Breakfast Smoothie | The Do’s and Don’ts – Recipes Included!

Breakfast Smoothie | The Do’s and Don’ts
(Smart Eating Smoothie Recipes included)

When a client tells me they are having a smoothie for breakfast, I become a nutritional detective.  Is it a nutritional boost or a sugary dessert?

Here are the do’s and don’ts of a morning smoothie:

DO:  Start with an unsweetened protein base.  Use Greek yogurt or kefir as the liquid component to blend ingredients. These provide a boost of protein and a probiotic and are optimal choices for creating healthy, creamy smoothies.  Add water or milk for a thinner consistency. 

For vegan or vegetarian, use silken tofu or soy milk.

Plant based milks like almond milk generally have no protein, so if you use them, make sure they are unsweetened and add another source of protein like nuts, seeds or a protein powder without sweetener.

Coconut milk is high in saturated fat with no protein, so if you use it, choose the light coconut milk but remember, it also contains an inconsequential amount of protein.

DON’T: Add fruit juice.  That will turn a nutritious smoothie into a high-calorie, sugary dessert. Also, juice has all the fiber removed.  We want the FIBER!

DO: Sweeten smoothies naturally. Fresh or frozen fruits should naturally sweeten your smoothie, but if you need an extra dose, try adding beets or dates.  Don’t immediately turn to sweeteners, artificial or otherwise.

DON’T: Add sugar. I often see people trying to get away with vanilla yogurt or canned fruit, but check the label, it’s probably full of sugar.  Allow your taste buds to re-calibrate and appreciate the flavor of natural sweetness of fruit or dates.  Sugar will do little to satiate hunger, and it tends to make you want to eat more than you intended or than is good for you.

If you must, or your children insist, add a drizzle of honey or maple syrup – not the pre-sweetened yogurt or plant based milk.  It’s not that sugar is so terrible, it’s that we eat way too much of it so best to save it for a real dessert rather than breakfast.  As much as I don’t like to placate children, parents must pick their battles and a smoothie with a teaspoon of honey is better than a sugary breakfast cereal or a plate of pancakes.

I’m always surprised when I try to order a smoothie at the gym or a juice place after my workout when I’m traveling – there is often no smoothie base that is not full of sugar – the yogurt, soy milk, almond milk, rice milk – they are all sweetened.  And since juice is full of sugar, it leaves you with milk as the best option.  You don’t get the probiotic, but you get some protein without sugar.

If you are dairy-intolerant, ask for water and add a protein powder, ideally without sugar.

DO:  Add whole fruit.  Berries have the least amount of sugar, but it’s great to mix it up with any fresh fruit in season, including bananas.

DO: Try nut butters and flax seeds. A small dose non-hydrogenated nut butter like almond, peanut or cashew butter is a healthy way of adding protein, fiber and flavor to a smoothie.

A teaspoon or two of flax, chia or hemp seeds provide a plant based source of essential fatty acids along with fiber.  Be sure to use ground flaxseeds, since the whole seeds aren’t absorbed by the body.  This healthy fat source will keep you satisfied for a longer period of time.

DO: GO GREEN – WHEN YOU’RE READY. Start with a handful of raw spinach. It’s easy to mask the flavor of spinach with almond butter and banana, making it the perfect choice for green-smoothie starters. Once you’ve acquired a taste for greens, begin branching out to kale or parsley.  The folic acid boost is worth it.

DON’T: Pour in protein powder unnecessarily. I’m not crazy about protein powders since they’re often filled with highly processed ingredients. But they can be helpful to boost protein levels, especially for athletes and older individuals, where muscle building is more reliant up on protein than hormones.  Whey protein is the highest quality protein  source, especially if you are an athlete.  If you’re vegetarian, use pea or soy protein.  Choose protein powder with the least amount of ingredients, stevia sweetened. (It’s hard to find one unsweetened.)  Best to use natural sources of protein instead to help sustain your energy throughout the day.

DON’T: Drink a second serving. If you’re using a smoothie as a meal replacement, it’s natural to think you’ll need a larger portion. Although we don’t need to count calories, it might be helpful to have a sense of whether you want a 300 calories smoothie or a 700 calorie smoothie.  It depends on your age, size, activity level and how long that smoothie needs to last you before the next meal comes along.

DO: Beware of overindulging.  Even if you’re only adding more fruit, the calories and sugar can creep up quickly.

Here are my favorite smoothie recipes:

Add whey protein for additional protein.  If vegetarian — pea protein.  Choose protein powder with the least amount of ingredients, stevia sweetened. (It’s hard to find one unsweetened.) 

