Here’s a serious question for you—and before you answer, think long and hard about it…Are you a green smoothie person or a green smoothie bowl person? Like I said, it’s a very serious question.
I used to be all about drinking my low sugar green smoothie in a big ‘ol mason jar. I would enjoy one religiously after a workout and savor every last drop. Heck, the promise of my green smoothie was often the motivation I needed to workout in the first place (keeping it real). But for the last two years, my mason jar mug has been in retirement. Because let’s be honest, pouring your smoothie into a bowl and topping it with all sorts of crunchy seeds or nuts, drizzling it with nut butter, sprinkling it with coconut flakes or cacao nibs, and decorating it with fresh fruit is so much more fun. And delicious.
Smoothie bowls are also a lot harder to consume quickly and mindlessly. With the glass, I often found myself gulping down my meal without even realizing I had done so because I could chug it with little effort or thought. However, the practice of eating my smoothie in a bowl helps me to be more mindful and present. It forces me to sit down at a table and enjoy it slowly versus hurriedly or on the go (i.e. while driving to the hospital to see patients or to an appointment). Plus since digestion begins in the mouth, it helps stimulate the process when you chew your smoothie. Learning to practice mindful eating is a powerful tool that can be used for weight management and loss, overcoming emotional eating, and treating disordered eating patterns, depression, and chronic diseases like diabetes.
Mind Your Meals
Mindful eating is based on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, which is being completely present and aware of all that is happening around you in any given moment. It means paying attention to your food and only your food while eating. Mindful eating is taking the time to savor the taste, texture, aroma, and appearance of your meals and eliminate distractions like television, email, smart phones, Instagram (cough, cough).
It’s a practice that allows us to foster our mind body connection—essential for optimal digestion. Because digestion is a complex process that relies on a series of hormonal signals between the gut and brain and it can take up to 20 minutes for satiety to kick in. When we burden our brains with other tasks (replying to email or checking a text message), we are disrupting this complex hormonal exchange and pausing digestion, thereby potentially decreasing the nutrients we can glean from our meals and disconnecting us from noticing fullness.
Eating a smoothie instead of drinking it is one strategy you can adopt to help practice more mindful eating. Of course, you may not have time to do so every time you want to reap the benefits of a green smoothie because life is busy. I get it. But once you’ve tried a smoothie bowl, you may find yourself willing to make time.
Benefits of Green Smoothies
Blended green meals like this low sugar green smoothie bowl are a great way to reap the benefits of leafy greens, especially if you’re new to healthy eating or simply aren’t yet ready to adopt a 100% rabbit food diet just yet. When blended up with a few low sugar fruits, the only way you’ll be able to tell there is any leafy greens in it at all is that brilliant green hue. If you have trouble eating vegetables, starting your day with a green smoothie is an easy way to set the bar for doing so at other meals.
Green smoothies are easy on your digestion and full of fiber, which helps keeps things regular. Kale is especially nourishing to the lungs (it helps ease congestion), stomach, immune system and liver. It contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect the eyes. It is rich in chlorophyll, vit A and C, as well as manganese, and beta carotenes. There are many different types of kale so choose whichever is most readily available because the texture matters less when making a green smoothie since it will all be blended up anyway.
In addition to kale and spinach, I’m a big fan of boosting my green smoothie bowls with a bit of wheatgrass. I try to buy it fresh when I can but using a supplement powder also works well. Wheatgrass—literally referring to the actually grass—is a gluten-free food because the grass has not yet developed into wheat. It’s very alkalizing and rejuvenating to the body. It promotes healthy skin, boosts immunity and energy levels, and is high in fiber. I also like adding a teaspoon of moringa powder, which is a plant native to the Middle East and India. It is rich in amino acids, B vitamins, and protein and very nourishing.
Just keep in mind that all of these benefits can be undone if you’re also packing your blender with far too many sugary fruits and overdo it on the healthy fats. It’s all about finding the right balance!
Not All Green Smoothie Bowls Are Created Equal
Real Talk: Simply labeling a smoothie “green” doesn’t make it healthy. Seriously though, tossing a few pieces of spinach or kale in what could otherwise be a called a milkshake, is kind of—OK, really—missing the point.
The key to making a honestly nourishing green smoothie bowl is to include plenty of nutrient-dense fats, high-quality protein (either derived from ethically raised animals or plants), metabolism-boosting spices, and a bit of low sugar fruit for natural sweetness. Fat and protein help keep your blood sugar balanced by slowing the release of sugar during digestion and your hunger in check. The fat is also uber important for making sure all the nutrients found in the leafy greens get absorbed.
