Trending Bowl Recipes and Ingredients for K-12
Feb 23, 2023
Bowls are more popular with Gen Z than any other generation. No wonder bowl recipes are quickly becoming a staple of K-12 school menus across the United States. This trend has been gaining popularity recently, as schools seek to provide nutritious, customizable, and fun meal options for their students.
Schools are quickly adapting bowls to the evolving tastes of Gen Z and Alpha students. In this article, we discuss the most notable trends in bowls for K-12, with an emphasis on emerging flavors and ingredients.
Popular types of bowls on K-12 menus
Some of the most popular types of bowls include breakfast bowls, salad bowls, and grain bowls.
Breakfast bowls are an excellent way to start the day for students. Oatmeal bowls are a common choice, often featuring steel-cut oats, fresh fruit, and nuts. Yogurt bowls are another popular option, featuring Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, and granola. Both options are customizable, so students can add or remove ingredients as needed to suit their preferences.
Salad bowls are a great way to provide students with fresh, nutrient-dense meals. Vegetarian and vegan options are available, making them an excellent choice for schools with diverse dietary needs. Protein-packed bowls, which include a variety of meat, fish, or tofu options, are also available for students who require more substantial meals.
Finally, grain bowls, which feature rice or noodles as a base, are a popular option for schools that want to incorporate global flavors into their menus. Grain bowls can be customized to include a variety of ingredients, such as vegetables, protein sources, and flavorful sauces. Ready in as little as three minutes, Simplot Good Grains™ frozen grain and vegetable blends can help you stay on trend while reducing labor and food waste.
Trending savory bowl ingredients in restaurants
Investigating what’s popular in restaurants is a great starting point to predict which menu concepts will resonate with K-12 students. Research firm Datassential has categorized the bowl ingredients found in commercial restaurants and grocery stores into their various stages of adoption. These designations give you a good idea of what’s up-and-coming versus what is merely commonplace.
Ubiquity-stage ingredients in restaurant bowls
This category gives you a good idea of what kids commonly encounter when dining out for bowls. You find these ingredients just about everywhere that serves bowls:
- Bell pepper
- Pico de gallo
- Mashed potato
- Black bean
- Fried chicken
- White rice
- Sour cream
- Jalapeño pepper
Proliferation-stage ingredients in restaurant bowls
These ingredients aren’t ubiquitous yet, but they’re on their way. You’ll find them in chain restaurants and grocery stores:
- Pinto bean
- Green onion
- Scrambled egg
- Brown rice
- Kung pao
- Salsa verde
- Egg white
- Sweet potato
- Red onion
Adoption-stage ingredients in restaurant bowls
These ingredients are starting to gain traction with a wider audience and building momentum. You’ll find these in trendy restaurants and specialty grocers:
- Cauliflower rice
- Ancient grains
- Plant-based proteins
- Sweet chili sauce
- Pickled vegetables
- Bean sprouts
- Jasmine rice
- Kalamata olive
- Peanut sauce
- Snap peas
- Ahi tuna
- Korean BBQ
- Goat cheese
- Spring mix
- Fried egg
- Blue cheese
- Pulled pork
- Sesame seed
- Carne asada
- Greek yogurt
Restaurants are adapting to Gen Z’s pronounced interest in healthy bowls:
(Change in menu penetration over one year)
- Meat-free +132%
- Vegetarian +24%
- Low-carb +21%
- Gluten-free +13
- High protein +12%
The larger trends in bowls for K-12
These lists hint at higher-level trends driving the design of bowl recipes in restaurants that will almost certainly find their way into K-12 lunchrooms.
- Plant-based proteins in bowl recipes
One of the key trends in bowl recipes for K-12 schools is the emphasis on plant-based proteins. Many schools are moving away from traditional meat-based dishes in favor of vegetarian or vegan options rich in plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils, tofu, and quinoa.
Concerns about sustainability and environmental impact partly drive this shift, but it also reflects changing dietary preferences among students and their families. For example, bowl recipes that feature plant-based proteins can be just as filling and nutritious as traditional meat-based meals, and they can also be more affordable and easier to prepare.
