K-12 | Menu Planning

School Menu Inspiration: Build Your Own Bowls

Jun 27, 2018

School Menu Inspiration: Build Your Own Bowls

Food bowls have been around centuries in Asian cultures, but the craze hit America hard over the last couple of years. For schools, build-your-own bowls can help you stay on-trend and offer truly healthy meals while giving kids the freedom to mix and match their favorite flavors.

The food bowl phenomenon

According to Datassential, 25% of all entrées in commercial restaurants are bowls—up 28% over the past four years. Rice/grain bowls in particular have grown a whopping 89% over the past four years.1

And the trend shows no sign of slowing. According to the Wall Street Journal:

"While most food trends peter out after a year or so, the rise of the bowl feels different. It is starting to look less like a fleeting fashion and more like a lasting shift in manners, away from the old formal Western cuisine of plates, knives and forks."2

This comes as no surprise to Dianna Fricke, Simplot Culinary Director and Corporate Executive Chef. "Bowls are incredibly flexible and kid-friendly. Layered with colorful vegetables and meat alternatives, they satisfy the desire for a hearty meal that's also healthy."

And let's face it, food bowls are just plain fun—especially for kids.

Bowls put kids in charge

The other desire that the build-your-own bowl concept satisfies is kids' desire to customize what they eat based on their own unique preferences. This is a trend in school cafeterias that you'll find expressed today in everything from build-your-own taco bars to custom stir-fry stations.

Fully 87% of school districts report offering at least one customizable meal option for students. While many of these are undoubtedly salad bars, more than half of school districts are offering entrée bars. Only 13% offer neither of these options.3

The anatomy of a great bowl

The great thing about bowls is how flexible they are. A grain typically serves as the base for layer upon layer of proteins, colorful vegetables and other toppings. Here are a few to consider:

Grains: Quinoa, brown rice (see Simplot Good Grains™)
Well-Seasoned Protein: Crispy tofu, grilled chicken, marinated beef
Legumes: Seasoned lentils or black beans
Greens: Chopped kale or sautéed baby spinach
Vegetables: Shaved carrots, charred broccoli, grilled zucchini, flame-roasted corn (see Simplot Simple Goodness™ Vegetables and Simplot RoastWorks® Roasted Vegetables and Blends)
Toppings: Ripe avocado, cheese, feta, toasted nuts (see Simplot Harvest Fresh Avocados™)
Sauce: Citrus tahini sauce, garlicky green sauce, and muhummara

Pay special attention to your sauces as they are the key addition that binds all of the other ingredients together in a tasty harmony.

Bowl any time of day at school

Lunch is obviously a prime time for bowls, but if you serve breakfast as well, consider offering it in a build-your-own bowl format. Whatever you decide, the creativity of customizable food bowls can help keep your students excited about your meal program, all while helping you meet nutritional standards.

For more fresh, on-trend menu ideas, download our kids' menu eBook now.>>

1 Datassential MenuTrends, 2018
2 Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2018
3 School Nutrition Association, School Nutrition Trends Report, 2017