Back-to-School, Back-to-Work, Back-to-Health Smoothies

Healthy smoothies are so easy to make—a kid could do it!
Healthy smoothies are so easy to make—a kid could do it!

There’s no better way to celebrate the end of summer than barbecuing in the backyard with friends and family. But indulging in all those grilled burgers, scoops of potato salad, and cupcakes can leave you feeling a little sluggish. (Raise your hand if you pigged out over the weekend?) To get back on track with healthy eating during arguably the busiest week of the year, focus on filling your plate with veggies and snacking on whole fruits and nuts. You can also try one of these yummy smoothies. I created them for my clients who will be wrangling kids to the bus stop and juggling back-to-school nights, along with new deadlines at work. (Phew!)

Each of these delicious drinks take minutes to prep and make. Simply put all of the ingredients in a blender in the order listed (leafy greens on the bottom), and blend on the highest setting until everything is smooth. You can add a splash of water if you prefer a thinner smoothie, or throw in a few ice cubes if you’d like it to be thicker. Then, grab a friend (your kid works, too), a couple of straws, and enjoy!

 

Banana Berry Blaster Smoothie
This Banana Berry Blaster Smoothie is full of cold- and flu-busting antioxidants.

Banana Berry Blaster

This one’s full of immunity boosters—just what kiddos need when they’re heading back to the classroom with all their friends. Leafy greens are packed with iron, which supports healthy blood cells as they fend off pathogens. And a burst of vitamin C from the spinach and berries acts as an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals before they can do any damage. (This smoothie is on the sweet side. For those who don’t want a treat, substitute ½ cup of water for half of the juice.)

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups Spinach
  • 1 cup Orange Juice or Apple Juice (preferably fresh, unsweetened)
  • 1 Banana
  • 1 cup Strawberries
  • 1 cup Blueberries, frozen

Prep time: 5 minutes  Ready in: 5 minutes  Servings: 2

 

PB & J Swirl Smoothie
PB & J Swirl Smoothie—a twist on a classic.

PB & J Swirl

This twist on a classic packs in more vitamins, protein, and easy-to-digest fiber than the traditional sandwich. Spinach is loaded with iron and vitamin C, the banana brings in potassium and fiber, and red grapes offer up resveratrol—the same heart-healthy antioxidant found in red wine. You also get protein from the almond milk and peanut butter to help build strong muscles, as well as a balanced source of quick-burning carbohydrates to fuel your day. Plus, it tastes so great you’ll forget you’re eating vegetables.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Spinach
  • 1 cup Almond Milk, unsweetened
  • 2 cups Red Grapes 
(frozen ones are great in this!)
  • 1 Banana
  • ¼ cup Peanut Butter (or Almond Butter)

Prep time: 5 minutes  Ready in: 5 minutes  Servings: 2

 

Carot Cake Cooler Smoothie
“Carrot Cake” Cooler Smoothie Vitamin A never tasted so good!

“Carrot Cake” Cooler

Again with the spinach! I push it on everyone because it’s a vitamin powerhouse. But unlike its leafy green cousins kale and chard, spinach has a milder taste that mixes well with other flavors. With this smoothie, you get all the benefits of spinach, plus a giant dose of vitamin A from the carrots. Our bodies use vitamin A to build and maintain healthy tissue for eyes and skin, making it an important nutrient for growing kids and adults alike.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Spinach
  • 1 cup Almond Milk, unsweetened
  • 2 cups Baby Carrots
  • 1 Banana
  • 1 tsp. Pure Organic Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1 tbs. Organic Raw Honey (optional)

Prep time: 5 minutes  Ready in: 5 minutes  Servings: 2

 

How do you slip more fruits and veggies into your day? What’s your favorite healthy, kid-friendly recipe?

Celery Root & Apples. Who Knew!?

Here I go, comparing apples and celery root again.
Here I go, comparing apples and celery root again.

Signing up for produce delivery from Full Circle is really paying off! I’m being introduced to veggies I didn’t even realize existed. I mean seriously, who’s ever heard of celery root?

A quick Google search reveals that many of you out there have, in fact, come into contact with the weird, knobby root. (OK, so I’m the only one without a clue…)

Celery root, also known as celeriac, is rich in several vitamins and minerals, including riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins A, C, B6, E, and K—making it a powerhouse food for runners. (We need all of those nutrients for endurance and muscle recovery!)

Slice away the outer layer of celery root to find a fleshy, white center that tastes like celery. (No surprise there.)
Slice away the outer layer of celery root to find a fleshy, white center that tastes like celery. (No surprise there.)

All you’ve got to do is eat it—raw or cooked, to reap the health benefits. One recipe idea: Create a slaw of matchstick-sliced celery root and apple, and toss it with mustard vinaigrette.

I whipped up a quick dressing (1/4 cup of olive oil, 2 tbs. white vinegar, and a good squirt of spicy brown mustard), and then got to work hacking off the outer layer (peel? rind?). The inner flesh turns brown almost immediately when it hits the air—a process known as oxidation, but throwing it in a bowl with the vinaigrette ASAP helps keep it looking fresh. Several minutes of chopping later (talk about an arm workout!), I had a tasty salad.

Celery root and apple slaw with mustard vinaigrette and walnuts—yum!
Celery root and apple slaw with mustard vinaigrette and walnuts—yum!

I added walnuts for a hit of protein, and the next day I dumped the leftovers in a blender with a splash of almond milk and made a smoothie. Who knew celery root was so versatile? (OK, you knew…)

 

Know any good celeriac recipes? What’s the strangest thing you’ve eaten this week?

What The Heck Do You Do With Baby Turnips? This.

Soft and tangy, baked baby turnips are perfect in a dinner salad.
Soft and tangy, baked baby turnips are perfect in a dinner salad.