My favorite healthy fats for smoothies are nut butter, coconut butter or oil, Brazil nuts (rich in selenium), and avocado. Adding avocado may seem strange but I promise it gives it the creamiest texture ever and you won’t taste it at all. Trust me. For protein, I like to use Great Lakes Collagen powder. It’s totally flavorless, cold water soluble, and highly bioavailable meaning our bodies can utilize it efficiently and effectively. It’s also amazing for skin, hair, and nails. As for plant-based proteins sources, I like hemp seeds and pea protein powders both of which you can find at a health food store or online. If you tolerate dairy, whey-based protein supplements are also excellent and readily utilized by the body.
Focus on Low Sugar Fruit
Low GI simply means low glycemic index. The glycemic index is a way of measuring how a food might impact your blood sugar. A food is assigned a GI value based on its effect on blood sugar compared with a standard reference food, which is usually a slice of white bread or pure glucose. Foods with a high GI value will raise your blood sugar much higher and much faster than those assigned a low GI value.
You may be thinking, Well I don’t have diabetes so I don’t have to worry about the glycemic index of foods. The thing is, we all feel the impact of consuming meals too high in sugar—even natural sugar like that found in fruit. Ever eaten a meal only to feel shaky and jittery a mere hour or two later? That’s textbook reactive hyperglycemia. You’re not actually hungry, rather your body simply produced too much insulin and pulled too much sugar out of your blood causing you to crash and feel like you need to eat again (and likely that you need to eat something sugary). Or what about the 3 o’clock slump? Feeling sluggish and sleepy instead of energized and alert after a meal is another telltale sign that you’re a frequent rider on the blood sugar rollercoaster.
And while fruit may seem innocuous, it can have just as large an impact on your blood sugar as a candy bar. I mean, hello, it is called nature’s candy, right? Simply select fruits that are lower on the glycemic index and don’t over do it. See below for a chart of low vs. high GI fruits.
Blueberries & raspberries
Citrus fruit (lemon, lime, orange)
*Green bananas are somewhat of an exception and are prefered over ripe ones as the greener they are, the more resistant starch they contain. Resistant starch functions like a fiber by promoting colon health and helping manage blood sugar levels. When resistant starch reaches the intestine, it is fermented by bacteria into butyrate, which is believed to be very nourishing to our intestinal lining. As the banana ripens, the starches are converted to sugar (fructose, sucrose, and glucose) so the the greener the better!
**Dried fruit like dates are considered a high GI fruit and are best used sparingly, as they are nearly 40% fructose. I’ll cover the topic of fructose and how it’s metabolized another day, but suffice to say that our bodies process it differently than other sweeteners and it is rapidly converted to fat by the liver. It’s the heaps of beneficial nutrients (B vitamins, copper, iron, potassium, and magnesium) in the dates that you want and as long as you try to eat them with source of protein and fat, you’ll lessen blood sugar spikes.
So there you have it! Simply focus on high quality, honestly nutritious, low sugar ingredients to fully reap the myriad of benefits found in green smoothie bowls.
// RECIPE //
Low Sugar Green Smoothie Bowl
Serves: 2 | Total Time: 5 minutes
1 cup coconut milk (coconut water or unsweetened almond milk are also OK)
3 cups assorted organic kale (lacinato & curly kale shown here)
1 cup organic spinach
1/2 ripe avocado
1 serving Great Lakes collagen powder (or protein powder per preference)
1/2 frozen banana (preferably green!)
1 tbs creamy almond butter
2 Brazil nuts
1/2 Medjool date, pitted
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger root powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tsp moringa powder (optional)
Ice cubes per preference
Unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 kiwi, sliced
…Or whatever you like! Cacao nibs, goji berries, sliced almonds, more nut butter drizzled on top, fresh berries, etc. I personally love the chewy texture that the coconut flakes add plus the subtle sweetness of the kiwi. Delicious.
- Remove kale leaves from stalk by grabbing the stalk at one end and run your fingers down it quickly to shear off the leaves. Rinse under cold water.
- Add all ingredients to a high speed blender in the order listed.
- Blend on high until all the ingredients are incorporated and a creamy texture is achieved.
- Pour into a bowl and add whatever toppings you have on hand. Definitely be sure to take the time to arrange said toppings in a pretty striped pattern—pretty food tastes better, right?!
This recipe is by far my favorite when I want something quick, nourishing, and delicious. As with all foods (and most things in life), mix it up! It’s easy to fall into a food rut so make a point to swap out almond butter with cashew or sunflower butter or use flaxseed oil instead of coconut. Variety is essential for our health (and sanity). What is your favorite way to top a green smoothie? Are you a smoothie bowl or glass person? Share below!
Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope you will give both this recipe and smoothie bowls a try! When you do, please share it on Instagram and tag me using #honestlynourished or #hnrecipes so I can give you a virtual fist bump for living honestly nourished!
PS: Looking for more ways to add vegetables to your life? Of course you are. Check out my article 10 Easy Tips to Eat More Vegetables featured earlier this month on the healthy living website Mind Body Green!
See you next week friends!