Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Popeye Effect

Remember how Mom used to say to always start the day with a good breakfast?  Well, being the compliant child, I always have.  It helps that I wake up hungry.  Jim, on the other hand, wakes up with no interest in food.  Coffee is the most he can manage in the morning.  A couple of years ago, his blood sugar started to rise, and one of the things the dietitian recommended was that he eat breakfast to keep his blood sugar more even throughout the day.  I found a “green smoothie” recipe in a magazine, and we both found that it worked well for us as a way to start the day.  I like that it’s simple, but includes lots of nutritious ingredients.  I think of it as nutrition insurance for the day.   Here’s the recipe:
GREEN SMOOTHIE                                                               
1 c. soy milk
2 c. baby spinach, kale, or other mild greens
1 banana, in chunks
1 c. frozen blueberries or other fruit
1 scoop protein powder
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. flaxseed meal

Start by blending the soy milk and the spinach.  The original recipe called for almond milk, but soy milk has quite a bit more protein, which is something I try to pay attention to.  Once the spinach and soy milk are well blended, add the rest of the ingredients and blend like crazy. This helps keep you from finding those embarrassing bits of green in your smile later.  You can freeze the banana ahead of time for a more milkshake-like taste.  Over time, I’ve reduced the sugar in this by switching to unsweetened soy milk and choosing a protein powder with less added sugar.  The cinnamon adds some sweetness and you can add vanilla or your choice of sweeteners.
Makes two servings.
A friend told me you really don’t taste the greens in a smoothie, and I was doubtful, but it’s true if you use spinach or baby kale.    Sometimes I like something a little different. This spring I grew a pot of spinach and arugula mixed together. The arugula has a kind of spicy bite that makes a nice change, although I wouldn’t want it every day.  It’s kind of an acquired taste, but the key is that dark green leafy vegetables are not your enemy, they are your friend.  It turns out that Popeye was right, but I still won’t eat the slimy stuff that comes in a can.

The greens provide a lot of vitamins, and blueberries are good sources of antioxidants.  Flaxseed provides fiber, lignin and omega-3 fatty acids.  The cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar, and also enhances the sweetness of the fruit.  Getting a serving of fruit and a half serving of leafy greens makes me feel like I’ve started off the day on the right foot. I also like that the smoothie has 13 grams of protein – especially important now that we are focusing on a more plant-based diet.