The ayurvedic balanced bowl provides a framework for preparing meals based on ayurvedic guidelines and principles for individuals of all constitutions/doshas i.e. the meals are tri-doshic and are suitable for all adults. This might sound surprising to you especially since in the west, Ayurveda is generally about finding your doshic type and then sticking to foods and activities that are suitable for that particular dosha. This approach however is not really ayurvedic because we all have all three doshas in us and the idea is to ensure that all three remain balanced. Focusing on keeping just one in order will sooner rather than later push the others out of balance (If you are familiar with the doshas and their qualities, you will know that foods which are supposedly good for one are not optimal for the other). Which is why preparing tri-doshic meals is the way to go! :) The ayurvedic balanced bowl ensures that all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent) are present in the right proportions. This in turn ensures the balance of the elements and doshas in us. This helps keep us satiated, prevents cravings and keeps Agni - our digestive fire balanced.
There are two main components to the ayurvedic balanced bowl: augmenting and extractive
Augmenting foods have primarily the sweet taste and help in nourishing and grounding the body and mind, creating and maintaining body-tissue and replacing that which has been lost. All whole grains, vegetables like carrots, beets, squash and dairy items like fresh cheese and buttermilk are examples of augmenting foods. They give us energy and vitality.
Extractive foods have primarily the astringent, pungent and bitter tastes which have a cleansing and detoxifying effect on the body. They are more difficult to digest and the body has to give something up to digest them. All legumes (beans, peas and lentils), nuts and seeds, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, eggs and meat are examples of extractive foods. In order to support Agni - the digestive fire, maintain the balance of the doshas or life-energies and to function at an optimum level adults need slightly more augmenting than extractive food (60:40 ratio)*.
Here's a simple template you can use to create the ayurvedic balanced bowl. Try it a few times and I promise very soon, it'll come quite naturally to you. :)
Let's start with the augmenting part which includes a grain (30%) and an augmenting vegetable (30%)
1. Whole Grain (30%) : Choose from white rice, brown rice, wild rice, barley, millet, teff, oats, spelt or wheat (Combine max. 2 of the above to keep digestion as easy as possible). You can also add flatbreads to your bowl in addition to a whole grain). Around 1/4 cup dry whole grain per meal is a good portion size for adults. Grains have primarily the sweet taste, are easy to digest and also release enzymes once cooked which aid in the digestion of all other elements in the meal
2. Augmenting Vegetable (30%): All root vegeatbles like carrots, parsnips, beets, sweet potatoes; all squashes including zucchini, summer squash, pumpkins; topinambur, fennel and avocado fall in this category. Choose one of these to keep things simple for Agni - your digestive fire. They should make up around 30% of the bowl.
Now let's build the extractive part of the meal which includes a legume/animal protein (20%) and an extractive vegetable (20%)
3. Legume/Animal protein (20%): Choose one from a wide variety of legumes such as split mung beans, whole mung beans, brown or green lentils, adzuki beans, white beans, black eyed beans, yellow split peas, fresh green peas or string beans. Around 1/8 cup of legumes - slightly more for the bigger legumes is a good serving size for adults.
If you choose to include meat or eggs in your meals, make sure that it is not more than 20% of your plate and eat it during lunch when Agni - the digestive fire is strongest (Note: Animal protein is heating and difficult to digest and hence not ideal during summer/high pitta conditions (exces heat in the body in the form of acid reflux, heartburn, diarrhoea/loose stools, skin inflammation/rashes, heavy/mid-cycle bleeding, etc.) or when digestion is weak. Pork and shellfish have a high level of toxicity and are best left out)
4. Extractive vegetable: (20%): Choose one from dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, beet greens, swiss chard or cruciferous vegetables like brocolli, cauliflower, cabbage, chinese cabbage, brussel sprouts, asparagus. For leafy greens a handful of the raw vegetable is a good serving size to cook for one person. The quantity of the extractive vegetable should be slightly less than that of the augmenting.
Occasional add-ons to the ayurvedic balanced bowl
Fresh cheese like fresh mozzarella, ricotta, fresh goat's cheese or fresh paneer - 1 to 2 tbsp max. 2 times a week
Ayurvedic Takra/fresh buttermilk: 1/4 cup mixed with 1/4 cup water and spices - max. 3-4 times a week, ideally during lunch
Nuts: max. 10-12 of the same kind cooked in the food, max. 3 times a week. Do not combine with dairy, animal protein or the heavier legumes. Nuts are heating and one of the most difficult foods to digest (partly because we don't chew them well enough) and are best left out when Pitta is high or Agni is weak.
Here's an extensive list of sattvic foods items (augmenting and extractive) you can choose from to form the ayurvedic balanced bowl. Mix and match to create a wide variety of meals :)
Note: The ratio 60:40 is suitable for most adults. In case of severe doshic imbalances, please get in touch for a consultation.
Fruits should be consumed separate from all other foods. You can enjoy a breakfast of lightly stewed fruit in some ghee and spices on some days or enjoy a small piece of fruit as a snack occasionally if your main meals are more than six hours apart (Ayurveda recommends sticking to three main meals in a day without snacks so that Agni - the digestive fire can function properly).
P.S. The balanced bowl doesn’t always have to be a bowl ;)
Below: Ayurvedic Pizza and veggie burgers with hummus