How to build the perfect nourish bowl at home

nourish bowl with quinoa chicken broccoli

How to build the perfect nourish bowl at home

All-in-one bowls are a great way to create a dish with the perfect nutritional composition. They go by many names: Buddha bowls generally refer to a vegetarian or vegan version; a nourish bowl can include meat, eggs or fish; and poké bowls include raw fish.

What makes them alike, however, is that they serve us small portions of a variety of cold foods in one bowl, often in a way that’s colourful and visually pleasing. And while they’re not always the fastest meals to prepare, using leftovers can speed things up.

When putting together an all-in-one bowl, I always look for three important elements:

• One portion of complex carbohydrate
• One portion of complete protein
• Three different non-starchy vegetables

Need more inspiration? Build your perfect winter-warmer bowl with my advice on the ingredients to get you started.

What are complex carbohydrates?

wholeweat pasta, bread and grains

Carbs are often completely vilified – sometimes with good reason. The white processed varieties really don’t do any favours for our health. They can cause blood sugar fluctuations, may lead to raised cholesterol, and can contribute to weight gain – all purely because of the way they flood our bloodstream with glucose. In practical terms, think white bread, white rice, white pasta and so on.

Instead, opt for wholegrain versions of your favourite staples, such as brown rice or couscous. These are much higher in fibre and, as such, take a lot more digestive effort to break down and liberate their glucose – hence their name as complex carbohydrates, or slow-burning carbs as I like to call them. This stops the blood sugar fluctuations outlined above, plus has the added benefit of keeping us feeling fuller for longer.

Top slow-burning carb options for all-in-one bowls include:

• Brown rice
• Quinoa
• Pearl barley
• Whole-wheat couscous
• Bulgur wheat
• Beans and pulses, such as chickpeas
• Butternut squash
• Sweet potato
• Beetroot

What are complete proteins?

protein sorces such as fish, egg, nuts

Complete proteins contain each of the nine essential amino acids – and amino acids are crucial for countless physiological functions within the body. So regular intake of high-quality protein in your diet is essential.

The combination of slow-burning carbohydrates and a complete protein source creates a meal that takes a long time to digest and, as such, keeps us feeling full for hours, reducing our appetite.

More importantly, it means that our blood sugar is more carefully drip-fed so protects against the issues mentioned above, which can cause untold damage to numerous aspects of our metabolic health (and might put us more at risk of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease).

Top complex protein options to add to your winter warmer bowl include:

• Chicken
• Fish such as smoked or flaked salmon
• Seafood
• Hard-boiled eggs
• Tofu
• Tempeh (made from fermented soybeans)

What are non-starchy vegetables?

Box of vegetables such as carrots, peppers, potatoes

The reason that I emphasise non-starchy veggies here is that we want to make sure that our bowl is balanced when it comes to protein and carbohydrates. If we start adding additional starchy vegetables like potatoes and root vegetables like parsnips, then this will throw off the balance.

So, when putting together the perfect bowl, think green leafy veg to get you started. While you can go for more than three if you want a wider variety, keep in mind the aim of three different colours within your bowl. The variety of the colour is the most important aspect here.

Each different spectrum of colour within the plant kingdom represents a different spectrum of nutrients and phytochemicals – powerful plant compounds that can have almost pharmacological effects on our body. The more diversity of colour, the more diversity of micronutrients and phytochemicals you’re getting.

Top non-starchy vegetable options for all-in-one bowls include:

• Kale
• Cavolo nero
• Red onions
• Chard
• Peas
• Spinach
• Avocado

Bringing it all together

Now we know the ideal components, what do we do to give them flavour so that it isn’t just a bowl of bland blah? These are my favourites:

• Spinach wilted with white miso
• Sweet potato roasted with paprika and garlic salt
• Brown rice with furikake (a type of Japanese seasoning)
• Avocado with lime and chilli
• Kale with peanut chilli dressing

What you will notice here is that there isn’t a dressing that just gets poured over the whole lot. While you can do that if you like, these types of bowls are at their best when you bring together complementary flavours for each ingredient – making them like a mini buffet of different flavours and textures. It just makes them more exciting.

Enjoy for lunch, dinner or even breakfast – and serve in your favourite bowl.

Keep up to date with our latest nutrition tips here.

Dale Pinnock

Dale Pinnock


A Sunday Times bestselling author who’s published 18 books to date, Dale Pinnock – also known as The Medicinal Chef – is passionate about the importance of nutritional education, has a BSc in Human Nutrition and a BSc in Herbal Medicine, as well as a postgraduate degree in Nutritional Medicine, while he appears regularly as a broadcaster on ITV and BBC radio. He’ll be helping us bring you clear and helpful information and ideas for boosting your health game through the right foods and supplements.