Kale & Blueberry Smoothie

As a nutrition consultant, I’m often recommending that people eat more leafy greens. The health benefits are numerous from cancer protection to lowering cholesterol. They are packed with Vitamins A, C & K and good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. And the powerhouse of the greens is kale.

I enjoy kale almost anyway, but many people don’t. Or if they do like it, perhaps they can’t get their families to eat it – so it never makes it into a meal. I often remind people that as an adult, nutrition is a personal choice especially because everyone’s nutritional needs are individual. And since breakfast is often a personal meal, the morning is great time to prepare yourself a helping of leafy greens.

Today I made myself a delicious Kale & Blueberry Smoothie:

Toss all the ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth.

  • 2 cups frozen kale
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 bannana
  • 1 orange (peeled w/ some pith remaining)
  • 1 inch ginger root peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup organic plain yogurt
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp flax seeds
  • 1 tbs coconut oil
  • handful of ice cubes

* Makes 2 servings. (If this is all that I’m having for breakfast I find I need to drink both servings myself to feel satisfied.)

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In my kitchen, I love my freezer. And kale freezes like a champion. I buy giant bags of pre-washed organic kale at Costco. I use it fresh for a few days and then store what’s remaining in the freezer. Or if I have a bunch that I know will be going bad before I can get to it. I wash and dry it in my salad spinner and throw it in a Ziplock and freeze.

(Frozen kale has tons of applications. Use it in soups and stews, throw a handful or two into a rice dish, or a veggie lasagna plus it’s perfect for a smoothie! And smoothies are the perfect breakfast.)

The other ingredients in my smoothie are super healthy, too: Blueberries are famous for the antioxidants contained in the flavonoids in their skin. Pineapple provides fiber and sweetness. Banana is loaded with B Vitamins and potassium (which helps with muscle cramps including the monthly kind). Bananas also gives this drink a smooth creaminess that we all crave. I add the yogurt for the probiotic benefit, it needs to have live active cultures to promote a healthy gut. Also for gut health is the orange. I peel the orange with a knife leaving on quite a bit of the bitter pith because bitters signal your body to release gastric hormones that aid in digestion.

Ginger also helps with digestion and is an anti-inflammatory. Flaxseeds & Almond Milk for their omega-3’s. Finally, coconut oil has anti-viral properties and a bit of fat for energy.

*Note: leafy greens are high in oxalates, which can prevent the absorption of calcium. So it’s a good idea to eat calcium rich foods or take calcium supplements 2 or 3 hours after consuming them.

 

References: Van Duyn & Pivokna, (2000) Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 100, Issue 12, Pages 1511–1521.

Zelman, K. WebMD: The Truth About Kale. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-kale

The George Mateljan Foundation, Worlds’s Healthiest Foods: Bananas. Retrived from: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=7

Waler JM. “The Bitter Remedy.” The European Journal of Herbal Medicine. 6(2):28-33

Gunnars, K. Authority Nutrition:10 Proven Health Benefits of Coconut Oil. Retreived from: http://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil/

Sienera R. (2006). Oxalate contents of species of the Polygonaceae, Amaranthaceae and Chenopodiaceae families. Food Chemistry 98(2):220-224.

Homemade Baby Food

I’m the proud mamma of a 6th month old little boy.  So today in my kitchen, I’m making baby food.

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When my little guy started on solids a few weeks ago.  I was adamant about making all my own organic food for him.  I wanted only the best. At first it was easy, I mashed a beautiful organic avocado and he devoured it.  Then I tried banana, even better, he loved it.  But then I tried sweet potatoes lovingly baked to increase the sweetness and retain more nutrients.  But my taters were rejected…and so were my carrots. Oh no!  I tried avocado again and this time the novelty of food had worn off. It seemed as if my little ones lips were sealed to everything I cooked for him.

I scanned the internet for tips to see what I could possibly be doing wrong. After watching several videos on how to make baby food, I was still coming up at a loss. I guess my little guy was a picky eater. I consulted with my cousin a new mom of a slightly older baby and her words of wisdom, “just buy the organic premade stuff in the pouches.” I guess that made sense, at least that way I could try out a bunch of different flavors – I mean foods.

