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What I Learned from the #BasicBowl Nutrition Challenge

My friend Shanique hosted the #BasicBowlNutrition Challenge that ended yesterday, and it was truly transformative!

I loved putting my bowls together, and it was amazing how quick and easy they were to build. It really took a lot of the guesswork out of cooking dinner after late nights of volleyball, spin class, and work.

The idea was to make one of your meals into a bowl, with a focus on a different food group/nutrient each day (e.g. protein, fats, and carbs). The challenge culminated with a bowl that incorporated everything we learned over the five days.

On why she started this challenge, Shanique said the following:

Earlier this Spring, I was crashing hard in my workouts and having a crappy time of recovering from them. I knew my nutrition was not great, but I was so tired of the food obsession going on a diet would create or forcing myself to eat foods I wasn’t interested in. So I just said “screw it, I’m putting all my meals into a bowl!

And what do you know, by using a simple bowl, I not only found an easy way to control portions but also a way to make my meals fun and satisfying again, without restriction.

Here are the five bowls I created:

Day 1: Protein
Spinach, ground meat, tomato sauce, pasta, feta

Day 2: Veggies
Ground meat, red leaf lettuce, feta, yellow kiwi

Day 3: Carbs
pea protein powder, collagen hydrolysate, peanut butter, and MCT oil in with frozen acai, pineapple, a pinch of mango, and a fresh banana (Trader Joe’s ftw). Sprinkled some chia seeds and granola on top. Easiest bowl for me is throwing it all in a blender.

Day 4: Fats
sharp cheddar stick. Turkey bacon, eggs cooked with avocado oil, red lettuce, and whole-grain waffle.

Day 5: Big Bowl
Rotisserie chicken, tomato, microgreens, gluten-free protein pasta, feta, olive oil, a dash of black pepper.

My favorite: Day 5. I inhaled that bowl so fast, I’m not even sure I actually tasted it. 😐 It was well-balanced, super easy to throw together, and I felt great after eating it.

The most random: Day 2. I don’t know why I was craving kiwi, but I’m glad I ate it. It was a random bowl for me, but it hit the spot and was exactly what I needed!

The easiest to make: Day 3. That smoothie bowl was so good and it took maybe 5 minutes to pull together.

Here’s a little (not-so-secret) secret: I’m a pretty good cook, and I love cooking! What you may not know is that I have a tendency to eat poorly when I’m short on time or extremely stressed out/overwhelmed. But I learned some valuable lessons while participating in this challenge:

  • Stop being so bourgie. If you like it, you will eat it! I’m looking at you, days 2 and 4. I need to stop being so bourgie when I’m hungry. I can have a well-balanced meal with minimal effort. It doesn’t have to be the prettiest meal or the most complicated; what matters is that it’s fueling me, it’s not undoing my hard work, and it’s what my body needs.
  • Weeknight meals don’t have to be complicated. In fact, the simpler the better on busy weeks. If I have leftovers from the weekend, I can repurpose those in the early part of the week. I can also throw a bunch of shiznit in the blender and call it a night.
  • Making a mental checklist of protein, veggies, carbs, and fats makes it easier to think about what I might be missing. I’ve been struggling hard with getting enough protein and vegetables, so this short checklist is a major timesaver and a gentle reminder. 
  • Have some go-to meals. I have a few no-cook meals that require minimal prep work. As long as I have the ingredients, I could make them in 5 minutes or less. Knowing that I could fall back on this made life a little bit easier. Additionally, continuing to expand upon these go-to meals makes it so that I don’t get bored of having the same simple meals over and over again. Now that I have some pretty easy meals that I can make on the fly, I have far fewer excuses for making poor choices with my meals.

All-in-all, I loved this challenge! The simplicity of this challenge is actually what made it hard, and what made me really push myself. Why was I making things harder for myself for all these years?

I’m grateful for Shanique’s #BasicBowl Nutrition Challenge. I think it’s something I could do every month, or one day a week, or even just after I’ve had a week where I haven’t eaten the best. It was great!

Would you ever take this challenge? What do you do when you need a quick meal? What’s on your nutrition checklist?

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