How To Build An Awesome Poke Bowl

By Isadora Baum

You've probably heard all about the poke craze by now, as it's become a trendy meal that can be really nutritious and heart-healthy, when done right. Yet, as with any type of food, it's easy to turn a good-for-you meal bad based on whatever else you're pairing it with.

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"Poke bowls have come into our lives for a good reason. They are fresh tasting, can have a little bit of everything and can be healthy. The key word is can as sometimes besides the fresh fish, poke bowls can add up in calories," explains Top Chef alum and Executive Chef of Chicago's Mexican restaurant, Barrio, Chef Katsuji Tanabe.

On its own, a poke bowl is high in anti-inflammatory fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, which can protect the brain and heart, and if you add in good carbohydrates, veggies, and other sources of protein, you're getting a full nutritional bang for your buck. However, consider a poke bowl like a DIY frozen yogurt cup: the toppings matter.

Luckily, here are a few hacks for making a delicious poke bowl to fuel you and tide you over until your next meal. Perfectly diet-friendly and satisfying, it's a great idea for a light lunch or dinner.

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How to Make A Healthy Poke Bowl

There are usually three options for a base: white rice, brown rice or mixed greens, he says. So, go for brown or greens, and ditch the white rice. Brown rice can offer solid complex carbohydrates and fiber to keep you full longer and provide energy. (Ed's note: kelp noodles also make a delish base!)

Yet, if you're watching your carb intake, use a greens base. "To stay away from the carbs and sugar, go for the mixed greens as a base," says Tanabe.

"Then, there is the main ingredient in the dish: the poke. There is no way to steer clear of the actual substance that makes the dish, but keep the fish or tofu simple and clean and do not marinate it," he says. Marinades will add excess sugar, salt, and calories.

You'll also want to choose the right toppings, ones that add flavor and nutrients while still keeping the meal healthy. Fruit is sweet, although natural, so it's okay to add in mango or watermelon, but go easy on the servings and heavier on the vegetables.

"When it is time to add in the sides, opt for more vegetables and fewer fruits and also stay away from a crunch, as this ingredient is usually something fried which can add calories as well," says Tanabe.

The final touch? The sauce. And, the sauce can be a real diet buster, so be careful. It's not just the type of sauce, but also the pour. Keep it to a light drizzle, rather than letting your poke sit in a pool of sauce.

"This is where the calories can really be added on if a delicious aioli is chosen or a ponzu mayo," says Tanabe. His suggestion is to keep it light, but still tasty, by choosing a sesame vinaigrette. "The completed bowl will still be full of flavor, but sans any mayonnaise base as it can load on the calories," he explains.