Fast Food for the Holiday Season

Child drinking a green smoothie

Me suggesting fast food? It’s not what you think.

If you are running around between school activities, shopping, and quick visits with relatives and friends, it gets tough to cook whole foods at the expected meal times.

In 3 minutes you can make a green smoothie. You are out the door again in 5 minutes. Smoothies make an easy, densely nutritious meal for you and your children.

Green Smoothies

Start with the base. Choose bananas, coconut water, yoghurt, milk, juice, or anything that will give your smoothie a mostly liquid texture.

Add leafy greens. Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, or cabbage. Dark foods of any color each pack their own group of micronutrients and phytochemicals that are great for your health. Green plants provide antioxidants.

Add more greens. Celery, cucumber, or avocado. Go through your vegetable drawer and use what you have—except broccoli. Learn from my sad experience and don’t add broccoli. I love it cooked and raw, but it makes a bitter smoothie ingredient.

Add flavorful fruits. You can sweeten the flavor of your mix by adding an apple, mango, orange, or grapes. We keep berries in the freezer for red smoothies.

Add protein. Yoghurt can add protein but nut butter will add more. We like Almond Butter.

Add a punch of flavor. Choose a flavorway that will work with your other ingredients. Cinnamon, nutmeg, or mint add just a hint of flavor; fresh ginger adds a punch. Depending on the mix (and the spice tolerance of your children), you can add cayenne pepper and garlic. I love to add spices to my drinks.

Add superfoods. When we are missing meals, we are careful to add superfoods to our smoothies. We like hemp seeds, cacao nibs, lucuma powder, goji berry powder, and chia seeds.

Don’t add everything at once! Create a simple mix of base, 1-2 greens, 1 fruit, 1 superfood, and a few spices. Let yourself taste these beautiful foods.

4 Simple Green Smooth Recipes

Light and simple. My husband requested that I add his current favorite: coconut water, cucumber, and lime. It’s light on nutrition and substance, but this is what he craves at the moment. When the rest of the foods around you are heavy and dense, this can be very refreshing.

Sweet and spicy. In addition to your base and greens, add mango, grapes (to give it more liquid), cayenne pepper, ginger, and a short squeeze of lime juice. This is me trying to recreate mango chutney in a glass.

Green eggnog spice. Banana, yoghurt, spinach, a splash of vanilla, and nutmeg. Your mind expects the nutmeg in eggnog, and the creaminess of the banana and yoghurt does the rest of the trick.

Mint chocolate. Banana, spinach, mint leaves, splash of vanilla, and cocoa nibs. This is another simple one. I like the flavors to stand out rather than getty muddied together.

Extra Credit

Red & Green. If you aren’t in a big hurry, pour your green mix into glasses, then make a quick red mix (base plus cherries, raspberries, or strawberries) and pour that carefully on top. A thicker mix is less likely to blend at the edges. Surprise your children when they see the beautiful holiday colors in their drink.

More green smooth recipes.
http://www.ecobabysteps.com/2009/08/24/monday-morning-smoothie-easy-green/

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Everything Is a Smoothie

Dark, berry smoothie

It has been so hot this summer that everything we drink, even water, we buzz with ice in our super duper VitaMix. We’ve been far more experimental, especially with bases. We don’t just reach for cow’s milk or even almond milk, we use apple juice, grape juice, lemonade, or anything liquid in the refrigerator. The key ingredient is ICE.

I have found that my kids are less hungry when it is terribly hot. They drink plenty of water during the day, but it’s difficult to get enough nutritious food into them. Before they reach for chips or crackers for an afternoon snack, I offer smoothies. This is part of our afternoon routine.

Our basic smoothie is the same as my mother made for me since she started doing yoga in the early 1970s: banana, milk, pumpkin pie spices, and ice. Since half of the family can’t drink cow’s milk, we use almond or soy milk. This is easy and always tasty.

Our newest favorite is strawberry lemonade. We like sour drinks, so the strawberries alone make it sweet enough for us, but you could add grapes, honey, or some other sweetener. We buzz the ice, water, and lemon first then add the fresh strawberries toward the end so the strawberries stay a little bit chunky. The ice clumps together if you don’t add any fruit at all. Think of it as a good excuse to add a few nutritious ingredients.


More smoothie lessons learned

  • Avoid broccoli and watermelon. Broccoli makes the drink taste bitter, and watermelon ruins everything—or so my kids have said. I think watermelon is one of those tastes that just doesn’t fit with others so well. After seeing sad, melting glasses of watermelon smoothie go undrunk, I believe them.
  • Add herbs and spices. Cinnamon, cardamon, allspice, and other warm spices go very well with banana smoothies. Fresh mint leaves go well with a light, not too sweet flavors like cucumber, yogurt, and green apple. I love pulling herbs directly from my garden and using them.
  • Freeze the fruit first. Berries work especially well frozen, but I have had no luck at all with frozen bananas. If the fruit is frozen already, you need less ice to make the drink cold. A drink made with frozen fruit is thicker and heavier. It depends what you want. Sometimes light is more refreshing.
  • Add black strap molasses if you want a little bit of sweetness with a punch of nutrition. Molasses is left after most of the sugar is extracted from sugar cane. The sweetness comes from the sugar that is left, but the you are also left with higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals.
  • Disguise the vegetables. Though my kids don’t object to vegetables the way some do, they don’t love vegetable juice. A little bit of avocado or carrot is easy to add to a smoothie without the result of turned-up noses, but a lot can mean that kids are less eager to drink. Just choose your vegetables carefully.

Image © Isabel Poulin | Dreamstime.com

Health Superfoods for Your Family

Super Food Drinks

Super Foods are nutrient-packed, disease-fighting foods, many of which you probably have in your refrigerator or pantry right now. They aren’t unusual or difficult to find.

