Watermelon more than just rabbit food
Who knew the bunnies would help the kids eat healthier? Despite their names (Sugar Bubble and Oreo Pop …. yes, really) the kids have found it fascinating to research and experiment what the bunnies can eat.
At this age, their main diet is alfalfa hay (er ... the bunnies, not the kids) with a sprinkling of bunny pellets and a large handful of leafy greens. On top of that, they’ve been getting some other veggies too (broccoli, carrots, cauliflower) and a little fruit every now and then.
The fruit is fun because the bunnies literally turn in circles with excitement, but it’s been a brilliant lesson too. We can’t give them too much fruit because it’s not good for them, just like we can’t have too much sugar because it’s not good for us.
The girls know it’s their job to look after the bunnies, so they won’t give them too much fruit even though it’s fun, which makes it way easier to explain my role as the sugar police at home.
Still, when I was growing up, my bunnies had a totally boring diet of hay, lettuce and the occasional carrot. In contrast, these two get apples, blueberries and raspberries and they get most excited about watermelon.
Any time anyone sits on the carpet with the bunnies and a wedge of watermelon there is mass confusion. It’s a little like survival of the fittest and in this instance, the fastest are the winners. I’m not sure who’s more competitive, the bunnies or the kids. It’s super cute, if a little messy, but we’re used to messy by now. (If you were reading last week, then yes, the house is still covered in glitter. So are the bunnies. They’re now a special breed of Disco Bunny, ha.)
Anyway, researching watermelon for the bunnies (just a little, don’t go crazy), was a good reminder of how nutritious it is in general.
Watermelon is rich in something called lycopene, a powerful antioxidant overall, but especially helpful for prostate health. We’re used to being told tomatoes are rich in lycopene (and they are), but the lycopene in watermelon is much more bio-available. To really get the benefit from tomatoes, the tomatoes need to be cooked, which is more limiting.
Watermelon is also rich in vitamins C, B5, A, B1 and B6 and biotin, so its benefits are diverse. It’s also diverse in terms of how you can use it — try it over green leaves, with avocado and a balsamic reduction for a super-fancy salad; flash-grill it on the barbecue for an interesting side or freeze it in wedges for a refreshing icy treat. (See Facebook and Instagram for this one; it’s so easy!)
I’ve loved watermelon in juice and smoothies through this summer. The flavour is amazing, especially with a twist of lime to complement it. The recipe I’ve given you below adds strawberries too and the combination is delicious. The flavours are all really mellow and then the lime adds a great zing. So refreshing when the weather is baking hot.
To get the best flavour, make sure you pick a ripe, but not too ripe, watermelon. If you buy cut watermelon, look for something deep in colour without any lines of white running through it.
If you buy a whole watermelon, look for one with a “field spot” — a flatter, creamy coloured area that indicates the melon was left to sit long enough to be ripe. Choose something that feels heavy and also one that has a skin that’s a little more dull. Glossy watermelons are likely to be less ripe. Above all, avoid anything that has a stalk attached. It’s definitely not ripe enough if there is a stalk.
Lastly, just remember that humans need to be careful with the sugars in fruit too, but I find the best way to handle that is to remember that it’s a carb.
Growing kids and very active people can handle more carbs, but if you’re fairly sedentary and, especially if you are managing your weight, then I would treat fruit as the carb portion of your meal rather than an add-on.
So, instead of having chicken, potatoes, green vegetables and fruit, you would skip the potatoes.
If you are having protein and veggies or salad as your meal, then load up on the veg to keep you feeling full. If that’s new to you, increase the amount you eat gradually and note that steamed veg are more easy to digest than salad. Baby steps!
Watermelon, Strawberry and Lime Smoothie
Ingredients (per person)
1.5 cups watermelon
1 cup frozen strawberries
˝ frozen banana
˝ cup unsweetened almond milk (or other milk)
˝ lime, juice of (can add more)
1 heaped tsp cashew or almond butter
1 tbs collagen powder or 1 heaped tsp chia seeds
Whizz it all in the blender. Add more lime for more zing. Add more milk if not fluid enough. Enjoy!
• Catherine Burns is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. For details: www.natural.bm, 236-7511 or, Facebook, Natural Nutrition Bermuda
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