As a meat-and-potatoes guy (double meat, double potatoes whenever possible), I’m no expert when it comes to healthy dining. I am, however, keen on flavor.

That may be why I’ve had a tendency to shy away from nutritious foods.

A combination of ignorance and stubbornness, I’ve always believed food falls into one of two categories: It either tastes good and is bad for you or it’s good for you but lacks taste.

Enter Rio Acai Bowls, which introduced Bakersfield to acai in 2015 when it opened its first location in downtown Bakersfield. The South American berry was an instant hit and spawned three more locations – one in northwest Bakersfield, one in southwest Bakersfield and one in downtown Fresno – and numerous copycats.

But Rio Acai Bowls still reigns supreme with its small-but-mighty menu that emphasizes quality over quantity and delivers healthy choices that are surprisingly delicious. Acai and pitaya options are available in bowls or smoothies in addition to an assortment of poke bowls and shakes. Orders are customizable with toppings ranging from fresh fruits and seeds to peanut butter, almond butter and Nutella. Everything is made to order, including the slicing of the fruit, for unrivaled freshness.

With temperatures hitting triple digits on a regular basis, Rio Acai Bowls provides a cold, delicious alternative that will fill you up while helping you maintain that beach bod.

The Rio (small $7.50, medium $9.50, large $11.50):

This was the bowl that changed how I viewed healthy eating – that something can actually be good and good for you and not leave you hungry in a couple of hours.

The acai base is topped with granola, banana, strawberries, blueberries, coconut shavings and honey. The dish has a natural sweetness from the granola, banana and honey, while the strawberries and blueberries add a bit of tartness. Unlike yogurt, whose toppings tend to offset its naturally sour nature, acai’s subtle, earthy flavor perfectly complements its toppings resulting in an extremely balanced meal that is filling but not heavy.

I had a bowl for lunch during my visit and had another for breakfast the next day, courtesy of Rio’s southwest location, which has a very convenient drive-thru.

Dragon Smoothie (secret menu item):

You won’t find this colorful smoothie on the menu, but the staff will make it for you if you ask.

Pitaya, coconut water, pineapple, strawberries and banana are blended together to create an extremely refreshing drink.

Also known as dragon fruit, pitaya’s faint sugary taste serves as the ideal base for the fresh fruits, the pineapple, strawberry and banana making their presence known with every sip. 

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