- Global flavors in bowl recipes for kids
Public schools are increasingly incorporating flavors and ingredients from different cultures, such as Korean, Mexican, or Middle Eastern, into their bowl recipes. This trend reflects the growing diversity of the student population and the desire to expose students to a wide range of culinary traditions.
Incorporating global flavors and ingredients can also make school meals more exciting and appealing to students, especially those who may be hesitant to try new foods.
- Bowls with more grains and vegetables for K-12 students
In addition to global flavors, schools are also incorporating more grains and vegetables into their bowl recipes. Examples include quinoa, farro, and barley, as well as leafy greens like kale, chard, and bok choy. These ingredients are nutrient-dense and offer a range of flavors and textures, making meals more satisfying and enjoyable.
- Homemade sauces and dressings for bowls
K-12 schools are moving away from pre-packaged dressings and sauces that are high in sodium, preservatives, and other additives. Instead, they're making their own sauces and dressings using fresh ingredients like herbs, spices, and vinegars. Homemade sauces and dressings can add flavor and complexity to a bowl meal while reducing sodium and other unhealthy additives.
- More creative and visually appealing bowl recipes in K-12 schools
Many schools are experimenting with different bowl shapes, colors, and textures to make meals more visually appealing and exciting for students. This trend reflects the growing importance of creating an enjoyable dining experience for students, which can help to increase their overall satisfaction with school meals.
The trend towards customization is also becoming increasingly popular in K-12 school bowl recipes. Schools are offering more options for students to customize their meals, such as by offering a range of different proteins, vegetables, and toppings. This trend reflects the growing importance of catering to individual preferences and dietary restrictions. By providing a range of options, schools can ensure that students have access to healthy, satisfying meals that meet their unique needs.
Here are two great K-12 bowl recipes from the Simplot Culinary Team that reflect these overarching trends:
A delicious bowl of Simplot Good Grains™ Brown Rice topped with juicy pulled pork, cilantro, salsa and Simplot RoastWorks® RTE Flame-Roasted Peppers & Onions Blend.
View Recipe »
Beef Bulgogi Bowl
A nutritious, tender beef bowl paired with delicious Simplot Simple Goodness™ Peas and Diced Carrots and Simplot Simple Goodness™ Shelled Edamame . Top it off with tangy bulgogi sauce, sesame seeds and fresh cilantro.
View Recipe »
The benefits of bowls on K-12 menus
The first and perhaps most significant benefit of bowls on K-12 menus is their nutritional value. Bowls can easily incorporate a variety of food groups and be customized to meet the dietary needs of students. For example, a breakfast bowl might include whole grains, fresh fruit, and yogurt, while a salad bowl might feature leafy greens, a protein source, and various vegetables. By including a variety of nutritious ingredients, bowls can help ensure that students are receiving the essential nutrients they need to stay healthy and energized throughout the school day.
Another trend in K-12 school bowl recipes is the emphasis on reducing food waste. Many schools are taking steps to reduce food waste by using ingredients that can be easily repurposed in other meals. For example, leftover roasted vegetables from one meal can be used as a topping for a bowl meal the next day. This trend not only helps schools to save money on food costs but also supports sustainability efforts.
Bowls are also incredibly convenient for schools to prepare and serve. Kitchens can make them in advance, so they're ready to go when students arrive for lunch. They're an excellent option for schools that have limited kitchen facilities or staff. Bowls also require minimal clean-up, a significant advantage for schools with limited resources. This convenience means schools can easily provide students with healthy, nutritious meals without breaking the bank.
K-12 kitchens, are you ready to bowl?
From burrito bowls to veggie bowls to rice bowls, bowls are a trend quickly gaining popularity on K-12 menus across the United States. It’s easy to see why so many elementary schools, middle schools and high schools are embracing bowls given their nutritional value, convenience, and appeal to students. And with so many products available to reduce labor and waste, there's never been a better time to offer them.