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5 tricks to give your poke bowl the healthiest spin possible


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Photo: Stocksy/Marti Sans

While poke has long-been a main dish in Hawaii, the trend has exploded onto the mainland food scene in recent years. According to Business Insider, it’s the biggest fast casual trend of 2017—a major feat when chopped salad chains are multiplying at a record speed. It can’t hurt that alongside grain and acai bowls, poke too, falls under the health halo. But is it actually deserving?

First things first: Poke, simply put, is deconstructed sushi, with starring ingredients such as rice, raw fish, seaweed, greens, and marinade. Like most healthy food trends, there are ways to keep it on the good-for-you end of the spectrum, and there are ways it can be muddled up with not-so healthy add-ins. Here, the best ways to build your bowl—and what to avoid.

Keep reading for tips on building a healthy poke bowl.

how to build a poke bowl
Photo: Twenty20/@dan.e.hacker

1. Brown rice or veggies give a fiber-rich base

The first question your local poke bowl maker is going to ask you is what you want for your base. Typically, your options are going to be white rice, brown rice, greens, and at some places, zucchini noodles. The beauty of picking a base is that you really can’t go wrong: All the options are good sources of fiber.

If you’re choosing a rice: brown comes out ahead of white in terms of fiber and protein, but white has less sodium and more calcium and iron; the “best” choice really depends on what your personal nutritional needs are. Brown rice also has three times as much fiber as leafy greens and 1.5 grams more than zucchini noodles, but it also has 45 grams of carbs while a serving of leafy greens only has one. (A serving of zoodles have 6 grams.) Again, your overall diet and health goals matter most here.

It is important to watch the portion sizes. While rice can be part of a healthy diet, eating several servings of it could tip over into high-carb territory. If you want to keep your carb portions in check but still want rice, ask the server to build your base with half-rice, half-greens. Hey, the whole benefit to building your own bowl is that you get to personalize it, right?

2. Salmon is the best bet for healthy fats

Next, you’ll be offered a choice of raw salmon, raw tuna, or tofu. Just like with choosing a base, you really can’t go wrong with what protein you choose. If you’re eating poke several times a week, you’ll definitely want to cycle in the tofu; eating more than two servings of fish a week isn’t recommended because of the mercury levels. Besides being a good source of protein (one serving has 10 grams), tofu is also high in iron, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin B.

Want to go for fish? Both options are great sources of protein, healthy fats, vitamin B-12, magnesium, iron, and calcium. Salmon comes out on top when it comes to protein, omega-3s, and vitamin B-12, but tuna has more magnesium, iron, and calcium. Your best bet: Switch up your protein sources across all three offerings to get everything you need.

Avocados are also a popular poke bowl item, which is of course worth adding to your bowl too—regardless of what protein you choose—thanks to all its healthy fats and magnesium.

3. Kimchi will make your gut happy

When it comes to the add-ins, kimchi—fermented cabbage—is a great pick. The probiotics inside feed the good bacteria in your gut, and it’s also high in vitamins A and B, calcium, and iron. Another big benefit: One serving will give you 50 percent of the recommended vitamin C required. Pickled ginger is another poke add-in that’s rich in probiotics and supports a healthy digestion.

4. Seaweed salad supports your thyroid

One add-in that’s a mainstay at poke places but not typically at your average salad bar is seaweed. Pro tip: Go for it. Besides being high in fiber, it’s also a great source of iodine and tyrosine, both of which are linked to supporting the thyroid by helping repair damaged cells in the body and giving you an energy boost.

5. Miso-based marinades up the probiotic content

Choosing your marinade matters. One of the healthiest you can go for is miso, which is an often overlooked source of probiotics. It’s a healthier choice than creamy aioli, which is high in calories and Sriracha, which could be high in sugar, too. Ponzu, made with rice vinegar, citrus juice, soy sauce, kelp, bonito flakes, and mirin, is another healthy poke bowl mainstay. And of course, try not to overdo it on the soy sauce, which can be high in sodium. Truth be told, almost everything offered up at a poke bar is going to benefit your body in some way, so think about adding it to your rotation when lunchtime calls.

If you’re looking for more healthy food trends to incorporate into your life, try a nice hot blue algae latte or cauliflower oatmeal

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