The Hungry Swimmer: BYOB (Build Your Own Bowl)

If you’re just learning to cook for yourself, the kitchen and grocery store can be a daunting place. You may feel completely lost in knowing which items to include on your weekly grocery list or how to assemble a bunch of ingredients in time to satisfy your grumbling stomach. Well, it doesn’t have to be that complicated! Focus on BYOB: Build Your Own Bowl.

When I began cooking for myself in college, I thought of my orders at fast-casual restaurants, like a Sweetgreen or Chipotle. I visualized the assembly line of the wide array of ingredients and thought about each step in the ordering process of my salad or burrito bowl. Once I deconstructed this, I came up with a simple model: a base, protein source, vegetable(s) and topping(s). This combination made it easier for me to navigate the grocery store and have a basic understanding of the types of foods I wanted to keep on hand in my pantry or refrigerator. In fact, I still use this same model to prepare my meals, typically a meal-prepped lunch or dinner.

If you’re currently feeling lost or are in need of some meal inspiration, I’m about to share some of my favorite BYOB combos!

Roasted Chickpea & Vegetable Bowl


  • Kale
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Red onion
  • ½ cup Chickpeas
  • Yellow beet
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Nutritional Yeast (optional)

This bowl is great for those who are plant-based or are wanting to get more greens and vegetables in. I enjoy mixing up my protein sources and having roasted chickpeas on occasion. To roast, preheat your oven to 400F, spread out the chickpeas on a parchment lined roasting pan and cook them for ~30 minutes or until they are firm. As for the kale, it is important to massage it if you are eating it raw. Kale is a great option for greens because it is nutrient dense and has a unique flavor however, it can be coarse and difficult to digest. I typically pick out the tough stems from the leafy bits, drizzle some olive oil over top and massage it into the greens with my hands for a minute or so until the leaves become softer and soak up the oil. As for the vegetables, preheat the oven to 400F chop up the brussels sprouts, red onion and beet and bake on a parchment linked sheet for about 20-25 minutes. Since I bake everything at the same temperature, I like to load the vegetables onto the same baking sheet as the chickpeas and bake everything together,checking on them around the 20 minute mark and removing the brussels sprouts because they tend to burn the fastest.


Protein:Roasted chickpeas

Vegetables:Roasted brussels sprouts, red onion, yellow beet

Toppings: Nutritional yeast + olive oil

Chicken Burrito Bowl


  • Kale
  • Bell pepper
  • ½ avocado
  • ¼ cup chickpeas (optional)
  • Grilled chicken breast
  • Cantina style salsa
  • Smoked paprika
  • Drizzle of olive oil

Eat your heart out Chipotle! This bowl definitely hits the spot when you’re craving a burrito bowl. While having kale as a base makes for a lighter option, you can also add some grains like quinoa and brown rice or lentils to bulk up the meal. Instead of using raw kale, I sauteed it for a few minutes in some light olive oil until the leaves wilted. I also added the sliced bell pepper and chickpeas into the same pan just to heat them up a bit and combine them with the kale. For the chicken, I baked it on a lined parchment paper at 400F for about 20-25 minutes. I find that this is the easiest and cleanest way to prepare chicken, as opposed to cooking it in a pan on the stovetop. After I assembled my base and protein, I topped it all off with ½ an avocado, a few spoonfuls of my favorite cantina- style salsa and a sprinkle of smoked paprika.

Base:Sauteed kale

Protein: Baked chicken + chickpeas

Vegetables:Bell pepper

Toppings: Avocado + salsa

Mustard Salmon & Vegetable Bowl


  • Mixed greens
  • Baked salmon
  • Eggplant
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Bell pepper
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow onion
  • Dill weed
  • Spicy mustard
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Garlic powder

This bowl is loaded with vegetables and healthy fats. It makes for a great lunch or super filling and nourishing dinner bowl. As a base, I chose mixed greens. You may find mixed greens at the grocery store or you can customize them yourself. I went with a mix of spinach and arugula. Fish may seem intimidating to cook however, it’s fairly simple and takes about the same time as it does to bake chicken. Again, I use a similar method: preheat oven to 350F, place filets on a parchment lined baking sheet and let bake for about 20 minutes. Before I bake, I like to season the salmon with dill weed, olive oil and garlic powder. I also baked the vegetables with the salmon. Depending on your oven, you may want to leave them in for ~30 minutes total so keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn. As for toppings or dressings, I kept it simple with some spicy mustard on the salmon and a drizzle of olive oil over the baked vegetables.

Base:Mixed greens (spinach + arugula)

Protein:Baked salmon

Vegetables:Roasted eggplant, brussels sprouts, bell pepper, zucchini & yellow onion

Toppings: Spicy mustard + olive oil

Check out my page for more recipe inspiration and be sure to share your BYOB meals with me @whatzoeeeats (

About Zoe Gregorace

Zoe Gregorace is currently studying Nutrition Policy at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and recently graduated from Tufts University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and was a proud member of the Tufts Swimming and Diving team (Go Jumbos!). During her 16 year career as a competitive swimmer, she developed a passion for sports nutrition. She enjoys writing on the topic of nutrition, health and wellness and posts her meal creations on her Instagram page @whatzoeeeats. As a former college swimmer, she strives to share recipes and nutrition tips to promote balanced eating and optimize sports performance.

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