The term “self-care” gets bandied about a lot these days. I find it puzzling. Should there really be a need for a term and reminder to take care of oneself?
It’s been 20 years since I walked into my first yoga class. I continue to unroll my mat — at home now due to COVID-19 — to wring out my muscles and tissues and woes as I know the practice of yoga does. Yoga brought me to weightlifting, first attending a rigorous strength-training class some 10 years ago to secure my spot in the yoga class following. The weightlifting stuck, and I do that at home, too, with a set of weights upstairs, congratulating myself regularly for not only finishing the workout, but not coming through the floor.
I share this to dispel any misconceptions that all a food writer does is cook, eat, write, eat some more and repeat. Even after lapses (that we all have), I can generally count on myself to return to the mat and the weights. I do believe (soreness aside) that what’s good for you is also good to you.
So I share, too, another simple nudge to get started with something that’s good for/to you. I got into smoothies more than a decade ago, when the concept that much of the body’s nutritional needs for a daybreak meal could be easily met by whirring healthy ingredients in a blender and serving them in a single glass.
A smoothie, at its most basic, is a drink that combines a liquid, fruit and/or veggies and maybe some protein, blended until smooth. Some recommended proportions are two parts (cups) liquid, two parts fruits and veggies and 1/2 part (or 1/2 cup) thickener, like yogurt or even ice for frostiness, but there really are no rules. If you’ve never had or made a smoothie, here are some ideas for ways to create wellness by the glass.
Many smoothie recipes call for regular dairy milk, but nut or grain milks — almond, cashew, oat, rice — work well for dairy-free options.
Give these liquids a try: Coconut water, low-calorie and containing electrolytes, is ideally hydrating for smoothies. Also, consider a splash of apple cider vinegar for tart flavor and a nutritional boost.
Fruits and Veggies
Smoothie ingredients — in fruit like berries, bananas, sliced peaches and mango— can be conveniently kept in the freezer. Frozen veggies, like spinach or even broccoli, can be blended into smoothies, too. Don’t resist the veggie component. Their subtle flavor is there, but doesn’t take over when combined with fruits. Try anything from leafy greens to beets, zucchini, peas and carrots. Give green a go, from parsley to green apple.
A fruit to consider: Besides being loaded with vitamins and nutrients, fresh or frozen pineapple contains enzymes that help with digestion, ease inflammation and also help the body recover from exercise.
Stick this veggie in: Celery…this subtly-flavored powerhouse veggie provides fiber and liquid and an astounding array of body-healing antioxidants.
Some people add processed protein powders into smoothies, but it’s easy enough to take a natural approach. While milk and nut milk contain protein for a smoothie, plain Greek yogurt is very high in protein and lends thick body, as does plain tofu (just give it a try). Nut butters, like almond butter, not only provide protein, but contain the “good fats” that help the body absorb iron-rich leafy greens, like spinach.
A fat to fit in: I recently discovered chopped avocado in the freezer section at the grocery (a way to avoid the quick expiration of a fresh avocado). Avocado is loaded with good fat and adds creaminess to the drink.
Other Smoothie Add-ins
For natural, healthful add-ins, consider turmeric, cocoa powder, cinnamon, oats and seeds like chia, flax and pumpkin. Add a splash of vanilla for a flavor boost.
A smoothie should not be a milkshake or a Slurpee. The fruit in smoothies usually provides enough sweetness, and you may want to take the less-is-more approach with sweeteners (or hidden sugars) in smoothies to lower calories. Avoid using fruit juices or milks and yogurt with added sugars; keep fruits and veggies natural (fresh or frozen, not canned in syrup) and choose natural sweeteners such as raw honey and maple syrup, agave, powdered stevia and even nutrient-rich dates to sweeten the pot.
Rebecca Howard grew up in Kansas and has written for the Los Angeles Daily News, the Los Angeles Times and LA Parent Magazine, and currently writes the food blog, “A Woman Sconed.”
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