Unless you’ve been in hiding, you’ve likely heard about the latest rave for breakfast: Acai bowls. Trendy shops focusing on the breakfast craze are popping up all over, but how healthy are they really? And how often should you be eating them?

The gist: What is in acai bowls?

Your average acai bowl contains pureed acai berries, oats, grains and some kind of fruit. They may include strawberries or blueberries, which are loaded with Vitamin C and almost always include bananas. In your typical acai bowl, acai berries, milk and bananas are blended to form a smoothie consistency, which is topped off with oatmeal, peanut butter, and fruit.

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The controversy: Not all acai bowls are the same

Since acai bowls are tailored to your tastes and preferences, there is really no straight consensus of their health content because they can be a delightfully nutritious breakfast packed with vitamins or a basically unhealthy sugary dessert depending on what you put in them. The biggest caveat will likely be the sugar factor. Many acai bowls are simply laden with honey, sweetened almond milk, coconut shreds, and sometimes even chocolate. If you opt for those, you can be sure that your healthy bowl just ventured over into junk food land. But even too many bananas can provide over the top sugar for one breakfast when combined with other fruit and toppings. Some acai bowls can average 60 grams of sugar and can range anywhere from 300-600 or more calories per bowl.

Our take: Ingredients matter

Starting out the day with fresh fruit and whole grains is always a good thing, and so is eating breakfast every morning. However, choosing the wrong ingredients for any meal or snack while hiding under a healthy label simply because it’s trendy is never the right choice. Know what you put in your body. Just because a company or restaurant promotes wellness doesn’t mean the food is healthy. Read labels and when they aren’t any, ask questions. Finally, (as my Mom would say) use the common sense that was given to you. Choose toppings that you know are not loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients. Opt for one item that contains sugar, for example, honey, bananas, or sweetened granola, but not all at the same time. 

To sum it up: Go easy

In the end, no one meal or treat is going to affect you, but when an unhealthy indulgence becomes a habit, your body and health may suffer. Try to indulge in acai bowls once a week or less, or as an occasional treat.

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