Basic | Smoothie

1 cup low-fat or non-fat plain kefir or Greek yogurt

1-2 teaspoons ground flax seeds

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries or raspberries

300 Calories, 10-12 grams Protein

 

Long lasting |  Smoothie

1 cup lowfat or nonfat plain kefir or Greek yogurt

1-2 teaspoons ground flax seeds

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries or raspberries

1 tablespoon almond butter

½-1 frozen banana

600-700 Calories, 18 grams Protein

 

Green | Smoothie

1 cup lowfat or nonfat plain kefir or Greek yogurt

1 handful fresh spinach

1 tablespoon almond butter

1-2 teaspoons ground flax seeds

½ – 1 frozen banana (or not frozen)

300-400 Calories, -18-20 grams Protein

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend well till smooth.  For a more efficient smoothie, use a metal milk shake can and in immersion blender.   The various blender options are fine as well, like a Magic Bullet.

Make use of fruits in season beyond berries – peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots.  Tropical fruits add a wonderful flair- papaya, mango, guava.  Be creative and enjoy!

Lowering Cholesterol with Diet (in 4-6 weeks)

I know from first-hand experience with my patients that diet can play a major role in lowering cholesterol.  Statins can be life-savers, but like all medications, they come with side effects.  That doesn’t mean they are bad, but you may want to weigh the pros and cons and do all you can to avoid needing medication.

If you can achieve cholesterol goals with diet, exercise, all the better!  The guidelines below are the basics of an anti-inflammatory diet which helps reduce inflammation in the body and lowers the risk of plaque formation.  Stick with it and you’ll see changes in 4-6 weeks.

Bonus:  Eating this way will result in weight loss without counting calories or fat grams.

Here are four basic principles of a heart healthy diet:

  1. Balance your fats and eliminate trans fats. Choose healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3’s, reduce saturated fats.Balance these:
    Unsaturated fats promote heart health when they replace saturated fat in the diet.  There are two types – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

    Monounsaturated fat sources:  (key oils in Mediterranean Diet) olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, avocados, peanut butter, nuts, and seeds.
    Polyunsaturated 
    fat sources:
    These come in two forms, omega 3 and omega-6.  Both are necessary for good health.  But most Americans consume too much omega-6 and too little omega-3, so while both are cardio-protective, aim for a balance of more omega-3 and less omega-6.

    Omega-3 fatty acid sources: fish, fish oil, ground flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, soy  products, nuts, dark green leafy vegetables and omega-3 enhanced eggs

    Omega-6 fatty acid sources: soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower, cottonseed, sesame as well as margarine, traditional eggs and baked goods.

    Limit these:
    Saturated fats –  among the most potent fats to increase blood cholesterol levels…limit meat, milk, cheese, ice cream, butter, lard, shortening, hydrogenated vegetable fat, palm oil, coconut oil, and beef fat.

    Avoid these:
    Trans fats are the most dangerous of all fats.  They raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and lower HDL (good) cholesterol and are the most efficient at promoting plaque that causes heart attacks and strokes.

    The man-made trans fats include partially “hydrogenated” oils (check food labels), – chips, crackers, vegetable shortening, commercially prepared baked goods, French fries, fried chicken, doughnuts, pastries, pie crusts, biscuits, pizza dough, most stick margarine, fast foods.

  2. Choose whole foods. The less processed, the more fiber, vitamins and minerals.  — Fruit and vegetables (here’s how:  each time you eat, include a fruit or a vegetable.  For example, berries with breakfast, and apple in the afternoon; salad for lunch, double vegetable side with dinner), wheat and whole-wheat products, corn bran, seeds and nuts, oat and oat bran, dried beans, lentils, peas, brown rice, barley, rye, flaxseed.
  3. Emphasize carbohydrates with a low glycemic load. Avoid foods that raise the blood sugar levels quickly.  Maintaining a normal blood sugar level is cardio-protective. Glycemic load is a measurement of how quickly a food is converted into sugar in the body.  The lower the load, the lower the blood sugar rise after a meal.  Emphasize whole foods over processed foods and minimize your intake of cookies, cake, white bread, white rice, potatoes, chips and crackers.  For a complete chart, check here:  https://diabetes.ucsf.edu/sites/diabetes.ucsf.edu/files/PEDS%20Glycemic%20Index.pdf
  4. Limit your intake of high-fructose corn syrup. This man-made sugar is added to many processed foods but creates unique health problems.  It can be found in many processed foods including soda and other soft drinks, breakfast cereals, canned fruits, jellies, flavored yogurts, baked goods, ketchup and other condiments.  While sugar and honey should be kept to a minimum, high fructose corn syrup triggers a cascade of health problems all its own. 

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

By Mary Donkersloot, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with Rose Lipner, Intern

Healthy eating means 2-3 servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables daily.  But when produce is contaminated with unhealthy chemical pesticides, not all produce is equal.

A nonprofit environmental watchdog organization called Environmental Working Group (EWG) looks at pesticide residue data on produce to compile lists called the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”, indicating the most and the least pesticide loads found in commercial crops.

