4 Ways Your Power Bowl Is Making You Gain Weight
Power bowls are a common sight on the menus of fast casual chains and trendy restaurants, and they’re also super easy to whip up from leftovers at home. What’s not to love about their whole grain simplicity and veggie goodness? It’s salad with substance—but possibly too much substance.
Most follow a similar pattern: a grain base such as rice or quinoa, followed by a generous serving of cooked or raw vegetables, a dollop of protein, finished with a hearty sprinkling of toppings. As innocuous as the ingredients seem, piled on with a heavy hand your grain bowl could be a calorie bomb in disguise. Here are 4 of the major power bowl pitfalls—and how to avoid them. (Repeat after us: No more dieting. Ever. Instead, learn how to eat clean—with zero deprivation!—and )
Don't make your grain bowl the modern equivalent of carbo-loading. "The main component of grain bowls—grains—may very well be the main calorie contributor in the bowl. Even the healthiest of grains can accumulate carbohydrates and calories quickly in the wrong portions. The serving size for and rice is ⅓ of a cup, which is equivalent in carbohydrates to one slice of bread. A typical grain bowl contains 2 cups of quinoa or rice though, which in terms of carbohydrates that's equivalent to six slices of bread," says Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, a registered dietitian in private practice in New York City and the founder of the F-Factor Diet. "And that's before other sources of carbohydrates like and black beans get added to the mix." (Here are .)
A good rule is to halve the portion of grains and double the portion of greens, says Zuckerbrot.
Yep, the multitude of add-ins make bowls a one-dish wonder. But the flavor bonanza can come with a hefty consequence. “While toppings such as olives, cheese, and nuts can be healthy on their own, when added to a , they can turn your lunch into a real . Part of the problem here is the portions of these toppings, especially when it’s not just one topping included. A quarter cup of nuts can add 200 calories, and just six olives add an additional 45 calories and 5 g of fat. An ounce of high-fat cheese like goat, brie, or Swiss adds another 100 calories and 8 g of fat. Additions like these can easily tack an additional 500 calories onto your meal, which is not ideal if you’re watching your weight,” says Zuckerbrot.
Stick to just one or two toppings, or if you want the variety, make sure you get just micro amounts of each.
Exercise restraint when it comes to your favorite cashew cream—the sauces and dressings that accompany grain bowls are a sneaky source of calories. "Don't drown all the health benefits of your bowl with too much dressing," says Caroline Kaufman, MS, a spokesperson for the California Dietetic Association. If you're at a restaurant, and they ask how much dressing you want, ask for 'light' and get extra on the side in case you want more. Try a -based dressing or plain olive oil and lemon, which help absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in your salad (and make it taste good).
Mix a drizzle of dressing with a dollop of hummus, which is creamy like a dressing, but offers healthy fat, protein, and fiber, says Kaufman.
Sugar can lurk even in your grain bowl, so it's best to be vigilant. "Unless you've made it yourself, don't assume anything until you read the ingredients list. While candied nuts obviously contain , it may also appear in salad dressing (especially low-fat and fat-free), BBQ sauce, some dried fruits, canned fruit in syrup (like mandarin oranges), ready-to-eat grilled chicken, and tortilla strips," says Kaufman. Fat-free salad dressings tend to rely on carbohydrates and sugar to compensate for the reduced fat and end up being no less calories than the full fat dressing. And according to Zuckerman, "dried fruit is another common pitfall among healthy eaters. Two tablespoons of dried fruit like raisins or dried cranberries have the equivalent amount of sugar and carbohydrates as a whole cup of fresh fruit."
Ditch the dried fruit and add a few fresh strawberries or cubed mango or pear to your bowl, suggests Zuckerman.