The great smoothie experiment
Some would say that I overindulged over winter break. As soon as my plane landed in Kingston, Jamaica, even before I greeted my family, I ran to the nearest “Tastee” airport vendor and grabbed a hot beef patty. That act turned on the greedy switch and for the next few weeks, I ate nonstop. Every meal was the Jamaican Dagwood version of my plate piled high with rice, curried goat, brown stew chicken, bammy, fried plantain, ox tail, and jerk pork—topped off with rum cake and ice cream. After two weeks of gross excess I turned to a two week super cleanse to avoid having to exclusively wear stretchy pants for the rest of the school year—definitely not my look!
Motivated, I picked the smoothie path to bring my gastric system back to center, a decidedly healthy option with no punitive side effects. As soon as I returned to Tufts, I bought the Hamilton Beach personal blender (for about $20) so I could dedicate myself to losing my holiday gain. I scoured the internet for good ideas, thinking this would be easy to introduce into my busy college routine. I assumed that you simply just throw in some fruit and ice into a blender and viola: a delicious, cheap liquid meal packed with all the necessary nutrients. Wrong! The art of making a healthy and delicious smoothie is delicate, and can require dishing out more than a little cash. That being said, it can also be a highly rewarding endeavor. Here is how my smoothie experiment went, and how I made it an easy addition to my overall diet.
As much as I value health, I am first a foodie. In other words, you couldn’t pay me to chug down a smoothie that tastes and smells like freshly cut grass. To ensure sweetness and also a nice, thick base, start with a whole banana. A banana is a great source of potassium and is really low in fat. When making my smoothie, I chop the banana into about 4 pieces and set it in the blender. I then add about a half a cup of coconut water. Coconut water is one of those stylish foods these days that all celebrities seem to rave about, but of course folks in Jamaica have been drinking fresh, cold coconut water for centuries. It is a great source of potassium but, most importantly, it has a high concentration of electrolytes, which keep you and your skin hydrated during these dry winter months. With the banana and coconut water, I give the blender its first swirl. Then, to add some color, add about half a cup of tart raspberries and blackberries. They are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C. Berries are also anti-inflammatory, so they help with stress levels, skin, and they help the body heal faster. Now your smoothie is a beautiful, bright purple. Next, add the all-powerful superfood kale. Once you add the kale, your smoothie turns a little brown, but luckily the taste is not affected. Some people like to use spinach in their smoothies but its taste can dominate the sweetness of the fruit. Kale is great because it is low in calories and provides high levels of fiber, vitamin K, iron, and vitamin A. I try to stuff in at least a handful of kale because of its high nutrition value.
After the banana, the coconut water, the berries, and the kale, I add chia seeds and flax seed powder. Chia seeds can be found at Whole Foods, and are often quite pricey. However, a little goes a long way in a smoothie–add just 1 tablespoon at a time. Chia seeds do not have flavor and can be added to mostly any dish. They expand when wet, so that means that you will feel fuller with less food. They contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and they also balance your blood sugar so you feel energized for longer. Occasionally I add flax seed powder to my smoothies as well. Flax seed is a dense source of fiber, vitamin B, and various minerals. Adding flax seed might result in too much fiber when combined with kale. Like Chia seeds, flax seed powder does not have a strong taste and about 1 tablespoon is sufficient.
After preparing my first smoothie, I was hooked! The result is a combination of full-bodied fruit flavors, and more subtle, healthful background ingredients. The smoothies are filling, delicious, and healthy. A common mistake in introducing smoothies into your diet is forgetting the caloric value that these drinks contain. My blender makes about 2 cups packed with about 350-450 calories per serving. In other words, smoothies are intended to be a meal replacement. It is not the smartest thing to eat the smoothies for breakfast, lunch and dinner because it can upset your stomach. I love to have smoothies for breakfast and dinner and treat myself to a healthy, normal lunch with plenty of protein. When I tire of the berry flavors, I swap berries for other fruits like mango, orange, pineapple, or pear with the same banana and coconut water base.
While I still have deep cravings for a bottomless bowl of rice and peas, my smoothie diet has given me a little bit more flexibility for the next time I am reunited with the colorful and beautiful culinary experience that is Kingston. If done right, it will reward you with good health and lots of energy to tackle the demands of a Tufts semester.
Cover photo source.