Why Bowls are the New Plates

From grain to noodle and veggie bowls, it’s clear that bowls are overtaking plates as the dish of choice these days. For some, eating out of a bowl is the ultimate in traditional comfort food, while others say bowls are their top pick because they create easy portion control and convenience.

Eating from a bowl sort of tricks the brain, says Jennifer Johnson, a chef and founder of Hip Chick Farms, an organic chicken fingers brand in Sebastapol, California.

“Portions can be controlled better in a bowl, everything is condensed and has the illusion of being fuller,” Johnson says. “On a plate, food is more spread out, it appears smaller in comparison to the size of the plate and therefore people feel more inclined to load their plates even more.”

So, next time you’re comparing dishware, consider this: The same portion of food in a bowl appears larger than when it’s placed on a standard dinner plate.

“Portion control is essential to anyone seeking to modify their diet or just reduce the tendency to overeat,” Johnson says. “The simple change from plates to bowls can change the way you eat in a profound way.”

For Katie Proctor, a registered dietitian and health coach in Denver, reaching for a bowl at mealtime is just another way Americans are customizing and experimenting with what they eat.

“The bowl format enables you to mix and match what you’re in the mood to eat,” she says. “You can use rice, sweet potatoes and broccoli one day and make it a curry bowl and another a chipotle burrito bowl. You don’t have the same limitations with a bowl that you would have if you ordered a regular plate of something at a restaurant.”

The only caveat: Your bowl can get awfully calorie-rich even if each individual ingredient is still plenty healthy. To keep your meal as balanced as possible, pick one complex carbohydrate (such as brown rice), one lean protein (such as grilled chicken) and tons of vegetables, Proctor says. Then pick a flavor enhancer.

“Whether it’s a sauce, guacamole or cheese, you want to pick just one,” Proctor says. “Don’t add all of them.”

Bowls have also upped the color quotient of our meals, says Edwina Clark, a dietitian and head of nutrition and wellness at Yummly, a recipe site.

“Grain bowls, noodle bowls and veggies bowls have transformed veggie-strong dishes into works of art, appealing to even the most devout meat-lovers,” Clark says. “Veggies are light on calories and offer a myriad of health-promoting nutrients, including fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, vitamin K and potassium.”

In the end, DIY bowls are ideal for families, too.

“A bowl can be customized to serve each member of a family a slightly different version, leaving off the things they don’t want and piling on the things that they do want,” says Robin Asbell, author of several books, including “Great Bowls of Food,” publishing in May. “You can prep the ingredients and eat the food alone, one bowl at a time, or share with a group.”