As a dietitian, my personal nutrition ethos is to add more than take away. Nobody likes to have things taken away from them, especially their favorite foods. As we find ourselves in the midst of the season of dieting and restriction as people try to compensate for the “damage” they did over the holidays, it is important to remember that there is no reason to go cold turkey and remove all of the “bad” foods from our diet. While I agree that a few weeks of eating more sugar, salt, and fat than we’re used to can leave us feeling “blah,” a highly restrictive diet, or worse, a juice cleanse, is not the answer.
I am all for using 2016 to become our best selves, but when I hear people berating themselves for their holiday eating behavior and talking about their new fad diet, I just want to say, “Stop! “ Our bodies are simply craving a return to routine and a few extra fruits and vegetables.
My current favorite way to get fruits and vegetables back into my diet is with an açai bowl.
Açai is the fruit of euterpe oleracaeae, a large palm tree found along the Amazon River in South America. Açai has gained attention for its antioxidant and phytochemical composition. High in anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, and other flavonoids, açai is a nutritionally-dense fruit to add to your diet. You can find açai in your grocery store’s frozen foods aisle, typically located with other frozen fruits.
Açai bowls first burst onto the healthy food scene in Hawaii and Southern California and gained a following, and for good reason. An açai bowl has it all: it’s quick to prepare, visually appealing, and depending on what you add, it covers all of the texture bases- smooth, creamy, crunchy. It’s essentially a delicious, thicker version of a smoothie that is eaten with a spoon. My recent obsession with the açai bowl is, unfortunately, not an inexpensive one. Even though I have my favorite spots to grab an açai bowl while out and about in Boston, I have taken my efforts to the kitchen, where I prepared an açai bowl that trumps the ones available- and for much less money!
· ¼- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
· 1 packet frozen açai
· 1 cup blueberries
· 1 banana (save ¼ of the banana for slicing on top)
· 1 cup baby spinach
· 2 tablespoons granola
· 1 tablespoon almond butter
*Aside from the açai packet, you can modify the ingredients however you like- use different milk or coconut water, add strawberries, and top with unsweetened shredded coconut, instead of granola. The fun is making it to accommodate your favorite flavors and textures.
1. Place the almond milk and the frozen açai in the blender. Blend.
2. Add the blueberries, spinach, and banana. Blend well to ensure that all ingredients are well-incorporated.
3. Add toppings.
And here are a few examples of the finished product:
So, the next time you are in the mood to eat something special and nutritious for breakfast or lunch, whip up an açai bowl. Enjoy!