Monday, March 16, 2015

How about a Shamrock Smoothie instead of a Shamrock Shake?

Six years ago, when I was living in Minnesota, we had a unique friend named Nickolai who was hanging out with us on good ol' St. Paddy's Day.  After celebrating for some time, he came up with the intense craving for the well-known McDonald's Shamrock Shake.  He found a responsible individual (me) to drive him to McDonald's, which I did against my better judgment.  To my chagrin, Nickolai proceeded to order not one but two large Shamrock Shakes.  He drank the first shake, all 840 calories and 24 grams of fat.  He then decided he did not feel so well and tried unsuccessfully to pawn off the 2nd shake on other revelers.  Now, every time I see the Shamrock Shake advertized under the lovely yellow arches, I think of Nickolai.  When I looked up the nutrition information on McDonald's web site, I was actually surprised that a 22-oz shake only has 24 grams of fat (that's still a lot, but less than I expected). Of course there are healthier alternatives...

Green smoothies (nicknamed "Shamrock Smoothies" in honor of the holiday) are on the rise these days, with people trying to find creative and easy ways to add fruits and vegetables to their diets.  My husband and I have a favorite recipe; but, unfortunately, we do not remember where we found it.  Regardless, we have modified it from its original form: 

Ingredients for 2 servings:

1 large handful of kale
1 large handful of baby spinach
1 banana
2 kiwi fruits - skins left on but ends cut off
1/4 cup ground flaxseed

Instructions:  Add kale and spinach to blender container (they should fill it up about halfway if you have a standard 6-cup container), add banana, kiwi fruits and flaxseed.  Fill blender to the half-way mark with water (more or a less, depending on the consistency you desire).  Blend until smooth.  Enjoy!  You will be surprised at how little of the veggies you actually taste and how much of the fruit.

Nutrition Information Per Serving:  Calories:  185, Total Fat:  5.6g (Primarily Polyunsaturated with 2400 mg Omega-3), Protein:  7.3g, Sodium:  64mg, Carb:  33g, Fiber 10.2g  Excellent Source of  Potassium, Vitamins A, C, B6, K, Good Source of Vitamin E, Calcium and Iron (non-heme).
Of course, very many modifications can be made to a smoothie recipe.  The sky is the limit.  I'm not always a fan of experimentation with recipe ingredients (for fear of bad results), but smoothies are the exception.  For instance you could add Greek yogurt or protein powder and then it would potentially count as a complete meal/snack, containing carbohydrate, protein and healthy fat .  I also often add mixed frozen berries, which add a nice taste but detract from the aesthetics (turning the smoothie more of a brown versus a green).  You could add any fruit or vegetable you desire depending on your taste and the nutrients you desire.  There are a ton of recipes on the internet as well - just Google "green smoothie" and you will see, although I cannot necessarily vouch for the nutritional value of what you may find! 

So, why not do something healthy for yourself on St. Patrick's Day and find a new green smoothie recipe to add to your traditional Irish fare. Of course, if you like to take the opportunity to enjoy the ever-famous Shamrock Shake, I won't hold it against you.  You may not want to attempt to drink 44 ounces of it though...after drinking 44 ounces of green beer. 

Photo Courtesy:  Jennifer "SweetOnVeg"