A lot of our customers have asked Nature Mom about the super foods that she uses, how she includes them in meals for the family, and how much she uses. Start where you are and add more foods over time.

Do you have a few of these around?

  • Dark berries
  • Dark greens
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Hot peppers
  • Raw cacao nibs
  • Honey

If you already have any of these on hand, you are ready to start adding health superfoods to your family meals. Add more dark greens to salads. Sprinkle seeds on many main dishes. Add hot peppers to your foods, if your family can handle them. Sweeten foods with honey. Add fresh or frozen berries to your cereal in the morning. There you go! You are a superfood super star.


Nature Mom’s Fast Food Breakfast

Nature Mom, owner of bynature.ca, eats fast food for breakfast. Shocking isn’t it? Well, hold on to your blenders, because it’s even faster food than you think. At least 2-3 mornings a week, when she is rushed, she has a super food smoothie.

NOTE: If you are nursing or pregnant, and there is anything that might be a concern, just leave it out. This recipe is really flexible, and she uses what she has in the fridge at the time.

Nature Mom Super Food Smoothie

1 cup of frozen berries (fresh is okay too, but frozen makes the smoothie taste colder)
2 handfuls of greens (I usually use spinach but cabbage, kale, Swiss chard also works)
1 large celery stalk
1-2 Tbsp nut butter of choice, I usually use Almond Butter (or Tahini for a nut-free version)
1-2 Tbsp hemp seeds
1 heaping Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 inch ginger, peeled
dash of cayenne pepper
3 cups of water

Put this all into a high powered blender. Blend and drink as you’re running out the door!

Optional superfood additions (I use them all):


A Month of Your Health Ideas

We’re devoting February to food and other ways our readers keep their families healthy. It’s the depth of winter and there are fewer fresh options, so it takes even more vigilance to eat fresh, healthy, whole foods. Comment here or jump over to Facebook and tell us how you keep your family healthy in the winter especially. We want to include your ideas.

Image © Tomislav Pinter | Dreamstime.com

New Father Gifts

Father kissing his newborn baby“What are the best new father gifts?,” I asked my husband. Without hesitation, he said, “A sling.” With a little encouragement, he came up with two more gifts that would also help a new father in his new role as part of an attachment family.


Baby Carrier

Maya Wrap baby slingsMy husband is so convinced that a baby carrier is the most essential baby gear for a new father that he said he would take the sling and leave absolutely everything else, including the cloth diapers. “Really?” I asked. “Yes, I could practice elimination communication.” So, in a poll of one husband, a baby carrier wins 100% support from fathers.

Maya Wrap

I’m sure that my husband would like other baby carriers and other styles if he tried them, but he also insisted that I should list Maya Wrap for a specific reason. When our babies would fall asleep in the sling, he could very easily loosen the sling and ease the sleeping baby onto the bed. Then, the tail of the unthreaded sling can be used as a light blanket.


Blender

My husband’s second most used tool for early parenthood was a juicer. During my pregnancies and when I was breastfeeding full-time, I got a lot of dense nutrition from beautiful, dark vegetables. One problem, though, was cleaning our juicer. It took 30 minutes every time we used it. Cleaning out every little piece of the juicer became a disincentive. Once we got a Vita-Mix, those days were gone.

Vita-Mix

Smoothie ToolsA breastfeeding mother needs great nutrition and a lot of fluids. Juiced vegetables and a variety of smoothies help her keep up with the demands of a hungry newborn baby. Who ends up juicing and making the smoothies? Daddy does it. In my house, while the mother sits down to nurse, the father heads to the kitchen to make a snack for her. A great blender will make his job much easier.

I’ve written about and photographed my Vita-Mix for smoothie posts and even for our surprise pumpkin soup. We didn’t have this when we were new parents, but we would have used it every day—several times a day. The best part about a VitaMix over a juicer is that the pulp is blended in rather than separated.

Pillow

Figuring out the family bed isn’t difficult, but it sometimes helps to have a couple of tools to make it easier. The last gift my husband suggests for a new father is a bolster pillow that keeps the baby safe in the family bed. Having the whole family sleep in one bed is the best way to ensure that everyone gets as much sleep as they need. Sleep is a big issue for new parents, so anything that helps here is a great gift for a new father.


TresTria bolster pillow

TresTria co-sleeping pillowWe did not have TresTria when my babies were little, but I loved learning more about TresTria, natural rubber, and the company that makes it when I wrote a profile of Better for Babies last year. This pillow was invented by a father to help co-sleeping families.

Last week I wrote about new mother gifts to support babywearing, cloth diapering, and breastfeeding. The best gifts are those have been helpful or meaningful to the giver. When you tell a new parent “I found this helpful when my first baby was born” or “I wish I had this when I was starting out,” the gift is far more than a consumer product to go on a shelf. A much-loved item offered to a new parent is a loving embrace in support of their new parenthood.

Image © Alis Gheorghe Leonte | Dreamstime.com

Sweet Beet Smoothie

Sweet pink smoothieA few days ago, my children declared a smoothie I made them The Sweet Beet Smoothie. They said it looked like Valentine’s Day. I had been planning to make and write about a chocolate smoothie, but scrapped that idea after reading so much about fair trade chocolate last week. I don’t have fair trade chocolate powder, and we have banned non-fair-trade chocolate from our house.

My children saved me with their declaration. We recreated the Sweet Beet smoothie for you today.
The combination of beets and yogurt makes a shocking pink. We use bananas as our base, so it is still quite sweet.

½ medium red beet
1 banana
½ cup plain yogurt
½ cup soy milk
1 cup ice cubes

Buzz for about 15 seconds in a blender. Takes 5 minutes tops to make, pour, and clean up.

Makes large smoothies for 3 people.