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Juice up, boost up

The Star, 28 February 2010

The trend is to go healthy – in a drink. In today’s fast-paced and health-conscious society, more people are opting for quick fixes in yummy smoothies and juices.

SKIP the coffee, toast and butter, the roti canai or nasi lemak. Cut down breakfast time but continue have a nutritious meal by grabbing a healthy smoothie.

This is the fast-growing trend among young adults who want a nutritional boost in a jiffy.

Instead of snacking on power bars and cutting down the amount of food during meals, they choose to substitute breakfast, lunch or dinner with a glass of fresh juice or healthy smoothie.

Kenny Wong and Lim Ning Ning of Bobalicious Smoothies say they picked up on the trend a few years ago and began researching on the type of nutritional drinks the market was looking for.

Stop for smoothies: You can get your hands on one of the Bobalicious Smoothies at Tropicana City Mall in Petaling Jaya.

"We started with a bubble milk tea outlet first as we’re both big fans of it,"says Lim, who once worked as an interior designer.

However, on realising how much artificial colouring, flavouring and sugar went into the drink, they decided to look for a healthier alternative. At the same time, they wanted to retain the “boba”, which is the tapioca pearl in the bubble milk tea. Hence, the name Bobalicious Smoothies.

"We wanted to introduce a delicious and healthier alternative to our consumers and hopefully create a greater awareness of the health facts about smoothies," says Lim.

Since their concept is "healthy alternatives in a cup", she says Bobalicious uses only fresh and natural ingredients in their smoothies.

There are basically two smoothie sizes – 12 oz and 16 oz (the standard size).

The smoothies are mixed with fruits, milk as well as yogurt, and customers can choose either fresh milk, low fat milk, soy milk or water as part of the blend.

For those who are not keen on having the "boba" in their drinks, they also offer smoothies without it. And those who are not in the mood for a really healthy drink can opt for nata de coco jelly and whipped cream for something more sinful.

Smooth: Mixed Berry (left) and Banana Orange smoothies.

"What is so special about smoothies and fruit juices is that they help you rehydrate at the start of the day. We also offer oats in our smoothies in a few flavours," says Wong.

There are three categories of smoothies – dual mixed, ultimate fresh and indulgences. Dual mixed means puree and milk are used instead of creamer, and the price ranges from RM6 to RM8 per cup of 12 oz.

Some of the delicious smoothies that fall under this category are mixed berries, passion fruit mango and peach lemon.

Ultimate fresh are drinks to boost one’s system at the start of the day and cost between RM6 and RM8. The drinks include Banana Banana, Strawberry Banana and Papaya Banana.

The indulgences category includes oreo cookies, chocolate cookies, capuchino, hazelnut and mocha. The price ranges between RM7 and RM10.

Boost Juice Bars of Australia shares the same idea.

It all started when Australian Janine Allis, a mother of three, decided there was a lack of healthy options out there for her and her children.

So she decided to open up a juice bar in 2000, blending some wicked juice and smoothies in her own garage – and the rest is history.

Seeing the growing demand for smoothies and juices, the juice bar decided to expand its wings to Malaysia. The first store opened in Suria KLCC last year.

"We think the time is right to bring Boost to Malaysia. Malaysian customers who once purchased fried kway teow for a meal or a curry puff for a snack are now opting for healthier, fresh alternatives," says managing director of Boost Malaysia, Dr Soraya Rahim Ismail, who shares the business with her expatriate husband, Nick Tiernan.

Tiernan and Dr Soraya became fans of the iconic Australian smoothies when they lived and worked in Melbourne until last year. However, it was on their honeymoon that the newly-weds decided to bring Boost to Malaysia – heralding a return home for Dr Soraya.

Boost smoothies are tagged with energetic names like "All Berry Bang", "Mango Tango", "Brekkie to go-go" and "Energy Lift".

The drinks offer real fruit juices and crushes made with "a top secret TD4 (To Die For)" low-fat frozen yoghurt.

