Fresh ingredients for a refreshed spring diet

Reawaken to more sunlight, the cheerful chirping birds, the sound of water running as the winter melts away and tulips popping through the still chilled earth.

We even resort to a smile as we see rubber boots stuck in a puddle and mud covered clothes. Springtime is fun.

It is the time of year for renewal. As our surroundings transform, so should our physical self by finding ways to clean and detoxify through food choices.

Research shows that a wholesome, unprocessed diet helps our bodies to function efficiently. Good food can help prevent heart disease and will cut our risk of other diseases such as cancer, dementia and diabetes by protecting cells. Particularly important is brain health, which responds favourably to a diet full of nutrient dense food that provides antioxidants, probiotics and the right balance of proteins and natural sugars.

The most important step you can take is to be sure that you are well hydrated because a dehydrated brain functions very inefficiently. So throughout the day reach for water on ice with a twist of lemon or lime if desired.

Also, before you even get out of bed or have your coffee, have a tall glass of water to wake your body up, just as a shower does to our exterior.

Now it is time to fuel. I find it is effective to get things off to a good start first thing in the morning by consuming a nutrient rich smoothie.

For years I loved starting my day with blended fruit, ice and water. Smoothies have now evolved to whole meals. They should include a healthy fat source, fibre, protein and antioxidant rich fruit, greens and vegetables.

If a smoothie is not a breakfast choice for you, have it as your afternoon snack to carry you through until the evening meal.

Here are some smoothie steps to let you customize your beverage and have some food fun. The taste possibilities are endless.

  • Fill the bottom one-quarter of your holder with liquid such as water, cooled green tea, unsweetened almond milk, unsweetened coconut milk, soy milk, whole cows milk or kefir, a great probiotic choice. You can use one or make a mix. Do not use juices, just whole fruits.
  • Then comes the compulsory greens. Go ahead and add in some delicious kale, spinach and fresh parsley leaves. De-stem and de-vein if the leaves are tough. Use at least a handful or two. To change up your greens, consider trying some chopped cucumber in some of your smoothie combos.
  • Now for sweetness, choose fruits to boost antioxidants in your system, such as lemons, limes, fresh or frozen blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries and strawberries, pineapple, grapes and frozen banana chunks. Avoid processed sugar and use stevia (powder or alcohol free drops) if you want the sweet taste. Aim for about a cup of fruit in total per serving or per person.
  • For a smooth running system, add fats and fibre such as a few slices of fresh avocado, 2 tbsp./30 mL of olive oil, coconut oil, hemp seeds, chia seeds, ground flax seed, raw oats or nuts of your choice. Or try a relatively new addition called MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) oil, a coconut derivative that is excellent for brain health and detoxifying. Start with only 2 tsp./10 mL, then work up to 2 tbsp./30 mL. It is available at health food stores.
  • For your protein choose from 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt or 2 tbsp. of protein powder of your choice, such as whey, plant or collagen (my personal preference because there is no taste).
  • Top with ice, blend and enjoy.

Here are a few recipes to get you started.

Frosty fruit smoothie

If tea or coffee is not your thing, use this smoothie as your kick start. Loaded with nutrients, this drink is sure to give you the boost that you need. Serve at breakfast or as a snack. It’s a great way to consume a rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables, and once blended the colour of this drink is so appealing.

  • 1 c. water 250 mL
  • 2 handfuls of kale 2
  • 1 c. fresh or frozen berries 250 mL
  • 1 frozen banana, broken into chunks 1
  • 1/2 c. raw oats 125 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract 2 mL
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil or 2 tsp.MCT oil 30 mL/10 mL
  • 2 tbsp. protein powder 30 mL
  • 1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. ice cubes 125 mL

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Serves two.

Going green smoothie

  • 1/2 c. water 125 mL
  • 2 c. spinach 500 mL
  • 1 c. green grapes 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. pineapple, peeled, cubed, fresh or frozen 125 mL
  • 1/2 banana, frozen and in chunks 1/2
  • 2 tbsp. ground flaxseed 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. olive or coconut oil 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. protein powder 30 mL
  • 1/2 c. ice cubes 125 mL

Blend and enjoy. Serves two.

Greek vegetable & chicken toss

After a long day of travelling, I was served this colourful nutritious mixture that was so refreshing and satisfying. A glass of red wine is a wonderful accompaniment to this dish if desired.

  • 4 grilled or roasted chicken breasts 4
  • 3 large English cucumbers, peeled, halved and sliced 3
  • 2 c. cherry tomatoes 500 mL
  • 1 each yellow and orange pepper, chopped 1
  • 1 sliced/chopped red onion 1
  • 1 c. drained and rinsed chickpeas250 mL
  • 1 c. crumbled or cubed feta cheese250 mL
  • 1 c. Greek feta salad dressing250 mL

Marinate the meat with the same dressing as the vegetable mix if desired or simply brush on the meat while cooking. When cooking is complete, set aside and cool.
Fill a large bowl with the chopped vegetables and feta cheese. Stir to blend and pour dressing over top of the vegetables. Mix, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Just before serving, slice chicken and add to the vegetable mix. Stir until combined. Serves four to six. Add a whole grain or sprouted bread or bun to add fibre to the main course.
After your meal, satisfy your sweet tooth with a few dark chocolate chunks and a handful of berries.
As we sleep, our body is busy cleaning and repairing, so try to stop eating by 7 or 8 p.m., but feel free to have a warm caffeine-free tea to sooth your body into relaxation mode.

Jodie Mirosovsky is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com.

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