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00000174-c556-d691-a376-cdd69e2b0000Northeast Ohio has a history of making things. Today, along with liquid crystals and polymers, it’s salsa and artisan cheese. A hot new food scene is simmering among local growers, chefs, producers, educators and epicures, and on every Friday, WKSU’s Vivian Goodman samples new offerings.

Busy at Breakfast? How Drinking Green Smoothies Could Be a Quick Fix for Veggie-Deprived Diets

Lazar with smoothie
VIVIAN GOODMAN
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WKSU
Health coach Nicole Lazar makes a green smoothie every day.

It’s not easy eating greens.

The latest USDA guidelines call for more green vegetables in our diets, but finding time to prepare them can be challenging. Something you can whip up in a blender might be a quick fix.

In today’s Quick Bite, WKSU’s Vivian Goodman looks at the pros and cons of the green smoothie fad.

To get her day started Nicole Lazar relies on her favorite kitchen appliance.

“This is about a $20 blender. Hamilton Beach is the brand, and it does everything I need it to do.” 

She needs it for daily green smoothies, she says, to stay healthy. With her business, Revitalize Health Coaching  to run and a toddler to raise, she can’t afford to get sick like she used to before she became a holistic health coach.

ingredients for smoothie
Credit VIVIAN GOODMAN / WKSU
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WKSU
It only takes a few ingredients for a green smoothie. Nicole Lazar always has frozen fruit on hand to provide sweetness.

Six years ago Lazar was on her way to a PhD and having a rough time.

“I was unhappy. I wasn’t healthy. I was gaining weight. I was addicted to sugar to get through the day, and that was not doing anything for my anxiety.”  

She switched from studying industrial engineering to holistic health.

“I learned about real food.”  

And she stopped catching colds.

How the health coach got healthy
“With the green smoothies I’ve been sick only twice in the last five years.” 

Lazar received certification from the American Association of Drugless Practitioners after learning from experts at New York’s Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Now she counsels clients and holds workshops, including one about green smoothies.

“I help build people’s immune systems so that they’re not getting sick so often.” 

Plus they save a lot of time making breakfast.

“People want a grab and go thing in the morning.  It’s 2 minutes, 5 minutes to make a smoothie. Throw everything in at once, hit blend, a minute or two later you’re done.”

Simple recipes
Her favorite recipes have just a few ingredients. First into the blender goes two cups of liquid.

“One of my favorites is coconut water. That’s wonderfully healthy for you, very high in potassium, even 

blender for smoothies
Credit VIVIAN GOODMAN / WKSU
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WKSU
Nicole Lazar says all she needs is a $20 blender to make her smoothies.

better than a banana. If you like dairy you can give it a milk base, or if you prefer to avoid dairy you can go with almond milk or rice milk.” 

She adds several handfuls of bright green kale. She likes the strong flavor but she knows some don’t.

“You can have baby kale instead of the kale. It’s going to be slightly less nutritionally, but it’s still going to pack a more powerful punch than almost any other food out there.” 

All about the greens
Other options include spinach, swiss chard, bokchoy, mustard greens, or romaine.

“The key really is in the greens. It’s the food most missing in the American diet today.”

Sometimes her clients balk at the color. “We have this idea in our society that green stuff is icky. It starts in childhood.” 

So, often she’ll disguise it. “Throwing in a lot of blueberries or blackberries. You can’t see the green if you’ve got enough of those in there."

frozen fruit
Credit VIVIAN GOODMAN / WKSU
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WKSU
Frozen pineapple sweetens the smoothie and makes it icy without watering it down as ice might.

For today’s smoothie, its frozen blueberries.

No need for added sweeteners
Commercially available green smoothies might have added honey, or turbinado sugar.  But Lazar says fruit is sweet enough.

“Cherries, pineapple, mango, raspberry, blueberry. The list goes on and on and on.” 

Today she’s also packing in a good source of potassium. “I’m putting in two halves of banana, and then we will blend again.”  

The blender blades whack away at the fiber in the plant matter, fiber that’s needed for proper digestion.

For registered dietitian Tanya Falcone, that’s a concern.

“We want that fiber. The blades essentially altering some of the composition it definitely will kind of ruin some of those fibers."

Smoothie in blender
Credit VIVIAN GOODMAN / WKSU
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WKSU
Half of the green smoothie is liquid. Lazar often starts with two cups of coconut water but water or milk or almond milk will also do.

Cautionary note
Falcone co-ordinates Kent State’s Center for Nutrition Outreach. She says those watching their weight especially benefit from plant fiber slowing down absorption. Buffering the rate of absorption quells hunger and prevents excess sugar from turning quickly into fat.

If smoothies are your go-to breakfast, she says you have to ask yourself a frank question.

“Are you eating more when you’re drinking a smoothie?”  

Falcone still considers smoothies a healthy choice if used in moderation.

Smoothies are big business in our increasingly health-conscious society. Annual sales of the icy, frothy concoctions now top $860 million.

Health coach Nicole Lazar realizes it’s a fad.

“But the thing about this is that it’s real food. The fad will come to an end as all fads do, but the health benefits are going to stay around forever. And so I plan to be drinking smoothies for many decades to come.”