All products have been developed by a dedicated Boost nutritionist and everything is at least 98% fat-free and has no artificial flavour or colouring.

Boost is opening two more outlets early this year in Bangsar Village (Kuala Lumpur) and Subang Parade (Selangor), with more targeted later in the year.

Another interesting outlet that offers juices and smoothies is For Fresh People, which is located in Bangsar.

Don’t even think of ordering carbonated drinks here as it is the number one enemy of this kitchen and cafe. "I promote healthy living not just in the food we eat but also by going green to help with the global warming crisis," says its managing director Lin Sheau Wei.

Branding drinks containing lots of sugar as the ultimate sin, Lin concocted a special brew of juices for her customers to encourage them to eat a healthy diet.

Established just last month, her outlet offers a delicious mixture of fruit juices that contain no sugar. She substitutes the sugar with herbs and honey.

To entice juice lovers to keep coming back for more, she has given creative names to her drinks, for example, "Good Morning Calcutta", a combination of orange, lemon, tea, mixed spice and honey; and “Global Cooling”, a concoction of honey dew, cucumber and mint. Other interesting names are "Solar Energy", a mixture of orange, carrots and ginger and "Perfect Summer" with beetroot, celery and orange.

"It’s amazing how people just don’t realise that taking in a large amount of sugar a day can screw up your health. What’s even more shocking is that those who know this still don’t do anything about it," says Lin.

Seeing that adopting a healthy diet is a problem in this country, Lin, who was in the consultancy and training industry before, quit her job to concentrate on her current passion.

Since her previous job required her to travel extensively, she used all the information and experience she gained from various countries to good use when setting up For Fresh People.

As she wants to promote a healthy lifestyle, she has designed the cafe in such a way that customers are able to relax over a good drink.

Those who love to read can help themselves to the books arranged on the shelves at the right side of the cafe. There is also space for keen photographers to display their photos for the other patrons to see. And you can even donate books if you want to.

"The reason I do this is to get the young generation to stop snacking on unhealthy food at fast-food joints and opt for a healthier meal. That’s why all my dishes contain no artificial flavouring," Lin says.

Another drink specialist with similar offerings is Juice Works, which offers meals on the run, power breakfasts, energy enhancers, work-out snacks and afternoon treats – all healthy alternatives to fast food.

Some of the healthy thirst-quenchers include Lychee Cooler, a combination of lychee and watermelon; Pink Lemonade, watermelon and lemon; and Carribean Cocktail, mango, banana, pineapple and tropical juice.

Other outlets that offer some great smoothies and juices are New Zealand Natural, Desserts Bar, Sharing Planet and Black Canyon.

Dr Soraya’s Top Five Nutrition Tips

1. Never skip breakfast. A lot of people don’t realise that skipping breakfast can actually slow your metabolism down. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. "And if you’re in too much of a hurry to prepare anything, that’s what our Boost Brekkie-To-Go-Go is for!" she says.

2. Fit in five portions of fruits and vegetables every day. Fruits and vegetables contain many minerals and vitamins that are essential for our health and keeping everything in working order. Plus, they have hardly any fat! "I like to take in as much fruits and vegetables as I can each day. I always feel fresher and full of energy that way."

3. Have lots of little meals rather than a couple of big ones. Malaysians like to sit down at the table around a huge pot of curry, lots of rice and noodles. In fact, it’s healthier to eat smaller meals more often, as they are more easily digested and will speed up your metabolism.

4. When you’re hungry, have a big glass of water. If you’re really hungry, you’ll still want food after the water. But you’ll often find that the water will do the trick – because when people are thirsty their brain sometimes gets confused and sends messages telling them to eat! Keeping hydrated is a way of avoiding this.

5. Get lots of sleep. "Since I had my son Sean, sleep is a luxury that I find difficult to have! If you can, get as much sleep as possible because you actually burn calories in your sleep! I guess I’ll have to wait till the little one is a bit bigger before I can return to my full eight hours a night."