Same, same – but different. When entertaining these days, dietary differences can get wacky. What to do? L.A. nutritionist Kelly Leveque is sharing this killer piece of entertaining advice that will keep you from pulling your hair out: the bowl bar. From taco bowls to broth bowls, give this idea a try…
Los Angeles is a melting pot – not only of people, but also of cultures and cuisines. Angelenos have an astounding array of food preferences, attitudes, allergies and lifestyles. (Just listen to the table next to you order their food the next time you’re out.) All this diversity has enriched the L.A. food scene and created options aplenty for people to choose from.
But what if you’re hosting a party? As any host can attest, trying to satisfy paleos and vegetarians and clean eaters (and not-so-clean eaters) can be a challenge. So how can you do it? Three words: Build a bar.
From breakfast bowls and smoothies, to pasta night and taco Tuesday, a “build your own” bar gives guests the opportunity to eat what they want, when and how they want it, and without judgment. And it won’t totally overwhelm the host. By providing a few staples, together with several accouterments and add-ons, you can satisfy all. You won’t be throwing away dressed salads and old appetizers at the end of the night, and it will help you prep your vegetables for the week. Below are some of our Be Well favorite “build your own” options to let your guests have the “same same, but different” meals.
But first, to ensure you don’t over do the options, follow these three simple rules:
Rules of the Bowl Bar
Offer 2 Proteins:
Provide one vegetarian and one meat protein option.
Offer A Base or 2:
For a base, offer a green, grain-free option, or a hearty carbohydrate option, or both.
Tip: Keeping the carbohydrate base gluten-free will save you extra groceries. Opt for quinoa, rice, corn tortillas, rice paper wraps or brown rice noodles.
Offer Veggies + Good Fat:
Always have a fresh vegetable option (non-starchy) and a healthy fat (such as avocado, olive oil, pine nuts, pesto, etc.) so your guests are nourished and satiated.
The rest is up to you. But remember, guests always love you for supporting their clean eating goals.
7 Build-A-Bowl Ideas
Build Your Own Breakfast Bowl:
Scramble up a big pan of pasture-raised eggs for the center of your brunch table and surround it with small ramekins full of toppings. The perfect paleo toppings include bacon, sausage, avocado, spinach and herbs like chives and cilantro. Vegetarians also love the greens, but make it fiber-packed to keep them full by adding onions, peppers and mushrooms. Bring a punch of flavor with salsas, hot sauce and shredded sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheese. For your dairy-free friends, consider a spreadable cashew cheese.
Tip: Prep the toppings prior to, but whip up the eggs hot while your guests arrive.
Build Your Own Broth Bowl:
A little Sunday prep can make this the simplest meal to prepare. Just spend a few minutes to slice some produce like cabbage, onions, herbs, carrots, sprouts, water chestnuts and spinach. At meal-time, heat a large pot of bone broth or vegetable broth on the stove and add shredded chicken, hard-boiled eggs, sliced pork or beans. Each family member can fill their bowl with produce, protein and cover it with tasty, boiling broth.
Tip: If you choose vegetable broth, consider adding healthy fat like avocado, hemp hearts or avocado oil. If you don’t like raw onions, sauté them in the broth pot with a little olive oil.
Everyone Has a Favorite Chili:
Simply sauté the vegetables, seasoning and broth. Then, whip up beans, ground beef and ground turkey separately. You know everyone has a favorite (Texas-style without beans, vegetarian or both), so allow your guests to add their protein and toppings separately.
Toppings Tip: Greek yogurt and shredded almond cheese are all great swaps for sour cream and cheddar shreds if you have any lactose sensitive or intolerant guests.
Taco Tuesday Night:
Who doesn’t love taco Tuesday? Well… probably your vegan friends, if you haven’t accounted for them. Black lentils serve as the perfect “taco meat” sautéed in less than five minutes on the stove and can be prepped ahead of time. You can even use the same seasoning packet that you use with your turkey or grass-fed beef, if it’s just spices. Most hosts miss the mark when they assume all their guests will make a taco or bowl. The key is having enough lettuce, romaine, kale, iceberg, or spinach. You just want your guests to feel comfortable making a salad without monopolizing all the greens.
That’s a Wrap:
From iceberg and butter lettuce to rice paper wraps or raw foodie favorites like dehydrated flax wraps and collard greens, there are a plethora of wrap options. Pick two. Get creative with dips and spreads. Beet dip, hummus, pesto or baba ganoush will make vegans, vegetarians and paleos all very happy, not to mention it makes the wrap substantial and nutritious. You can lettuce wrap burgers, deli meat, seasoned ground turkey or falafels.
Simple Tip Reminder: The easiest way to keep it streamlined is to offer two proteins and two base options.
Build a Pasta Bowl:
Our newest favorite! You can easily boil an entire bag of gluten-free pasta to keep in the fridge or spiralize a few zucchinis into zoodles. Prep meatballs over the weekend or slow cook them before a party. Not only are they a great leftover snack, but they make for any easy protein add to pasta night. Red sauce, pesto, fresh dill, hemp hearts and cashew cheese are great options for all.
Salad & Bowl Bar:
This might be a no-brainer, but it also tends to be where we overdo the options. First, start by picking one salad or bowl you would like to serve. For example, if you choose a Cobb, ensure all the toppings are available to build a Cobb, then simply add a few more substantial vegetarian options like beans and nuts. Just remember for your guests to build a complete meal they need protein, fat, fiber and greens. If everyone can build a complete meal your job is done!