in a big pot with 1 tsp salt, a dash of black pepper, 2 red onions (finely chopped), 1 tsp chipotle flakes and cover with water by an inch. Bring everything up to a boil and then lower the heat and let everything simmer until the beans are soft (around 1- 1.5 hours). Most of the liquid should be absorbed but if they look pretty dry then add a little more water. Once the beans have cooked, drain off any extra liquid and enjoy!

Sauce: Fresh home made guac with chillis, garlic, red onion, lime, and salt.

Toppings: Paprika toasted pepitas and more fresh chillies.

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