Consumer Reports: Grain Bowls Are the Ultimate Healthy Comfort Food

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CR tests 26 freezer aisle bowl meals to find the best combo of nutrition and taste; Top-rated choices from Amy’s, Luvo, Healthy Choice, Kashi

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Bowl meals, also known as “power bowls” and “grain bowls,” might just be the ultimate healthy comfort food, according to Consumer Reports. The nonprofit consumer organization tested 26 frozen bowls and found that many delivered a winning combination of nutritional value and taste.

Bowl meals are deep dishes packed with a mixture of whole grains, vegetables, and protein often tossed with a flavor-packed sauce. Their ingredients tend to be what people think of as ‘power’ or ‘super’ foods, those they should be getting more of in their diets. They’ve been growing in popularity - bowl meal offerings on restaurant menus increased by more than 30 percent over the last 7 years - and have now made their way into the frozen food aisle.

“Frozen meals usually don’t get high marks for healthfulness or flavor. But in our tests of grain bowls, we found many exceptions,” said Amy Keating, R.D., a dietitian for Consumer Reports. “Healthfulness truly didn’t come at the expense of taste, and our team of professional tasters was actually surprised that some of the meals came from the freezer case.”

Of the 26 power bowls tested by CR, 15 received a high enough overall score - a combination of nutrition and taste ratings - to make its recommended list, and not one received lower than a “Good” overall score. Seven of the bowls got “Excellent” ratings for nutrition, because they supplied at least a third of the daily value for fiber, contained less than 500 mg of sodium, and had little, if any, added sugars.

Top performers in CR’s frozen bowl meal ratings include Amy’s Light & Lean Quinoa & Black Beans with Butternut Squash & Chard, Luvo Planted Power Bowl Great Karma Coconut Curry, and Healthy Choice Simply Steamers Unwrapped Burrito Bowl. “Higher quality ingredients in the top-rated bowls gave them plenty of flavor,” said Keating.
Just because a company had one product at the top of the ratings chart didn’t mean that all of the company’s products had similar scores. For example, Amy’s had products at the top, the middle, and the bottom of CR’s chart. Its Amy’s Bowls Harvest Casserole was rated midpack, and its Amy’s Bowls Teriyaki ranked 26th.

The full ratings of frozen power bowls can be found on CR.org and in the October issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

The calorie counts of most of the frozen bowls in CRs tests were on the low side for a meal, hovering in the 250-300 range. If that’s too light for some, CR recommends tossing the bowl on a bed of greens, like baby spinach or arugula, or top with some raw or steamed vegetables to bulk it up for just a few additional calories while still keeping it healthy.

About Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.

AUGUST 2017
© 2017 Consumer Reports. The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for advertising or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports® is an expert, independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to work side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. We accept no advertising and pay for all the products we test. We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports® magazine, ConsumerReports.org® and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants. Our Ratings and reports are intended solely for the use of our readers. Neither the Ratings nor the reports may be used in advertising or for any other commercial purpose without our prior written permission. Consumer Reports will take all steps open to it to prevent unauthorized commercial use of its content and trademarks.

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