These lists are updated every year, ranking pesticide contamination of 48 popular fruits and vegetables.  The guide is based on results of more than 35,200 samples of produce tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.  It is important to note that at least one pesticide was found on approximately 70% of produce— and that’s after washing and/or peeling it!

Still, it is better to eat conventionally grown produce than to skip fruits and vegetables altogether.  But the best way to get the benefits of these foods is to buy organic when you can, especially those that are more likely to be contaminated.

Dirty Dozen

Here’s the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list.  Make it a priority to buy these foods organically:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Bell Peppers
  12. Potatoes

Additionally,  hot peppers and blueberries may contain organophosphate insecticides, which EWG characterizes as “highly toxic” and of special concern.

Clean Fifteen

EWG also created the “Clean 15” foods that are the least contaminated. It’s okay to buy non-organic varieties of these fruits and veggies. Still, make it a habit to wash them thoroughly before eating or cooking.

  1. Corn
  2. Avocado
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onion
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mango
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Grapefruit

For more information, go to EWG.org

 

 

Baby Food Alert: Are Pouches the New Juice?

Mom’s who are hip to good nutrition generally know that juice is a general no-no. We suggest no juice birth to six months, and if it is given, limited to 4-6 ounces after age 6-12 months; and up to 6 ounces 1-6 years and 7 years and up, up to 12 ounces.

Some well meaning parents wouldn’t think of giving their kids Coca-cola, but might give them apple juice or Sprite, particularly in a restaurant as a treat. But 8 ounces of Coca-Cola contains 27 grams of sugar, as does 8 ounces of Sprite or apple juice. Better to turn to milk or water.

In my practice, I see kids who have a beverage preferences based on limits set by parents at young age. If they never had soda, they tend to not like it; same with juice. Water drinkers learned to drink water as young children, and so it goes.

Too much fruit juice, or soda can contribute to excess calories. But more importantly, it can lead to a limited palette.

But just when moms got the message about avoiding sweetened beverages, a new line of products cleverly sold in convenient pouches is on the market, tricking even the most well-intentioned, nutrition-conscious mom. These products are often labeled organic, with a promo that reads “love your veggies”. Unfortunately, they often have the opposite effect. The convenience factor cannot be denied, and we all know that parents might like to rely on anything that makes life easier at this busy stage of child rearing.

But while these pouches might be OK for an emergency, they should not be relied upon every day, and certainly not every meal. Here’s why:

  1. Purees from pouches are often sweet and rob the baby of the opportunity to develop a taste for the actual vegetable. From 4-7 months, it seems there is a window when humans are extraordinarily receptive to flavor. This is a good time to augment breast or bottle with vegetables. Babies are open -minded and it takes fewer exposures to persuade them to like a new flavor. The effects are long lasting.
  2. Better to start the challenging like cauliflower, zucchini, spinach and broccoli WITHOUT added apple or other sweet puree to mask the flavor. Then add the naturally sweet vegetables like carrot, butternut squash and sweet potato.
  3. Labels may be misleading. Even though the labels promote spinach and brown rice, it’s impossible to know what provides the bulk of the pouch’s contents. Most likely it’s a less expensive of the two, which is likely apple, pear or carrot puree in most cases.   (Beechnut lists percentages on their website and is considering adding them to the label.)
  4. Sucking purees from pouches does not promote the healthy development of feeding skills. Pouches encourage sucking, and the baby already does that very well. Don’t let baby get stuck in the puree phase. Let them learn to negotiate lumps and textures.

Purees in pouches may not be a bad thing, but we need to make sure parents rely on them minimally. Here are some tips to make sure baby stays on track:

  1. Buy pouches with vegetables as single-ingredient purees rather than mixed with sweet purees to your baby learns to like their flavor. Look for kale, spinach or broccoli only rather then vegetables sweetened with apple, sweet potato or pineapple.
  2. Instead of letting babies and children suck on puree pouches, empty the puree into a bowl and feed it with a spoon.
  3. Do not let older babies and toddlers walk around while sucking on these pouches. Teach kids to sit down at a table for meals and snacks, and model the behavior yourself. This will make them mindful eaters who learn to self regulate – eating when they are hungry and stopping when they are full.
  4. In addition to pureed food, expose the baby to finger foods from early on. If introducing finger foods from 6 months, serve long pieces of mango, avocado, or tofu, long strips of well0cooked chicken or meat, steamed or roasted carrots or potato, or long pieces of toast. When babies develop finger grasp close to 8-9 months, its time to offer small bites of well cooked vegetables, soft fruits, eggs, meats, beans and shredded cheese. This will ensure a variety of textures in baby’s diet.

Weaning children onto solid food should be done in a way to set them up for healthy food likes for life. When children actually enjoy vegetables, plus a range of whole foods from all the other food groups, they are much less likely to become picky eaters.