Berry bold smoothie bowl (subtext: let’s pretend it’s summer)

On my morning walk (absolutely essential to maintain perspective before diving into my day job), today I sensed a faint whisper of Spring. There was something lively about the chatter of birds, as though they were privy to a seasonal secret. The air wasn’t quite so bitter (as evidenced by the lighter shade of red of my nose). Some trees had even dared to sprout a few buds! So yes, I’m going out on a limb and saying that Spring is almost springing.

Naturally I started daydreaming about mild early morning summer walks, afternoons of yoga outdoors, and balmy evenings sitting on the decking with a chilled glass of sauvignon blanc. Sigh.

Until then, I’m helping myself feel vibrant with this berry bold smoothie bowl. I LOVE smoothie bowls. It’s basically a thick smoothie, served in a bowl (surprise!), topped with all sorts of delights. I prefer them to smoothies I think…drinking a smoothie without a straw feels like drinking soup from a mug. Just wrong. So, dished up in a bowl and eaten with a spoon this breakfast feels substantial and right.

For this one, I blended:

  • 1 pitted medjool date (for sweetness)
  • 1 ripe banana (you could use frozen banana too)
  • Generous handful of frozen raspberries (but any frozen red berries would be delish)
  • Glug of milk alternative (I used Koko coconut milk) – depending on the size of the banana, how many berries you add and so on, you’ll need to add more or less milk. Adding a bit at a time as you blend helps you to gauge the consistency. It should be quite thick!
  • Topping of your choice. Today I used toasted coconut flakes, hemp hearts, and cacao nibs.

Blend gently (patience is key for a soft whipped texture) until the mixture is smooth.

Now, where’s my suntan lotion..?

Healthy food at a premium price: wrapping simple ingredients in luxury labels.

It’s well-researched and generally accepted: patterns of unhealthy dietary choices correlate with socioeconomic status. One research article I found analysed not just income versus food choices, but also considered how income variance and supermarket choice affected food expenditure and choices. The authors reached an interesting conclusion, and two points really caught my eye. Here’s the first one:

Supermarket choice may influence expenditure for patrons to some extent regardless of their initial motivations.

So even though an individual may tackle their weekly shop with the best of intentions, if they have a lower household income and shop at a lower-cost supermarket, that in itself could influence their food choices. The layout of the supermarket, the goods the shop promotes, the offers they push…all tapping away at the subconsciousness. Case in point: my local Aldi funnels you past shelves laden with biscuits, cakes, crisps and sugary cereals before you reach the fresh fruit and veg. Before you’ve walked 20 paces the temptation is almost too much to resist. The choice of foods on offer, of course, also have an effect. Some chains have a dozen different types of double choc chip cookies, and some chains have a dozen different types of organic raw paleo gluten free seed bars.

Ok, the second point that piqued my interest is:

…cost is still likely to be a significant contributor to healthiness of food choices… [and] actual and/or perceived cost of healthy diets may be key factors in tackling socioeconomic disparities in food purchasing choices.

So healthy food choices are thought cost more? And they do, right? Welllll…yes and no. This is where it can work both ways. Let me break it down as I see it.

Healthy food is perceived as expensive, so those with lower household incomes who don’t have the ‘spare cash’ to throw at such fancy pants food don’t BUY said fancy pants food. It’s maybe not even considered as an option.

Flip side: those with higher income and surplus cash buy all the fancy pants healthy food they can throw their wads at…regardless of the fact that it’s basically a box of seeds that is grossly overpriced. But it’s fine: it’s extra expensive so that makes it extra healthy…right?

When you take a closer look, produce like fresh vegetables, wholegrain rice, pulses (kidney beans, black beans etc), chickpeas and lentils are actually cheap. Meat is not cheap – or rather, it shouldn’t be when you think about what it actually is (but that’s for another post). But the fundamentals of a healthy diet are affordable – it’s the host of other influences and factors that contribute to the food choices we make: time; love or loathe cooking; knowledge of ingredients; addiction to sugar…so many more that all create a cauldron of circumstances.

You can spend ¬£5.99 on a small box of organic granola (that consists of, yes, oats and seeds). Or you can buy a bag of oats, or natural muesli, and create your own for 1/20th of the price. It just won’t come in a pretty floral box.

The crux of the matter is this: food manufacturers and supermarkets are not making it easy or obvious for consumers to choose the healthier foods. Waitrose and Planet Organic play up to their shoppers’ desire for a soothing pat on the head in assurance that they’ve bought the healthiest foods and ticked an eco-credentials box somewhere. Meanwhile, Aldi and Farmfoods allow their processed and sugar-laden goods to take centre stage, while the more humble yet healthy foods hide in the shadows.

There is a middle ground somewhere, but it takes some savvy navigating to get there. And for most of us, we’re easily lost or redirected. We need better signposts or a more objective sat nav system that we can trust, where profit does NOT trump public health.

Article source: ‘Socioeconomic inequalities in the healthiness of food choices: Exploring the contributions of food expenditures’ (Rachel Pechey and Pablo Monsivais, 2016).

What’s the big deal with smoothies?

Every other health and foodie blog you stumble across has pictures of vibrant smoothies and bubbly buzzwords like #fitfam #plantpower. Common sense tells us they’re good for us if we’re basically taking a wad of fruit and/or vegetables and blitzing them into a drinkable smoosh. But are smoothies just for people who are more familiar with the gym then the sofa?

100% not. Don’t like bananas? Put one in a smoothie with some mixed frozen berries and some almond milk and voil√†, you’re getting the benefits of bananas without that inexplicable grainy banana-flavoured bleurgh. Never eat your greens? Stuff a couple of handfuls of baby spinach or kale in with some frozen cherries, a banana (!), a spot of cocoa or cacao powder, almond extract and some almond milk…hey presto! A smoothie that tastes like black forest gateau but is actually giving you a gallon of nutrients.

Maybe you wish you had time for breakfast but by the time you’ve pressed snooze a few times, scrolled your Instagram feed and dressed yourself (yes! Over-achiever!), there’s no time before you have to head to work. A-ha! How about if you prep some greens the night before (ie. wash if needed) and slice some ripe bananas and put them in freezer bags (ready-made stash!)? Buy a few bags of frozen berries. Then in the morning, throw a handful of each into a blender (or if you’re serious about smoothies, a nutribullet…), top up with nut milk, sprinkle some additions if you want an extra boost (chia seeds, flaxseeds etc) and it’s breakfast on the go. Cue smug look.

Sometimes the combo doesn’t work well. I’ve had smoothies that looked like paint and tasted like…well, paint. However this one was a treat! Inspired by Oh She Glows (health food blogger and author), we had a divided opinion in this house about the addition of mint. Mr P liked it but for me it gave a slightly odd aftertaste.

This makes enough for 2 people.

1. Blend 1/4 cucumber with about 60ml filtered water (you may need to add more later).

2. Add three or four handfuls of kale AND spinach. Blend if you’re running out of room!

3. Add 1 frozen banana, juice of half a lime, 1 pear (cored) and 2 rings of tinned pineapple. Oh yes, and a sprig of fresh mint if you fancy it.

4. Blend until smooth.