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Smoothie for a Glutton

Twenty years ago, Jim Harrison wrote that “one of the main causes of death is fretting about your diet.” Wise words and I hope to avoid sailing too close to the wind as I offer what I think is the healthiest recipe in my repertoire.

Restaurant openings, new menu launches, and food truck competitions offer delicious slabs of pork belly, cheese-covered bread, and deep-fried everything but can leave something to be desired nutritionally and digestively. This is the breakfast smoothie I make the day after my consumption of food (and drink) has blown my recommended daily calorie intake out of the water by two or three times.

Blueberries are the perfect frozen fruit–they’re the green pea of the fruit world–because their size means they can be frozen quickly when at the peak of ripeness. Obviously, for a smoothie firm texture doesn’t matter. And there one of the spokes-berries for that ubiquitous list of the Mayo Clinic’s Top 10 Super Foods.

Beet greens leftover from making a beetroot salad.

Beet greens leftover from making a beetroot salad.

You can change up the greens if you like but I like beet greens for a few reasons. The stalks are purple which is a good indicator of healthy antioxidants and the flavour is a bit sweeter and than less vegetal which blends more harmoniously with the other ingredients. Also, I think a lot of people discard the greens when they cook beetroot so I’m happy to offer a use for them. Kale, collard, or even mustard greens will work.

The banana is included for its texture more than the health benefits and to some extent the same holds for the yogurt–which should be natural (gelatin-free) and have some fat. I borrowed Alton Brown’s advice to buy them from the discount rack, peel and freeze them. (This is also the perfect state to have them in if you want to make banana bread.)

If there’s a secret ingredient here it’s the psyllium husk. A vague recollection that they are particularly good for digestion to buy a couple bucks; worth on a recent trip to Bulk Barn. Their version is more coarsely ground than others (like panko bread crumbs instead of a fine powder) so my guess is that it acts more slowly and doesn’t turn the smoothie gelatinous like a fine powder might. One tablespoon has nine grams of fibre. The digestive effects are, uh, regular and of a nature that would earn you a robust high-five from Dr. Oz.

There are some warnings that come with psyllium, though. Because it does such a good job of absorbing water many sources recommend drinking fluids at the same time so that it doesn’t swell and clog anything up–your throat for instance. I’ve found that between the rest of the smoothie’s ingredients and my morning coffee there is enough extra moisture but you’ll want to err on the side of caution. Some sources also consider psyllium a supplement so check with your doctor and pharmacist about drug interactions before adding it to your diet.

Using the really detailed Nutrition Data tool on self.com (obsessives and health geeks should be warned that this site has a huge time-black-hole potential for you) I was able to calculate the recipe’s vital stats. The short version is that for a mere 200 calories and a relatively low glycemic load this smoothie delivers an impressive dose of dietary fibre, Vitamins A, C, K, and B6 and an out-sized portion of your daily intake of Magnesium, Potassium, and Manganese. Vitamin D is a blind spot but short of adding pure cod liver oil I can’t think of a solution so I’ll keep taking that one in pill form.

Coarsely ground psyllium husk fibre that I found at Bulk Barn. I store it in the freezer.

Coarsely ground psyllium husk fibre that I found at Bulk Barn. I store it in the freezer.

I’m usually careful to measure all ingredients by grams but even for me some things are too much before 7 AM. For the purposes I use a soup spoon or the ever-precise “handful” to measure ingredients. For the nutritional data I weighed the ingredients a few days in a row and took the average. If your psyllium powder is a finer powder than mine I’d measure out 4 g and adjust the recipe.

The ingredient that isn’t here is protein powder. I know this might be borderline hypocrisy but I can’t bring myself to eat such a manufactured product. If we’re going to raise chickens and cows in hyper-crowded conditions for cheap eggs and milk I think we should at least have the stones to eat the whole thing rather than a powdered whey or casein.

If your kitchen is equipped with a fancy Vitamix (or other muscle-car blender) go ahead and use it. I use a stick (immersion) blender and the smoothie is only somewhat chewy.

Smoothie for a Glutton

The day after indulging in food and drink I make this smoothie for its vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre.

Yield: one serving, 300 grams

  • one frozen banana, thawed overnight in the fridge
  • large handful frozen wild blueberries, thawed with the banana
  • large handful beet greens, previously chopped into 1-cm pieces and boiled to soften slightly
  • scoop (4 g) psyllium husk (I prefer the coarsely ground)
  • scoop natural yogurt, with fat, without gelatin
  • Combine in stick blender cup or stand blender carafe and blend for at least a minute.

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6 Comments

  1. Lauren says:

    This is a great basic template for smoothies!

    A few other things: switch chia seed for psyllium for Omega 3′s, add nut butters or avocado (or instead of banana) for good fats and richness, and raw cacao powder to give it a dessert-like quality, and optional protein powder for post-workout etc.

  2. foodwithlegs says:

    Thanks for the comment, Lauren. How expensive are chia seeds? My impression is that they sit beside salba in the hoity-toity box seats. The other cool feature of the psyllium husk from Bulk Barn is that the $1.83 (or so) of it has lasted for 25+ smoothies.

  3. Lauren says:

    They sell chia at my Bulk Barn though I can’t remember the price per lb/gram, I think it’s reasonable. It’s also good for adding to cereal or using instead of eggs with water in recipes.

    Oh and, re chia vs. salba: http://www.livestrong.com/article/538113-comparison-of-chia-salba/

  4. Lauren says:

    oh, also, i keep my blueberries frozen to give my smoothies a chill factor, too.

  5. foodwithlegs says:

    Cool link. Thanks, Lauren. But, now that Lance Armstrong has been utterly disgraced, should we be admitting to reading Livestrong?

  6. Scott says:

    I just put the whole banana in the freezer, peel and all. Then when I’m ready to use it I drop it in a bowl of hot tap water for a minute prior to going in my smoothie. The peel just slides right off, but the banana stays firm and adds a chill factor and smoothness to the drink.

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