Regular readers will know I am a bit of breakfast-head. If breakfast were a religion I would be proselytising on a street corner, shoving avocado-smeared toast in your hand as you rushed by, late and ratty for your train. In other words, a bit evangelical. Small e, mind.
Happily, I’ve noticed in my nutrition groups that when we discuss breakfast and its importance for blood sugar control (and consequently weight control), energy and basically running on all cylinders, I am preaching to the choir. A calm, unratty, insulin-controlled choir. Hooray! Big H.
In the olden days of doing what I do, some folk shuffled uncomfortably in their seats when I mentioned the ‘B’ word. Excuses would come thick and fast, with “no time” consistently top of the list. There would nearly always be someone quite proud of not breaking the fast; a sign, they thought (I may be doing them an injustice), of being far too busy and high-minded for something so basic: “A coffee is all I need.” These would invariably be the ones who would catch me on the way out and complain about their rock-bottom energy levels, their mysterious weight gain, their compulsive cravings. The temptation to roll my eyes and scream “aargh” was at times nearly overwhelming. But I am still here, still teaching, so I have obviously not succumbed to that job-wrecking, pretentious posture.
Luckily, as I said, things have changed for the better. So many more people – people like you and me – are aware that the body needs fuel first thing; that the act of eating breakfast quite literally helps us to make good food choices the rest of the day. And makes us nicer people. Maybe that last bit just applies to me. Meeting a breakfast-deprived Kellie is perhaps on a par with the fear inculcated by the Ancients of encountering the Gorgons – Euryale to be specific. I digress…
But smoothies are not often a good choice. Or at least not in the amounts many of us like to consume them. The calories and sugar from commercial smoothies more often than not border on the unhealthy. That may sound a tad drama queen, but have you looked at one of the labels? Some make full-fat cola seem a reasonable alternative. What we are now finding out about sugar highlights just how appalling are many of these so-called healthy choices. But still the healthy image persists.
A serving size of a commercially made smoothie is usually listed as 250 ml, but with two-thirds of brands containing more sugar than the same amount of Coca-Cola, that’s a load of sugar for which we haven’t bargained. And if poured from a larger carton, who stops at 250ml? Especially as, like granola, it has a health halo: it’s healthy therefore we can/should consume more. Err, no. A calorie is a calorie, and a gram of sugar is a gram of sugar, whether it is from a thick mulch of sweet organic fruits or a pack of M&Ms. I’m not saying that the organic mulch isn’t beneficial in many ways – some fibre and the vitamins – but it is easy to get carried away with the benefits and not realise that your body doesn’t really discriminate when it comes to breaking down sugars. Less is more.
Adding in some greens goes a ways towards justifying a halo – yours and the smoothie’s. Super-low calorie, high nutrient, fibre-loaded kale is a fantastic, if unusual, way to rescue the image of the smoothie. I have a couple more healthy smoothies lurking in my messy, rambling recipe index, but this one is probably my current favourite. I don’t drink it every day, but it is a pretty good way of getting some veggies in before you even go out the door. Why save kale for dinner?
If you are at all sceptical about kale in this smoothie, just forgo it – it will still be healthy. But, come on, I dare you!
Do you like smoothies? How do you make yours healthier?
Two years ago: Lemony Courgette Tagliatelle in Herbed Creme Fraiche
Miss R’s track of the week: Liquid Spirit by Gregory Porter
With or without the kale, this creamy cocoa-cherry smoothie makes a terrific breakfast. And the sour cherries are a top anti-inflammatory food. I use frozen, but if you can get hold of fresh, use those and add in some ice when blending. Or use frozen kale. My Miss R always makes sure I have unsweetened almond milk and Katy Rodger’s plain yogurt in the fridge, so that’s what goes in mine. But use what you like – vegan or not. If you are feeling fancy, why not add some chocolate chips or cocoa nibs? But you are best using a Vitamix or other uber-whizzy blender for these nubbly option.
Makes 2 not-too-huge smoothies or one massive, exceedingly filling one
3 heaped tbsp yogurt (I like non-fat Greek yogurt or Katy Rodger’s plain)
250ml unsweetened almond milk, or whatever you like
½ tsp vanilla extract (optional)
Chopped kale or spinach – a good heaped handful (as much as you dare)
Frozen sour cherries OR a dark ‘summer fruits’ mix (eg with blackberries, black currants, red currants, cherries, blueberries – that kind of thing) – about 1 cup, but amount is up to you (I never measure)
Acacia honey, to taste (about 1 tsp)
Water, to thin as needed
*Pop everything in your blender, according to your manufacturer’s instructions and blast until icy, smooth and creamy.*
Extra energy option: add ¼ tsp matcha powder (green tea powder) for a gentle caffeine hit.
More fibre (especially if you aren’t using kale): add ground chia or flaxseeds – about 2 tbsp