I love the taste of açaí bowls just as much as everyone else; they're aesthetically pleasing and insta-worthy, and not to mention deliciously refreshing. However, as a dietetics student it is impossible for me to ignore some of the problems there are with these bowls. The truth is, many of these "healthy" açaí bowls would be better off on a dessert menu. 

Yes, açaí has many health benefits; its a power fruit filled with antioxidants and micronutrients that your body uses to reduce free-radicals in the body.

milk, cereal, sweet
Francesca Cherchio

The problems with açaí bowls arise with the blend-ins and toppings. Many places blend the açaí with apple juice and banana, which piles on the sugar. Then the açaí bowls are topped with granola, more banana and several other fruits, PB, Nutella, etc. And by topped, I mean piled on top in unnecessarily large quantities. The addition of more fruit and granola, besides the large amount of sugar already present from the apple juice and banana, creates a very large amount of simple sugars which causes a rapid spike in blood sugar and also does not keep you full for very long.

Yes, fruit is good for you, but these bowls are loaded with a lot of it and it's blended, so your body doesn't have to work as hard to digest it. On top of that, there are no veggies or protein which help to offset the large amount of carbs. The peanut/almond butter is actually beneficial because the fat digests slower so it can help mitigate the spike in blood sugar from all the simple carbs in the bowl. By the end, these bowls can come in around 50 grams of sugar (4 grams = 1 teaspoon) and 400+ calories. 

How to build a better acai bowl:

Ask them to blend the açaí with water or almond milk instead of apple juice. If they usually blend in a banana as well, ask for no banana on top. If they have a protein powder to add, you should include that in your açaí bowl to help you stay more satiated, and add some beneficial amino acids to your meal. Maybe omit the granola topping and go for a topping like chia seeds, hemp seeds or coconut shreds instead to add fiber and/or a healthy fat. This will keep you more satisfied while also slowing the spike in blood sugar that occurs rapidly after consuming simple carbs.  Some places offer "green bowls" which contain spinach or kale. You should definitely try to go for those, and trust me when I say you won't even taste the greens.

Açaí bowls are delicious and can be very nutritious; And  you definitely should include these delicious bowls into your life, just be sure to read the menu carefully and always include a balance of protein, and healthy fats, and maybe even some greens if you're feeling adventurous, or consider making some of these adjustments once in while. Unless you're really treating yourself to a nice dessert, then order as is.

If you really want to get creative, try making your own açaí bowl at home using this awesome article as a guide!