Tag Archives: health

Here Be Monsters

24 Jul

I don’t really like vegetables.

I mean, they’re ok, and often quite good prepared certain ways, but I can’t say I get excited about them. I do see the irony in this, yes: a vegetarian blog by someone who doesn’t love vegetables? If I had my druthers, all the vegetable nutrition in the world would be contained in russet potatoes, corn, mushrooms, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions. Carrots and celery are acceptable if they have been cooked long enough to take on the flavor of whatever they’re in–soup, pot roast–i.e., they must not taste like carrots or celery. My husband happily munches spinach straight from the bag. I kind of want to punch him.

I want to make it clear that I do not lead a vegetableless existence. I do eat salads, last night’s dinner had eggplant, asparagus is great in frittatas, and so on. But my vegetable consumption, especially greens, is too low for any reasonably health-conscious adult. So how could I get the greens without needing to sit dejectedly in front of a pile of kale?

Smoothie-making, and its cousin, Juicing, are getting a bad rap, and in some ways they deserve it. Sugar is sugar no matter how you slice it, and fruit has a lot of sugar. So, smoothies can be a glycemic disaster, and juicing is even worse, because you’ve lost the regulating benefits of fiber. And the fat content can vary wildly, in either direction: add fruit to frozen yogurt and you might as well have a milkshake; add only fruit to water and you’ll be hungry in an hour.

So how can you avoid a monstrous concoction that will give you nothing but trouble? Keep a few things in mind:

Is there fat or protein?
Fat and protein = full. Most smoothie recipes use banana to make them, well, smooth. But try avocado instead. Yes, it’s high in fat, but not that kind of fat, and it’s lower in sugar, which means you’ll feel satisfied longer. Avocados do require a little planning  to give them time to ripen, and once they’re ripe they need to be used quickly, but it is possible to freeze them for ease of use. Just puree in a blender with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice per avocado, and then use an ice cube tray to freeze individual portions. The cubes should be good for about three months.

Plain greek yogurt or protein powder work well too–you’re unlikely to notice the “grit” that protein drinks made with water have. And for heaven’s sake, none of that Dannon or Yoplait stuff if you go the yogurt route. Avoid added sugar in whatever dairy or protein you decide to incorporate (plain yogurt, unsweetened almond milk, plain nut butters, etc.).

Is there fiber?
Fat and protein and fiber = a smoothie that will keep you going until lunch, or dinner, or whatever. Don’t forget that even a “good” smoothie has as many calories as a meal–they’re not snacks. (Unless you can allot 350 or so calories per snack, in which case you are probably hanging around the Olympic pool this week.)

Is there sugar?
Trick question. Unless you’re doing an all-veg smoothie, your fruit is contributing plenty of sugar. I do find that  some frozen fruit (pineapple, raspberry) is less sweet than fresh, so I sometimes add a little raw honey if I’m using a greens mix that is particularly…assertive. I can’t comment on things like stevia, as I haven’t branched that far into alternative sweeteners.

So, there are about a million green smoothie recipes floating around the internet, some good, some bad, but here’s what I’ve been drinking these days to help myself feel a little more like a responsible adult. Would I be better off with a salad? Sure. But what should happen and what is likely to happen, are, as we all know, two very different things.

color-coordinated green straw poking up Loch Ness style

Green Monster Smoothie

  • 1 granny smith apple, diced
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple bits
  • 2-3 cups greens (Trader Joe’s just came out with a kale, collard, and spinach mix!)
  • 1-2 cups water (start with one and add more if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey

Roar.

Conscious Box: June 2012, Part II

17 Jun

June Conscious Box, Part II

Artisana: Organic Cashew Butter
So I have a thing about nuts. Basically, I don’t eat them. I’m not allergic, and I never bother asking the Thai takeout place to leave the peanuts off my pad thai, but I will pick around them. However, I do like the flavor of most nuts. Walnuts in brownies causes me great sadness, but if you somehow made a walnut-flavored brownie, I could get on board with that. Long story short: I have never eaten a cashew, nor had I tried cashew butter. And now I know that I don’t like cashews. I will say that the butter was very creamy and not at all gritty like some minimally processed nut butters.

kō denmark: Jasmine Neroli Rose Body Lotion
I’m not a big fan of jasmine, so I’m not the best person to evaluate this product. Coconut oil is a primary ingredient, and felt a little more like I’d moisturized with a light body oil that a lotion. It wasn’t greasy and it absorbed well, but it’s not something I’d try again.

Savvy Bohème: Allons-Y! Natural Deodorant
Last year I decided to switch from traditional antiperspirant deodorant to plain old deodorant. I’m not convinced about a connection between aluminum and breast cancer or Alzheimer disease, but 1) I never felt like antiperspirants were that effective anyway, and 2) bodies are designed to sweat, so why not let them. So I went to Whole Foods and bought about a billion different deodorants, from Tom’s (fail) to those crystals (bigger fail). I finally settled on Lavanila’s Healthy Deodorant. It’s expensive, but it actually worked.

