Is it just me, or do many New Year resolutions centre around diet and lifestyle? Probably because come January 1st, we are experiencing full on guilt for our Christmas food and drink excesses. While guilt is a negative emotion that we don’t want to indulge in, making positive changes to our eating habits is something that should be welcomed and worked towards. This doesn’t have to be extreme or ground breaking such as never eating sugar again or cutting all processed foods from our diets. Small changes can be as effective as we may be more likely to stick with them and they can be stepping stones to greater change.
One such small change is to add more leafy green vegetables into your diet. Eating more leafy green vegetables is a good idea for all sorts of reasons. Leafy greens are rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are low in calories and have a very low glycemic load. The advantage of eating our leafy greens raw and unprocessed is that they contain more nutrients than when they are cooked or processed. It is also understood that enzymes are better preserved in raw food and our bodies use these enzymes to help digest our food. A 100% raw food diet can be quite restrictive and difficult to follow. However, adding elements of a raw food eating to our daily diets is simple and easy to do.
One way of doing this is to add a simple side salad of leafy greens to our lunch and dinner. Another really clever way of doing this is by having a green juice or smoothie each day. The good news is that this is far more achieveable than it sounds.
First of all, what is a green smoothie? A green smoothie is a blended drink where raw leafy greens are the main ingredient. A really good green smoothie is one that doesn’t taste too ‘green’ or ‘vegetably’. By achieving this taste balance, they are far more enjoyable to drink and we are more likely to drink them every day. Making a green smoothie can be a little daunting and first attempts can resemble green sludge rather than beautiful green goodness. However, by following a few simple guidelines and with a little bit of practice, the perfect green smoothie can be yours in next to no time. They key is choosing the right balance and ratio of ingredients and this is where a ‘Green Smoothie Formula’ comes in very handy. By following this formula, you can hopefully come up with lots of different variations of delicious smoothies that you won’t grow tired of eating. When starting off, it’s a good idea to add a little extra sweet ingredients to your smoothie for taste. But remember, the whole point of green smoothies is to give us a good dose of raw leafy greens so it’s important to keep that in mind. As you get used to the taste of green smoothies, try increasing the amount of leafy greens and decreasing the amount of sweet ingredients. Aim for two thirds leafy greens and one third, sweet ingredients.
Super charging our foods with nutritious ingredients is all the rage now and we can easily do this with our smoothies. For example, add some healthy fats with avocado, coconut oil, seeds or nut butters. Add some slow release energy foods by adding some oats. There are lots and lots of options here. Just be careful of how these may affect the taste of your smoothie. For example, adding raw garlic will give your smoothie a strong pungent taste which isn’t something you may want for your everyday smoothie, but it may be worth adding to your smoothie once a week.
Green Smoothie Formula
The idea is to chose one ingredient from each category to start with. As you become a more experienced smoothie maker, try experimenting with different combinations or with adding additional ingredients from the ‘supercharge’ category.
– Liquid: Water, coconut water, nut milk
– Leafy Greens: Kale, spinach, swiss chard, water cress, bok choy, collard greens
– Sweetness: Banana, berries, mango, pineapple, apples
– Supercharge: Bee pollen, spirulina, avocado, coconut oil, nut butter, oats, chia seeds, turmeric, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, raw cacao, ginger, raw garlic (watch out for the taste), sprouts, herbs
Add 2 cups of leafy greens of choice, add 2 cups of liquid of choice and add 1 cup of sweetness of choice, plus a little of one of the supercharge ingredients.
Play around with the ingredients and quantities until you find flavour that works for you. Again, the best type of green smoothie is one that you actually enjoy drinking so if you need to add extra sweetness at the start, do so.
1. Invest in an easy to use and easy to clean blender
The best type of blender is one that you actually use. It doesn’t have to be top of the range and state of the art. There are plenty of really good options for under €100 on the market. Avail of the January sales and grab yourself a bargain!
2. Preparation is key
Fifteen minutes of preparation on Sunday evening will save you valuable minutes each morning. Wash and dry your leafy greens ahead of time and store them in a ziplock bag in the fridge. Who wants to be washing spinach at 7am in the morning? The same with your fruit choice. Wash, dry, peel, or chop it in advance. The night before, put all your ingredients, save for the liquid in your blender cup. Just add the liquid in the morning, blend and away you go.
3. Be conscious of your vegetable/fruit ratio
At the start, you may want to add more fruit than vegetables as you get used to the taste. But remember, the whole idea of green smoothies is to include raw leafy green vegetables in our diets. As you get used to the taste and more experienced, try increasing your leafy green vegetables and work towards reducing the amount of sweetness in your smoothie.
Frances Walsh is the creator and writer behind healthy lifestyle blog, The Honest Project. The Honest Project focuses on plant based eating and cooking, using vegetables, fruits and wholefoods. Frances’ interest is in preparing and eating foods that are made from scratch but are practical and easy to make for even the most inexperienced cook. For more information visit thehonestproject.com.