I have a truly amazing patient who has recently committed to making healthier choices, losing weight and giving her body what it needs to feel good. This is a very big deal and to say the least, not easy. She is a great inspiration to me, and I just love her beautiful, brave spirit. Last week we were talking about what’s working for her, what’s not, what the questions and challenges are. One big one is breakfast — how to start the day with something fast and easy to make that tastes good and has plenty of protein — so it doesn’t set you up for a major late morning blood sugar crash with its accompanying fatigue and hunger. The other big requirement? It’s got to taste good! Breakfast should be something you wake up and look forward to …
Our conversation made me think of a smoothie I made a lot in my first year of medical practice, when I had a crazy schedule, delivering lots of babies — and trying to lose the fifty (gulp) pounds I had packed on during residency. For me at that point, this smoothie had what it took. It was one of the cornerstones of turning things around, and I craved this combination of ingredients. Here is the basic recipe. My patient doesn’t like berries so this is perfect for her, but berries are a great thing to add — full of antioxidants and easy to keep bags of in the freezer. If you don’t want to deal with cutting up fresh pineapple but like the tropical vibe, substitute a combo of frozen mango chunks and a whole tangerine. Substitute away, but keep the spinach, almonds and avocado. We all need more greens, and that means adding them to every meal. You don’t taste the spinach at all in the smoothie so it’s a perfect way to get greens at breakfast. Thinking about the energetics of foods from a Chinese medicine perspective, raw greens and yogurt are cooling in nature so I add the warming spices to support digestive fire. Plus, they just taste really good! Almonds and avocado provide protein and healthy fat to keep you full and slow absorption of fruit sugars so your blood sugar doesn’t spike and then crash. A nice slow burn is what we’re after. Kind of like lying on the beach … (no, I do not recommend sunburns 🙂 )
Tropical Sunshine Smoothie
- 1 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk
- 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt
- baby spinach — as many handfuls as you can possibly stuff in your blender (I use a whole 6 oz. bag.)
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 banana
- 6-8 slices fresh pineapple (see below)
- 1 avocado
- 1/2 cup raw almonds, soaked in water overnight, then drained
- 1 tablespoon honey or a few drops liquid stevia (optional)
- pinch of vanilla powder (optional — it’s so expensive but so good!)
For anyone daunted by the task of dealing with a fresh pineapple here is my technique:
- Get a large knife.
- Lay the pineapple on its side and cut off the top.
- Turn it back up on end and cut strips of the peel down the outside. The narrower your strips, the more of the flesh will be preserved.
- Turn naked pineapple back on its side and cut off bottom.
- Turn back on end and slice down once through the middle into two halves.
- Flip back on side and cut into half inch slices.
- Now you have nice, fresh pineapple slices to store in the fridge for snacking or add to smoothies!
When making smoothie, I put everything in the blender except for the spinach and blend til smooth. Then I add the spinach in batches, The finished product tastes a little bit like an Indian mango lasse, a little bit like a Mexican avocado shake, and a little bit like … a pina colada. Okay … maybe I’m stretching things, but it’s a delicious breakfast or snack to take with you anyway, especially good as the warm weather approaches. And a terrific way to get greens into kiddos!