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dispatches from the 30 day green smoothie challenge

free radical fighting green smoothie
Four years ago this summer I looked at a photograph of myself and didn’t know who the person pictured was. It was taken just as Jeff and I were going out the door to a friend’s a wedding. I was wearing this beautiful orange dress that I had loved but looking at it — at myself — in the photograph, it didn’t match up to the picture I had in my head. That day I was at my highest weight ever and that was the day I vowed to change my relationship with food.

Since that day I have released more than 50 pounds (I don’t like to say “lost” because that implies I will find it again) and completely overhauled the way that I eat. I had great success with Weight Watchers when I needed some structure to my eating but now I simply focus on eating real food that’s wholesome and nutritious. That’s not to say I’m not still without my challenges but I know when I choose nutritious, real food over anything else I feel better, I look better, I sleep better, I workout better… I could go on forever with my betters.

Smoothies are an integral part of my healthstyle, more than just an easy way to pack a lot of nutrients in to one glass. A smoothie is a great start to the day, with the best of intentions, setting the tone for how I want to nourish my body. They are the touch stone that I come back to after I’ve indulged in a few too many indulgences. They are my saving grace when I’m traveling and need a little nourishment, and a little comfort from home. Enjoying a smoothie is no longer a habit I have to work it, it’s just part of my diet now.

Even so, when I saw Simple Green Smoothies post their 30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge I jumped on board. I have a couple of mainstay smoothie recipes that I rotate (like this one, this one and all of these) and if all else fails I just throw whatever we’ve got in the fridge into the Vitamix and voila, nutrition nirvana. On an average week I have about five smoothies, usually for breakfast. About half of them include something green.

a purple green smoothie

My objectives for the challenge were simple: learn a few new recipes, eat more greens and start building a weekend habit. Monday to Friday when I have the structure of office hours to keep me on track I find it dead easy to eat well. But on weekends when I’m a free agent I often find myself indulging more then I care to admit, sabotaging the week’s hard work.

Now that the challenge has come to a close, I sipped my official “last” smoothie yesterday, how do I feel? Pretty great! To be honest, even though smoothies were a regular habit of mine this was still definitely a challenge. There were days when I didn’t want to get up and blend a smoothie for breakfast, I wanted pancakes. With bacon. And an almond milk latte. With salted caramel brownie chaser. But I powered through and in the end I never regretted sipping a smoothie. Making sure we had enough of the various fruits and greens in the house each week was also challenging, but a few extra minutes of planning and prepping on Sunday afternoon made sure we were always locked and loaded.

Full disclosure: I did miss one smoothie day thanks to an upset stomach. So instead I sipped a green juice!

citrus breeze green smoothie

The best part of the challenge was definitely discovering new recipes, fruits and combinations that I never would have thought to put in to my blender before. Like melons! I never would have put melon in to my smoothies, but not only did it work it was delicious. Coconut milk was another winner that will certainly become a mainstay in my smoothies going forward. Tropical fruits like guava or citrus fruits like navel oranges were also new to me. They were exciting at the first half of the challenge but I found them a little too sweet for my taste. Overall I felt that there was generally too much fruit in the smoothie recipes, lots of high-glycemic fruits and too many at one time, but as I got more familiar with the recipes and how my body was reacting to them I learned to tweak them here and there so they were less sugary.

I am so proud of myself (and Jeff!) for completing the challenge. It was also a great way to bond with my mum, sister and aunt who also participated in the challenge, cheering each other on throughout the 30 days. I’ve definitely fine-tuned my smoothie habit and learned a few new tricks and recipes to put in to our regular rotation, and I think I might just have succeeded in breaking Jeff’s milkshake smoothie habit!

So with that, I declare the 30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge a success!

Free Radical Fighting Super Smoothie
From Simple Green Smoothies
Makes 2 generous smoothies

Free Radical Fighting Super Smoothie

Of all the new smoothie recipes we tried out during the challenge this one was my absolute favourite. The melon and the coconut water made it so refreshing; it was great for after a hard workout or on a hot day.

Ingredients

2 cups of your favourite greens (kale, spinach and chard all work well!)
1 fresh mint leaf
1 cup coconut water
2 cups ripe cantaloupe, rind removed
1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen, up to you)
1 green apple
Juice of 1/2 lime, fresh squeezed

Method

Throw it in your blender and whiz away! Enjoy!

peanut butter chocolate banana soft serve

chocolate peanut butter banana soft serve
I am a firm believer in eating real food. To me that means fresh food that will go bad in a few days. Fresh greens, veggies and fruits preferably grown close to home. Whole grains. Organic lean proteins like chicken, turkey and sustainable fish. But eating real food also means eating chips when I want them. Or maybe a slice of cake or a brownie. I’ve never been in to the fake out. You know, carrot sticks instead of tortillas or fruit instead of candy.

Banana soft serve is nothing new, it’s been around for years now. And every time I saw a blog post or a pin singing it’s praises I’d roll my eyes and think, just eat the ice cream if you want the ice cream! Unless of course you had ice cream yesterday and the day before, in which case it might be a good idea to skip the ice cream. But I digress…

One day I found myself with a couple of frozen bananas and I thought what the heck, let’s throw them in the Vitamix and see what the fuss is all about. Seconds later we had a cup or so of the softest “ice cream” I’d ever had. Smooth and cold with only a mild banana flavour, you wouldn’t have known that it was just a bunch of blended up frozen bananas unless I told you!

Since then we’ve kept a stockpile of frozen bananas in the freezer for when we want a treat without investing in an indulgence. I started playing around with recipes, adding in a scoop of nut butter and a splash of almond milk. Topping it with cacao nibs makes it feel like a sundae. Out of all the combinations I’ve come up with, this is our favourite and by far the one that tastes the most like a rich, indulgent treat. I love Gidy Yoyo‘s raw cacao powder, especially here where the chocolate really stands out.

Now this is real food!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Soft Serve
Serves 2, generously

Ingredients

2-3 large bananas, frozen
2 heaping tablespoons raw cacao powder
2 heaping tablespoons peanut butter (or any other nut butter you prefer)
Splash of almond milk (about 1/4 cup)
Cacao nibs, shredded coconut, chopped nuts, etc. for topping

Method

Slice the frozen bananas up into half inch rounds. Throw everything in to the blender and blend until smooth. Throw on some toppings and enjoy!