The expensive reign of Lavanila might be over. I’ve been using the Savvy Bohème sample for a few days, and I love it. I even did a comparison test for a day. (Such dedication!) It’s not cheap, but it’s still less than Lavanila, and I like the idea of buying from small business owners when I can. Bonus points for the 10th Doctor reference.

Natural Newborn: Bug Stopper Soap
As a city dweller, I don’t have much need for insect repellent. I’ll try it if we end up going to a concert or something in the park this summer, but that would mean remembering to lather up before we leave, and, well…It smells nice, though—like citronella, which I expected, but more lemony.

Nuti-Masu Life Ocean Salt
Apparently this salt is very popular in Japan (it comes exclusively from the water around Okinawa) and is just beginning to make headway over here. It’s a very fine, fluffy powder rather than granules or crystals, which is something I’d never seen before. The flavor is less aggressively salty than table or kosher salt, and I could see using it on something delicate like fish or in a salad dressing.

Natural Vitality: Energy 28
Last month’s box had a slightly different version of a Natural Vitality drink packet. That packet was essentially a liquid vitamin, whereas this formula is a “superfruit, veggie, and antioxidant blend.” I’ll probably add it to a smoothie just because it’s here, but this is one of those “can’t hurt but I’ll never seek it out” products. What is 200mg of a blend of fifteen different vegetables really going to do for me?

Soap Hope $5 off coupon
Soap Hope, an online retailer for an assortment of natural home and health products, describes itself as a “Peace Corps for money.” The company invests 100% of its profits in programs that benefit women in developing countries; after the money has spent a year “in service,” it’s returned and the next year’s profits are invested. Pretty neat. They carry well-known brands in addition to smaller companies, some of which I already use on a regular basis—I’ll probably start buying my BioKleen laundry detergent through them.

Conscious Box: June 2012, Part I

13 Jun

June’s Conscious Box arrived a few days ago, and, like the first, it did not disappoint. Here’s the first set of reviews, with more to follow shortly!

Vega One All-in-One Nutritional Shake
I tried this as my breakfast this morning. The Vanilla Chai flavor isn’t bad—a little vanilla, a little spice, but still that underlying “health shake” taste. The formula also includes a “greens blend” with chlorella, so there’s an unappealing greenish brown tinge to it. The first thing I noticed was that it’s much less gritty than other protein drinks, a big plus for those who favor mixing it with water rather than using it as a smoothie add-in. The product was developed by a vegan professional triathlete (!!!), so it’s dairy free as well as gluten and soy free. The nutritional stats are fine: it’s low calorie (135) but high in protein (15g) and fiber (6g). It also includes omega-3 EFA and 50% of the RDI for the most common vitamins and minerals. I was surprised that something so low calorie got me through to lunch, but that’s where the protein and fiber come in. It’s expensive though—about $2 per serving. If I see single-serving packets at Whole Foods, I might grab a few. I do like that it’s not soy-based like most other protein powders.

Healthy ToGo Vita Rocks
Pop rocks with vitamins! The Cherry Blast flavor wasn’t too bad, but I can’t say the same for Lemon Burst…Both left an odd aftertaste, which is to be expected with vitamins I suppose, even candy vitamins. This is a fun, novel idea, but I question the wisdom of overlapping vitamins and candy to this extent. Chewables and gummis are one thing (and maybe not great themselves) but pop rocks? I also can’t imagine wanting to take a few minutes just to eat what amounts to a single vitamin. Then again, I’m an adult, not a kid. My ten-year-old self would probably have a different opinion.

EBoost Healthy Energy Shot
I’ve never purchased any of the now-ubiquitous energy shots on the market. One or two experiences with Red Bull, during which I was convinced my heart was exploding, has kept me away from Monster drinks, energy shots, and their ilk. This particular version has 150mg caffeine (naturally occurring in the green tea extract, according to the label) and an assortment of fruit extracts and vitamins. I was thinking about trying it for the sake of science, but then I saw that this little 2 ounce shot contains 33,333% RDI of B12. Those 5 Hour Energy shots contain only 8,000% (only, ha). B vitamins and caffeine are the basis for all these energy shots, of course, but over 33,000 seems…extreme. I think I’ll pass.

LARABAR: Pecan Pie
I won’t spend too much time on this, since nearly everyone has heard of LARABARs by now. So here is my review: LARABARs are awesome.

Mighty Leaf Tea
Mighty Leaf teas are great, and I was very excited to see packets of Organic Earl Grey and Organic Spring Jasmine in this month’s box. It’s not crazy hot today, so I’ll probably make a cup of the jasmine tonight.

Coming Attractions: Kelp Krunch sesame bar (it had better be good if they think they can get away with that cutesy “K” for “C” business), Nuti-masu salt, Natural Vitality Whole Food Energizer, ko denmark lotion, Artisana cashew butter, and Savvy Boheme natural deodorant.