And what do you know. It worked. I discovered that he loves fruit. Pear, mango and prunes are big winners. But it is almost impossible to get him to eat his vegetables – unless I mix them with some fruit. So I’ve been mixing a new veggie with a previously tried fruit in order to only try one new food at a time and track any allergic reactions that may occur. My pediatrition advised me to do this. And it’s been great. I’ve been mixing and matching fruits and veggies in order to feed a variety of vitamins and minerals as well as expose my boy to exciting new tastes. I’ve found that he also eats with his eyes even at this young age so I often mix based on color as well as flavor. Here’s a list of some tried and true combinations:

  • Carrots & Mango
  • Peas & Pears
  • Avocado & Mango
  • Sweet Potato & Prunes
  • Green Beans & Apple
  • Sweet Potato & Banana
  • Peaches & Carrots

As well as everything has been going with the pouches, I’ve been feeling more and more that method of eating is so disconnected from the actual food that my baby might be learning that food comes from brightly colored plastic pouches. He has been increasingly interested in the serving container, be it a little bowl I’ve mixed up my concoctions in or the pouch itself. And as I squeezed some peas out of pouch last night, I got the overwhelming feeling that I was feeding him glorified toothpaste. Do I know what’s really in these things? The #1 level bags seem ok just the fruit and sometimes water or citric acid or lemon juice. But what’s in the water? Is it like our tap water full of chlorine, fluoride or even bromide? Do they have to label for that? And I recently bought a couple of the #2 level “meals” – these are premixed fruits and veggies and sometimes grains. Flipping over a pouch called “plum, berry & barley” the first ingredient is organic apple puree?!   I’m trying to feed less fruit/sugar not more!

So this morning, I got back to making my own baby food. For me and some new moms I know, making your own food can seem like more work when you are already exhausted but here are my tips to keep the process as simple as possible.

  1. Make big batches. This saves you work in the end. Your blender or food processor will work better when it’s filled. You can use ice cube trays to freeze the purees in one ounce portions for later use. This helps you to feed a variety of foods over the course of a day.

 

  1. Don’t steam or bake. It’s more work and you will need the extra water that you cooked the produce in to thin out your purees. This cooking also contains many of the nutrients from the food so you’ll want to use it in lieu of fresh water.

 

  1. Don’t bother with recipes. There are all kinds of recipes out there for making baby food. But keep it simple. You’re tired you don’t need to measure or mix and match food at this stage. Just make one fruit or vegetable at a time. You can mix and match later when you are feeding. (ie, Defrost a cube of apple and a cube of carrot – mix & feed) This will give you more flexibility as your baby’s tastes evolve which could happen more quickly than you would expect. That way you can try a hint of spice like cinnamon to one feeding of sweet potatoes instead of the whole batch

With these tips in mind here’s a basic breakdown of what I do to make my own organic baby food.

  1. Buy organic produce.
  2. Use filtered water.
  3. Peel the produce if necessary. (Skip this step for veggies like peas, green beans, and spinach.)
  4. Cut into small pieces – bite size for adults.
  5. Boil covered until fork tender. (Place in a pot and cover with filtered water. Put the lid on the pot and turn up the heat. Once you can smell the aroma of the produce in the air, it’s probably soft enough to pierce with a fork and done. But you might want to set a timer for 7 -10 minutes, especially if you may get distracted caring for your baby and forget that you are making food!)
  6. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the produce. Add as much or as little of the cooking liquid to get a smooth puree. Think thinner than mashed potatoes but thicker than butternut squash soup.
  7. Freeze in ice cube trays. After a few hours pop out the cubes and put them in a big freezer bag labeled with the date and type of food.

Bananas and avocados don’t have to be cooked. Make sure bananas are super ripe with lots of brown spots before feeding or they can cause constipation and/or a tummy ache. Whole peeled bananas freeze and defrost well.

P.S.

I’m not a huge fan of baby led weaning, but I do see the advantage of give your baby something to associate food with beyond these purees. So I try to give my guy whole carrots or stalks of celery or ears of corn while we are eating. And they are great for teething.

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Do I Feel Good?

If you feel like you always feel…then how do you know if you feel good? This is the question that I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. I guess it’s because my dog is getting older. Chester will be 13 in two weeks. Yikes. I must be getting older, too. But I don’t really feel 37. Or do I? Is this age thing just like the old frog in the boiling water – I’m slowly getting older so I can’t really feel it?

When my dog starting having problems with his joints, I tried all sorts of remedies to help his limping from drugs to laser therapy. But nothing had as big of an effect as switching his food did. I started giving him this prescription dog chow. JD – Joint Diet. The change is incredible. He’s moving around again like he’s 9 instead of 13.

So what about me? Will changing my diet make me feel better? I already think I eat pretty well. I cook all the time. I enjoy making food from scratch, but what if my choices aren’t the best for me. My knee hurts, what can I eat to easy that ache? And what about all these mood swings? Are those due to my diet?

To find the answers, I think that I need a bunch of data. So, I’m gonna use this blog to track what’s coming out of my kitchen (and going into my body) and how I’m feeling after I’m eating it. I’m not going to be strict and try to do a detox or go vegan or anything extreme. I’m just going keep cooking like I have been but now I’m going to start paying attention to the aftermath!