Monday, June 30, 2014

What's in Your Smoothie?

It's Summer in many places, except San Francisco of course. It's June-gloom here, all day, every day. For those of you who are experiencing a true Summer, with this change in weather often comes a change in cravings, a change in our preference for certain foods, and a desire to eat more cooling foods rather than warming foods. Or perhaps, smaller meals throughout the day, rather than a few larger, heavier meals. There's no right or wrong here, rather, it's interesting to pay attention to how our bodies adapt to the seasons. This change is real, folks!

It's no secret that I approach nutrition wholistically. This is purposely misspelled to really emphasize the notion of whole body, mind, and spirit being integrated into my nutritional practices. When I mention cooling vs. warming foods, this is coming from my studying of Chinese medicine principles, which were integrated into my Nutrition Consultant Certification training and which I find completely fascinating. 

The idea is that foods are neutral, cooling, or warming, and can be used to balance the body out. And, in the hotter seasons, like Summer, eating more cooling foods can help balance out the hot (literally) body. 

I'm a big fan of smoothies, whether for a snack or a meal. They're fast and easy to make, can pack a ton of nutrients and fiber in, and tasty. When it comes to smoothies though, it's very easy to go overboard with too much fruit. Enter sugar overload. You may be asking yourself, but, it's fruit? It's natural sugar. In the words of my very wise nutrition mentor: Sugar is sugar. 

So, lets talk smoothie tips. Get your blenders out!

1. Pick your fruit strategically
I'll stick to one or two fruits, maximum, in my smoothies. I will often resort to smoothies for a hearty afternoon snack or on-the-go meal. My absolute favorite fruits to incorporate into smoothies are mixed berries. I'll often buy the frozen, organic mixed berries from Trader Joes. Berries are a great smoothie ingredient because they are low-glycemic, and won't spike your blood sugar as much as some other fruits. 

A lot of people love bananas in their smoothies, as they can help give a creamy texture. Bananas are higher in carbohydrates and full of potassium, which can be especially helpful in repairing muscles post-workout. Some people are sensitive to bananas in that they find them constipating (we will talk about poop here on the blog because, well, everybody poops...hopefully). So, as always, pay attention to how your body feels when consuming various foods.

Finally, now is the best time to buy fresh Summer fruit at Farmers Markets! So, if you can, buy it and stock up. Even if you can't eat it all, don't be afraid to freeze leftover fruit. I did that with mango-nectarines two weeks ago and they were delicious in a smoothie. The freezer is your friend.

2. Add in a healthy fat
Balance out your smoothie by adding in some healthy fat. Fruit and liquid does not a smoothie make! That, my friends, is what I like to call a sugar-bomb. Adding in healthy fats can help your body to better digest the natural sugars from the carbohydrates, and even out your blood sugar. 

Fats are my favorite, and these are my go-to smoothie fats to add in:
  • Sunflower seed butter: Trader Joes makes a great, affordable one - it's my favorite fat to put in smoothies, hands down
  • Almond butter: crunchy, creamy, both will work
  • Flax seeds: provide a nutty flavor, some crunch, and some anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats
  • Chia seeds: only add in if you're going to drink your smoothie immediately, otherwise, your smoothie will turn into slime as the chia seeds congeal
  • Avocado: avocados are even higher in potassium than bananas! Not to mention, they give your smoothie a creamy texture.
3. Sneak some greens in
As I like to say, get yo greens! First and foremost, I want my smoothie to taste good. However, I love adding frozen spinach into my smoothies for some extra greens, fiber, and nutrients, and the spinach is masked by the many other more potent flavors in the smoothie. Kale however...I am not a fan of kale in smoothies (but some people are!). I am a fan of kale fried in bacon fat, though.

4. Add in a source of protein, as needed
Incorporating a serving or so of a nutritional or protein powder into a smoothie can help further give it staying power. After a hard workout, it's great to give yourself that added protein to help repair your muscles. I recommend Vega brand proteins to many of my clients because they taste good, are plant-based, organic, and easily digestible; in fact, I love Vega so much that I started working with them part-time doing demos and samplings at Whole Foods! My favorite flavors are the Vega One French Vanilla or Vega One Chocolate. They've got amazing nutritional stats!

If protein powders aren't your thing, you could also try some yogurt; if sensitive to cow's dairy, there are tons of goats and sheep's milk yogurts out there. Just make sure to pay attention to the grams of sugar on the yogurt label. Ideally, there would be zero!

5. Switch it up! Think outside of the blender.
As with all meals in our diet, it is important to alternate various ingredients and foods so that our body doesn't become allergic over time. When it comes to your smoothies, don't drink the same one every day; switch it up! For liquids, I like to alternate between unsweetened almond milk, unsweetened coconut milk, or coconut water. 

Here is a smoothie recipe I am totally digging right now:

1 cup frozen berries
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 heaping spoonful sunflower seed butter
1/2 scoop Vega One Chocolate 
A spoonful of cocoa nibs, optional (but give a cocoa flavor with a crunch)

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy immediately!

What's your favorite smoothie combination?

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