Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Two-Fisted Drinking Habit

It occurred to me while I was wandering around the kitchen this morning that, as much as I hate to admit it, I am quite often a two-fisted drinker… Now, before you go getting all concerned and making plans for my intervention, let me clarify… in the mornings quite frequently you'll find me carrying around my mug of coffee in one hand while in the other hand I will be chugging a tall glass of green smoothie.

"Green smoothie?" You ask. Yep, smoothie that because of its mix of ingredients that, when blended together can be so visually unappealing, that if I personally didn’t know what went into one, I’d be reluctant to drink it! So, what is a green smoothie? Well, it is a fruit smoothie with a kick – these smoothies have a nice dose of dark, leafy greens in them which give them their color and also their name.

As most of us know, as Americans our diets can be woefully low on precisely those foods which are supposed to be eaten in the highest volumes – namely fruits and vegetables. It’s believed that less than one-fourth of all Americans eat the minimum five servings of fruits and veggies a day and let’s not forget this is the recommended minimum. We are actually to get up to NINE servings a day… and while the smoothies don’t completely make up for the lack of fruits and veggies in a person's diet, they can certainly go a long way toward alleviating the deficit.

My DH and I were originally introduced to green smoothies a couple of years ago by some friends of ours who had started imbibing them as a recommendation from their doctor. The wife had developed type 2 diabetes along with heart disease. She was told to lose weight and start eating healthier – with green smoothies as a means to aid them on their journey. Well, if truth be told, initially my DH was much more enthusiastic about the idea at the time than I was… have I mentioned that these drinks are visually unappealing? Our friends were toting around these big mason jars of green stuff which they were drinking at every given opportunity... Ewww! Fortunately, with a little persistence from my DH and additional information from our friends, I eventually warmed to the idea and am proud to say that we have had green smoothies as a part of our diet now for about a year and a half.

What a green smoothie consists of is essentially a 60/40 (approximate ratio) mix of fruits and leafy greens which are put in to the high speed blender (Vita-Mix or similar) until pulverized into a liquid form. This makes the greens (and fruits) easier to absorb and less harsh on your stomach than say, the greens you would eat in a salad. Sounds kind of like juicing, huh? Well, sort of, but it’s even better because with the smoothie you get all the nutritional benefits from the fruits and leafy greens while still leaving all the dietary fiber intact as well. 

Fruit smoothies are further (and better) explained in a book called Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko. In her book she outlines all the benefits of green smoothies and explains why even those of us who might be eating lots of vegetables, are still probably not getting enough dark green leafy vegetables in our diets. She would even go so far as to suggest that leafy greens should be in a whole new category of vegetable since they are the plant itself, not the product of the plant (such as a tomato or peas or beans). She also has some suggestions on what you can put in your smoothies, but there really isn’t a specific recipe; it’s mostly just adhering to the 60/40 fruit/leafy greens ratio (you could use more leafy greens, but it is definitely an acquired taste) and trying to drink around one quart (32 oz) of smoothie a day.

If you want specific recipes, try typing “Green Smoothie” into Google and you’ll come up w/ a bunch of recipes. But here are a few general guidelines that we have adapted from Boutenko's book: use banana to add sweetness and creaminess and apples to add thickness. Add about a 1-2 tablespoons of ground flax seed too. You won’t taste it and it will add Omega-3 to your smoothie. Finally, with the recommendation of my DH’s doctor we have begun to add a serving of Activia yogurt to our smoothie as well for the probiotics and acidophilus present in the yogurt.

Here are some of the fruits we use in addition to bananas & apples are: 
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Berries (all kinds)
  • Grapes
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Cherries (but they're kind of a pain to pit)
We don’t tend to like melon or pears in ours, but that’s just a personal preference. The leafy greens we tend to prefer are:
  • Spinach
  •  Collards
  • Kale (any kind)
  • Chard (any kind)
Sometimes I add just a little romaine to make up some of the leafy greens if I have it to use up, but too much of it and your smoothie tastes a bit like Caesar salad! You’re not supposed to put any greens in lighter in color than romaine (i.e. No butter lettuce, leaf lettuce, iceberg, etc.). You can also add edible weeds such as dandelions… you just have to make sure that they come from a known source (aka lawn) where there have been no pesticides or herbicides added!
The smoothie on the left has strawberries & spinach in it, the smoothie on the right has mixed berries (blue, black & raspberries) and purple kale... this will give you an idea of what they can look like.
Generally, I make around a quart at a time w/ a recipe such as the one below, but it varies a little bit from day to day. I’ve noted which items are always in our smoothies. The rest varies according to my mood and what we have on hand.

·         1 apple (always)
·         1/2 banana (always)
·         1+ Cup Berries
·         5 - 6 Prunes (for digestion)
·         1.5  - 2 Cups Water (always)
·         2 T Ground Flax Seed (always)
·         1 Pkt Stevia (for sweetness - optional - they're usually pretty sweet w/out it)
·         1-2 cups  leafy greens

As you can see from the above list, this quart of smoothie has at least five servings of fruits and veggies in it! As far as consuming it goes, you can drink it whenever you want. Lately, for convenience (since I don’t like making smoothie as soon as I get up), I’ve been making ours up before we go to bed the night before and I just put it in the fridge... that way it's ready to go as part of breakfast in the morning. However, don’t store the smoothie for more than 3 days as the nutrients will start to break down.

I guess I should add one final caution about the smoothies. These are NOT the brightly colored cheerful looking smoothies that you will get a Jamba Juice or the like. You have to keep in mind that these smoothies have greens in them… and when you combine the greens of the vegetables with the reds of berries you will get a putrid brownish colored smoothie. I have heard people on the web complain how they can’t get past the appearance of the green smoothie… I did mention that they’re visually unappealing, didn’t I? And others have found ways to get around the unsightly nature of the smoothie by putting it in an opaque glass or even stainless water bottle. Whatever your means of getting past the ugliness of this smoothie, I can say it’s well worth the effort. These can be incredibly tasty smoothies that will contribute in a big way to your overall nutritional intake and sense of well being.

Here’s hoping to see a bunch more people taking part in my morning ritual of two-fisted drinking... happy smoothie-ing!

Today's Run
Miles: 7.02 (new personal distance record)
Time: 1:30
Pace: 4.7 mph
Treadmill Workout


Melissa Fried said...

Wow, I have been hearing a lot about green smoothies this week. My best friend has been raving about them for years but I was reluctant to try one. I read about them again on another blog and finally took the plunge. I tried my first one on Monday. It was a berry+spinach blend. I think I'll start adding some of the other ingredients you mentioned. I struggle with getting my minimum allotment of fruits and veggies each day so I want to make these a bigger part of my diet. Thanks for all the tips!!

The Merry said...

I've been throwing veggies into a crockpot and making broth. It's nice to have something warm to drink, especially on cold mornings. But I think in the summer I'll switch to smoothies.

I love your blog -- it's very encouraging :)

Heather said...

I am so PROUD of you for hitting the 7 mile mark!!!! You are amazing, and I cannot WAIT to run the Girlfriends & Hippie Chick Half Marathons with you. 2011 is going to be an amazing running year for you. :)

your sister inlaw