Acai (aa-saa-ee) bowls have become extremely popular and patients often ask me if they’re a healthy choice for a meal or snack. The short answer is yes, they can be, but in moderation. Let me explain. 

Marketed as a super fruit, the acai berry is pureed with ice and some type of sweetener like honey or simple syrup to form a smoothie-style base layer. Blending up fruit makes it easier to consume a much larger portion than just eating whole fresh fruit and the added sweetener also increases calories. Then there are the toppings. Piled on top is more fresh fruit, honey, granola, nut butter, Nutella and just about any other topping. Sounds pretty nutritious, right? Here’s the catch. 

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When you add all of the toppings suddenly your bowl of healthy goodness could easily contain over 500 calories and 40-90 grams of sugar. This is why consuming acai bowls should be an occasional indulgence not part of your everyday diet. 

Protein

Let’s look at protein. A typical smoothie bowl has only about 6 grams, or the amount you’d get from eating one large egg. We like to tell our patients to aim for about 20-30 grams of protein per meal. Protein helps keep you fuller longer and can help you reduce your appetite and eat fewer calories overall. For a protein boost, add some protein powder or chopped nuts or seeds to your bowl.

The Bottom Line

If you’re thinking about bariatric surgery, have had it in the past, have diabetes or are trying to lose weight, acai and other smoothie bowls should be consumed in moderation. Get your antioxidants and fiber from lots of veggies and a serving or two of whole fresh fruit each day. If you choose to have a bowl once in a while, keep calories and sugar low by ordering the smallest size and skip sugary or high carb toppings. Think of your bowl as a substitute for dessert, not lunch.