Food, Health and Wellness

Food focus: Smoothies and smoothie bowls

This week for Food Focus I’m highlighting something that’s arguably more of a summer food, but I eat smoothies and smoothie bowls well into the cooler months, as long as I can keep the ingredients interesting. I love going and getting smoothie bowls at my neighborhood juice bar, but it’s not a sustainable habit at $8 each time. With frozen ingredients and stocking up in the bulk food section at your supermarket, they’re far more affordable to make at home!

Worth noting, smoothies are better for the environment than pressed juices, too – unless your juice bar actually blends the fruit pulp into your juice (reducing food waste). Fruit pulp (biproduct of fresh pressed juice) produces methane in landfills, causing green house gas emissions.

Image by blogmood__ from Pixabay

I love Alton Brown’s scientific approach to food and health. Several years ago I read his Four Lists approach to health – which break down sixteen food types into four categories or lists of “Eat Daily”, “Eat 3x/Week”, “Eat 1x/Week”, “Never Eat” (pictured below). You should eat antioxidant rich fruits and veggies everyday, in Alton’s opinion.

I recently read the How Not to Die cookbook by Dr. Michael Greger, and he also features a list approach of 12 foods/habits you should incorporate into your daily life.

Across these two lists, antioxidant rich fruits (like berries), greens and nuts make the daily lists. I struggled with the cost of fresh berries (which are really never inexpensive and are certainly very expensive when they’re out of season), but looking to uses for frozen berries was a game changer for me. I see smoothies as a great way to meet my berry intake goal, as well as my greens, flax seed and sometimes my nut intake, as well. My smoothie hacks to stay fuller longer and to increase my superfood intakes are the following:

  • Prep your smoothie (minus the ice) in your blender the night before and put in the fridge. This will help soften your frozen ingredients a bit so that they’re less harsh on the blades. Frozen bananas, for example! Only do this if you are making a smoothie to drink. Smoothie bowls need to use frozen ingredients to achieve the thicker texture.
  • Mix in seeds AFTER blending. My blender seems to act as a vacuum for chia seeds – so I wait and stir those into my smoothie after I pour it into a glass.
  • Add protein powder to stay fuller longer. I tend to not do this as I’ve found very few protein powders that I actually like the taste of, but it does work to keep you fuller longer.
  • Eating your smoothie bowl (versus drinking a smoothie) can trick your brain into keeping you fuller longer.
  • Experiment with toppings and mix-ins in the bulk food section of your grocery store. Never tried a certain kind of nut or granola? Purchase just a small amount (1/4 c., even) to see if you like it before you buy a large package of it. This also keeps things fresh in your kitchen by refreshing your supply more regularly. Bonus tip: consuming nuts with your smoothie bowl can actually help with absorption of nutrients.
  • Increase you frozen fruit and veggie supply right before they are about to spoil in your fridge or on the counter – this is where all my frozen bananas come from! I also freeze pieces of avocado and greens that are about to turn so I don’t have to throw them away.
  • Invest in reusable straws for your smoothies. I got these stainless steel straws that I run through the dishwasher. The silicone tip on the end is fantastic for not clinking against your teeth!
  • Maybe this is an obvious one, but if you take your smoothies to-go to the office, keep dental floss in your car or at your desk. I’m the queen of rolling into work with chia seeds in my teeth.

I’ve listed below two of my favorite smoothie recipes and one of my favorite smoothie bowl recipes. Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Cherry Smoothie (or Smoothie Bowl) – Blend 1 c. dark frozen cherries (pitted), 1/2 frozen banana (sliced), 1/2 c. almond milk, 1/2 c. frozen greens (I think they break down better when frozen), 2 Tbsp. baking cocoa (unsweetened), 1/4 c. dairy free yogurt, 1 scoop protein powder (optional). To make this a bowl instead of a smoothie, reduce milk to 1/4 c. After blending, stir in 1 tsp. chia seeds and 1 tsp. flax seeds.

Banana Chai Latte Smoothie – Blend 1/2 frozen banana (sliced), 1 c. almond milk, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. cloves, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. cardamom, 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional). After blending, stir in 1 tsp. chia seeds and 1 tsp. flax seeds. I’ve never made this as a smoothie bowl, but you likely could make this as a bowl with just 1/2 c. milk instead of a full cup and a few ice cubes in the blender. Top with banana, chia seeds, flax seeds and coconut shreds!

Antioxidant Smoothie Bowl – Blend 1/2 c. frozen mixed berries, 1/2 frozen banana (sliced), 1/2 c. frozen greens, 1/2 c. almond milk, 1 oz. aloe vera juice (optional). Only blend so that large chunks are broken down – you may need to pulse rather than blend as the mixture will be thick. Use a spatula to move the mixture to a bowl. Top with fresh fruit (strawberries, bananas, blueberries), seeds (chia seeds, flax seeds), nuts (almonds, walnuts, peanut butter), and something sweet or crunchy (granola, shredded coconut, chocolate chips).

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