We are blessed with a vibrant and diverse local food system in Chatham-Kent. With the coming of winter, even as supplies of local food diminish, now is as good a time as any to start a new healthy routine.
Try turning the idea of a “diet” on it’s head. It’s not necessary to think of healthy eating as a restriction on the foods that you love to eat. Depriving ourselves creates a kind of “poverty mentality” that makes maintaining our new eating habits more difficult and leads to failure. Instead of subtracting foods, think of it as adding new foods to your menu plans. Amazingly, the more you eat healthier foods the more you naturally crave them.
Green smoothies fit perfectly into a new family routine – they are deliciously healthy, easy to make (and to clean up if you rinse out the blender immediately after serving), and will taste a little different each time.
What is a green smoothie? A green smoothie is a blended beverage that combines dark leafy greens with fruit and other nutritional supplements to create a nutritional powerhouse drink that can be used as a meal replacement. Start by adding a handful or two of greens such as kale, chard, parsley, or spinach to your daily smoothie and then gradually add more as you become accustomed to the flavour of the dark leafy greens. You can also include other items such as avocado, hemp seeds, flax, chia, nut butters, coconut or almond milk, and anything else you want. Instead of sweeteners, I always add overripe, frozen bananas. I buy them at a large discount, peel them, and throw them in the freezer until needed. Frozen bananas blended up on their own also make a healthy alternative to vanilla ice cream.
Get your children to become involved. Engaging your children at the grocery store and in the family garden will go a long way towards cooperation in the kitchen and at mealtimes. Try new fruits and veggies in small quantities and ask your child to help pick them out. A child who grows their own food and who has a hand in grocery shopping will be more likely to try new things. The trick with green smoothies, for picky eaters, is to add fruits that your child already enjoys – berries, melons, peaches, mangoes, or pineapple. At this time of the year, most fresh fruit is imported and more expensive. When fruit is in season it’s best to pick your own, children in tow, or to stock up on local ready-picked supplies to save money and to enjoy the peak ripe flavours. Buy extra fresh fruit when it’s in season and freeze it to have a steady supply even during the cold days of winter. Ask your children to help you put the fruit in freezer bags to have them involved in every step. If you don’t have your own preserved fruit available it’s more economical to purchase frozen fruit. The variety is endless. Play with flavours and colours to discover your own family favourites. If your child is turned off by the smoothies green colour, adding blueberries will dramatically change the colour.
Variety is the key. Just as you want to change up the flavours of fruit used, you also want to rotate the leafy greens used in your smoothies. Every dark green vegetable has different vitamins and minerals in it but over-eating anything – even healthy spinach – can lead to deficiencies. A bonus is that once spring comes you can start to forage for the very large diversity of leafy greens, aka “weeds,” found in every backyard! Or you can grow your own greens and freeze the extras to use throughout the winter. You can switch up the kinds of smoothies you create as well – using all frozen ingredients if you have a high-powered blender such as a Vitamix and you want more of an ice cream smoothie, or using only fresh ingredients for an easier-to-blend and room temperature smoothie (if using frozen only, you can leave the ingredients out on the counter for an hour to thaw).
It’s never too late to start yourself and your family on the path to health!
For more information and great resources on green smoothies and foraging check out rawfamily.com
and the 2010 Summer edition of CK Child for an article on foraging for wild edibles.