A Smooth New You

Home madeSince the first day of this year, I’ve been unintentionally keeping to a resolution: bring balance and more nutrients to my diet. It’s been unintentional because I never once thought, “Hey girl, let’s work on eating better this year.” In fact, since the beginning of this column—this month marks my 30th article—I’d say I’ve been eating better and better.

The more Home Made my diet has been, the more control I’ve had about what ingredients go into my body, anyway. And, for most of my adult life, I’ve been somewhat conscious about adding the proper proportion of vegetables to any meal. What has suffered greatly the past four to five years living in China, however, has been my fruit intake.

It’s strange that my diet hasn’t been uber-fruity considering I love the Chinese fondness for fruit as dessert. Instead of rich and heavy ice cream, puddings or pastries, most seem perfectly content munching on watermelon or cantaloupe, and I’m always amused when my Chinese friends come for dinner toting a melon or bag of fruit as their contribution to the meal. I’m a fan of colorful fruit platters at KTVs, bars and clubs, always thankful for the extra hydration. But, despite all this admiration, I hadn’t really made it a regular part of my diet—before the New Year.

A major reason for this resistance has been the price. Going to a fruit stand and buying a few types, especially the ones I prefer, can set you back a bit. Budget-conscious, I’ve stayed away from splurges on imported fruit, trying instead to buy only cheaper local varieties. But, the problem with that is that the one thing I’m a bit picky about is fruit.

I’ll eat most fruit in some form or another, but not all of them raw and plain. I only eat bananas when I’m starving or working out, and I go through phases with apples and oranges, sometimes never wanting one for months on end. As pretty as it is, I find dragon fruit lacking in flavor, and I find most types of lychees to be too sweet.

The same goes for spinach, which I add every day since its flavor is not over-powering …

But, what I rediscovered recently is that I absolutely love fruit smoothies, both for the way they blend multiple fruits together, creating a creamy cocktail of flavors, and for how easy they are to consume. They are a wonderful get-up-and-go kind of drink or snack and, to be frank, full of enough dietary fiber to keep you regular, in a good way.

Fruit smoothies are something I’d kind of forgotten about. When I visit home, I usually hit up a local chain for an afternoon treat, but I’d never really made them on a regular basis. But, for Christmas, I received probably one of the most useful presents of my entire life—a high-power blender designed specifically for making smoothies.

Because of how easy it is to use it, combined with the fact that some of my favorite fruits—strawberries and blueberries—have actually been in-season and cheap recently, I’ve made a smoothie every single morning since Christmas. And, I’ve seen so many benefits: fresher skin, higher energy levels and a more regular diet, just to name a few. I look and feel healthier, and the change has affected my mood for the better, motivating me to do more things in general. And, the effects of a few China years of drinking cheap alcohol and weak lagers of questionable content are slowly disappearing, something I’d previously miserably chalked up to a sign of aging.

The great thing about blending fruit is that you can mask the taste of many other nutrient-packed ingredients that do your body well, but may not taste as good alone. Nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens and goji berries are just a few ridiculously healthy ingredients. For instance, did you know that sesame seeds can cleanse your liver, boost your immune system, decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels and contribute to bone strength?

And, in case you’re thinking that too many of your favorite fruits, nuts and seeds are either too expensive or hard to find here, I encourage you to look again. Experiment with seasonal fruits that you might not like solo, but add subtle texture and flavor to other ingredients. Get some cheap and abundant sesame seeds, find a good source of goji berries, and check out a local nut market—you might be surprised with what you find.

If you don’t have a high-strength blender, you can still work with a low-end one. Just cut fruit smaller, and don’t blend frozen and pre-chop nuts and hard ingredients. If you do have stronger blades, freeze as many ingredients as you want for a thicker and chilled smoothie. You can use just about any of these liquids with a little water: fruit juices; almond, soy, coconut and regular milk; teas; and even coffee. If you really want to get fancy, add things like yogurt, cocoa powder, honey and whey or protein powders. For seeds, consider this list: pumpkin, sunflower, flax and sesame. Nuts I can find locally are: almonds, cashews and walnuts.

Smoothies should be determined by your preferences, so mix it up and try new combinations. I tend to buy fruit in bulk at the best prices, and then wash and freeze them so they’re ready for the blender. The same goes for spinach, which I add every day since its flavor is not over-powering; wash it very well, dry the leaves, and keep it in the fridge sealed in a plastic bag for several days. And, here’s a tip: add a paper towel to soak up moisture.

Spring and Chinese New Year are all about rebirth. And, this year, I feel like a whole new person even though I never set out to. I encourage you to find ways to reinvent yourself, too. If you’re like me, you might need some motivation just to start thinking of how you can improve. So, mix up a smoothie and then ponder your next move in life.

Sensational Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup packed spinach
    ½ – 1 banana, cut into pieces
    ¼ apple, cut into pieces
    4-6 frozen grapes*
    4-6 frozen strawberries*
    Small handful frozen blueberries*
    1 cup orange juice (100%)
    1/8 cup flax and sesame seeds
    Small handful goji berries
    8-10 almonds*

Directions:

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until as smooth as possible.

Serving size: 1 large / 2 small smoothies

* optional ingredients

Read the article in Chinese