Let's get one thing straight first: Açaí berries on their own aren't bad for you. They contain a bunch of nutrients, including several essential vitamins and some helpful fiber. But odds are you're not getting a bowl full of berries in the U.S. Instead, you're probably getting açaí berry powder that's been sweetened or mixed with nut milk. Then it's all mixed with ingredients like with fruit, coconut shavings, and all manner of health store go-tos (again, nothing to worry about in there). Basically, they're just big ol' smoothies.
What's missing from that list of delicious-sounding ingredients, however, is anything with a significant amount of protein — you know, the stuff that gives you energy and keeps you full. So you're going to be paying for a bowl brimming with oh-so-Instagrammable food, but you'll probably be hungry again before you get that 11th like.
On the other hand, what açaí bowls do have is a lot of sugar. "Açaí bowls can have 50g of sugar, or double what the American Heart Association recommends for women for an entire day," Ilana Muhlstein, RD, tells Shape. In fact, the Açaí Primo Bowl at Jamba Juice contains 67 grams of sugar. The Açaí Blueberry Bowl at Juice Press packs 44 grams of sugar. Even the Hella Good Greens bowl at Juice Generation — which does have a respectable 18 grams of protein — still gives you 48 grams of sugar.
Yes, most of that sugar is coming from fruit, which means it has enough fiber to keep it from being digested too quickly and overloading your system. (Unlike green juices.) So if your choices are a chocolate bar and an açaí bowl, the bowl is definitely a healthier bet. But Americans tend to eat far too much sugar (refined and otherwise). And an açaí bowl gives you a lot of sugar to have in just one meal.
So, what's the verdict? Well, of course, it depends on how they make you feel. With the absence of protein and the possible addition of a ton of sugar, they might make you want another one pretty much immediately — especially if you're thinking of your bowl as a pre- or post-workout snack. That means they're not exactly the worst, but we wouldn't necessarily count the bowls as full meals.
That's why we'd suggest considering the bowls treats rather than a go-to option. If you want to make 'em more of a meal, you can always add a scoop of Greek yogurt or nut butter for extra protein.