With a calendar full of after-school activities, long work days and crazy commutes, eating together at home is more important than ever. Studies show that children who eat at home with their families weigh less, have fewer behavioral problems and do better in school. To help your family eat at least one more meal together each week, the “meal in a bowl” is a quick dinner idea your entire family can enjoy.

Use some of your leftover meats, veggies or whole grains to create a meal in a bowl, also known as a power bowls or grain bowls. These meals are quick to assemble, flavorful, filling, packed with a variety of nutrients and more affordable than eating out. Plus, your family can customize their bowls to their liking.

Here are four simple steps for creating a meal in a bowl:

Step #1: Choose a whole grain

Place a half cup of cooked whole grain pasta, rice, noodles or quinoa into a bowl. Save time by using quick-cooking whole grains like quinoa, millet, instant brown rice or 10-minute barley. Whole grains have many nutrients including several B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber. High-fiber whole grains are associated with reduced risk for heart disease.

Step #2: Load up with a rainbow of veggies

Add one cup of fresh, frozen or canned vegetables. Use “No Salt Added” or “Reduced Sodium” canned vegetables. If you don’t have lower sodium canned vegetables on hand, just rinse and drain which reduces the sodium by 40 percent. Each serving of vegetables provides antioxidants, fiber and potassium which support a healthy heart.

Step #3: Power up with protein

Top each bowl with three ounces of lean protein such as chicken, turkey, lean beef and pork, fish, low-fat cheese or hard-boiled egg. If you don’t have any leftover cooked meat, look in your pantry for canned beans, tuna, salmon or chicken. A one-cup serving of plant-based protein such as beans, lentils, tofu or soy-based products can replace a two-ounce serving of meat. For an added crunch, top with nuts or seeds. Including protein will reduce feelings of hunger, increase satiety and preserve lean body muscle mass.

Step #4: Choose a sauce/dressing

Mix or top with two tablespoons of vinaigrette or low-fat salad dressing. Here are some other toppings:

  • Mild: hummus, tahini, plain Greek yogurt, prepared pesto, peanut sauce, curry sauce, salsa, guacamole, prepared mango chutney
  • Spicy: sriracha sauce, chili-garlic sauce, chipotle in adobo sauce, Korean gochujang hot and sweet sauce (may not need the full two tablespoons adjust to your liking)

Try some of these meal in a bowl ideas or create your own combinations:

Mediterranean Bowl

  • ½ cup cooked True Goodness® by Meijer® Organic Super Grain
  • 1 cup diced cucumbers, tomatoes, and yellow bell peppers
  • 1 cup cooked lentils or canned lower sodium chickpeas
  • ¼ cup reduced fat crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons True Goodness® by Meijer® Organic plain Greek yogurt

Southwest Style Bowl

  • ½ cup cooked Instant Brown Rice
  • 1 cup canned no salt added corn, drained, diced fresh tomatoes, avocado
  • 1 cup MorningStar Farms Chipotle Black Bean Crumbles, cooked
  • 2 tablespoons salsa

Italian Bowl

  • ½ cup cooked True Goodness® by Meijer® Protein Penne Pasta
  • 1 cup Meijer Frozen Broccoli, Carrots & Cauliflower mix, thawed and cooked
  • 3 ounces cooked chicken breast strips or shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 2 tablespoons prepared pesto

Thai Bowl

  • ½ cup cooked brown rice noodles
  • 1 cup sautéed red bell pepper strips, ginger paste, minced garlic, snap peas, shredded carrots, sliced green onions
  • 3 ounces cooked shrimp or chicken breast strips
  • 2 tablespoons peanut sauce

Vegetarian Bowl

  • ½ cup cooked True Goodness® by Meijer® Organic Tri Color Quinoa
  • 1 cup sautéed red bell pepper, garlic and kale
  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 2 tablespoons zesty sriracha carrot hummus

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