In my first box of produce from Full Circle I found eight teeny, tiny turnips—the smallest ones I’d ever seen! There weren’t enough of them to star in their own main or side dish, so I decided to get a little creative.

I trimmed the stalks, tossed the roots in a marinade of fresh-squeezed blood orange juice, olive oil, cilantro, and pepper, and then popped them in the oven for about 40 minutes (covered, 375 degrees). After baking, I sliced up the baby turnips and added them (marinade and all) to a salad of green leaf lettuce, roasted chicken (remnants from dinner a couple nights earlier—yum!), apples, peas, avocado, almonds, and more cilantro. The result was muy delicioso, and I discovered that salads are great for stretching a small amount of veggies and using up leftovers.

Need some convincing to go to all this trouble for a couple of midget turnips? Consider this: Turnips are chock full of vitamin C, an antioxidant that fights free radical cell damage and aids in the absorption of iron. Many runners are deficient of this important mineral, and pairing turnips with protein (like chicken) can improve your body’s uptake of iron.

Have you ever tasted a baby turnip? Think you’ll try one now?

Are Boring Meals Keeping You Up At Night?

Eaten everyday, this nutritious one-dish-dinner isn't exactly healthy.
Eaten everyday, this nutritious one-dish-dinner isn’t exactly healthy.

I can get pretty lazy when it comes to making dinner. My go-to meal is a goulash of ground beef (pasture-raised, organic when possible), tomato sauce (Newman’s Own is nice), kale (chop and toss into the sauce to cook), and brown rice pasta. It only takes 20 minutes to throw it together, and there are always leftovers for lunch, so I make it at least once a week if not more often. As nutritious as this dish is (kale is Mother’s Nature’s multi-vitamin!), dining on it daily could be a big no-no. According to a recent study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, eating the same meal day in and day out can have a negative effect on your sleep.

Today’s breakfast: Scrambled eggs with spinach, sliced apples, and oranges. (I like to sneak veggies into eggs for an extra jolt of vitamins.)
Today’s breakfast: Scrambled eggs with spinach, sliced apples, and oranges. (I like to sneak veggies into eggs for an extra jolt of vitamins.)

In a nutshell, researchers discovered variety is the spice and the sleeping pill of life. They noted that people who eat the widest assortment of foods have the healthiest sleep patterns, logging between seven and eight hours of rest each night. And those who are nutritionally deficient—lacking in iron, zinc, and selenium, for example, get the least amount of sleep. Getting enough snooze time is extremely important for runners. Muscle tissue repairs itself when the body is at rest, allowing your legs to push harder and respond more quickly during your next workout.

Hello, variety! Baby turnips win the prize for most unusual item in this week’s Full Circle box.
Hello, variety! Baby turnips win the prize for most unusual item in this week’s Full Circle box.

In an effort to add more excitement to my meals, I’ve signed up for Full Circle, a farm-to-table food delivery service in the Bay Area. Every Tuesday morning a box of locally grown, organic fruits and veggies magically appears on my doorstep. I have no idea what will be inside each week, forcing me to roll with the punches. Now, I can create meals that are not only nutritious, but offer a bigger variety of vitamins and minerals to keep me sleeping (and running!) more soundly.

Do you eat a wide variety of healthy foods? How do you sneak more nutrients into your diet? 

It’s National Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day!

I heart peanut butter on apples, in oatmeal, and with dark chocolate!
I heart peanut butter on apples, in oatmeal, and with dark chocolate!

A quick note to spread the love for my favorite, um, spread…

Peanut butter is loaded with protein (about 8 grams per serving), which is essential for muscle growth and repair. And the fat found in peanuts is monounsaturated—the heart-healthy kind that has been shown to lower bad cholesterol. It’s also a great source of niacin, folic acid, and vitamin E. Hello, post-run recovery super food!

What’s your favorite way to eat peanut butter?

GU’s Peanut Butter is the Best Thing Since Peanut Butter!

Left behind after a long run: Sneakers, sweaty clothes and an empty GU Peanut Butter packet.

Seriously, the new (to me) Peanut Butter flavored GU is delicious. I discovered it at a mini-race expo in Tupper Lake, NY, and since then I’ve been looking forward to carrying it with me on all of my long runs. It tastes almost as good as the stuff it’s trying to pretend to be. Halfway through a 12-miler, when I start feeling tired and slow, I pop some of this peanut buttery goodness into my mouth and I’m instantly a new runner.

I love peanut butter so much, that if I could suck down a glob of the real stuff I would. But, sadly, it’s not the right kind of fuel to take in during a run.

When you run for more than 60 minutes (90 minutes if your body happens to have an extra efficient storage system), your body uses up the glycogen stored in its muscles and then goes for the sugar in your circulatory system and liver to continue to power your legs. When that fuel source runs out, your muscles become slow to respond and have the potential to cramp. GU and other sports gels and drinks are specially formulated to offer quick burning carbs (sugars) and electrolytes that hit your bloodstream minutes after reaching your tummy.

Peanut butter has carbs, but it’s also high in protein, making it slow to digest—so the energy you get from it doesn’t reach your legs in time for it to be used in that workout. Which means during a long run, GU’s Peanut Butter is better than actual peanut butter. (I know, I can’t believe I just said that either. Peanut butter, I love you! I do!)

I’m not going to start spreading this stuff on toast, but it just might edge out GU’s Chocolate Outrage for the top spot in my fuel favorites.

Which gels are your favorites? Have you tried GU’s new (to me) Peanut Butter flavor?

Vitamins That Aren’t Too Hard To Swallow

I’m pretty lazy when it comes to taking vitamins. In fact, all five of the different bottles of tablets sitting on my kitchen counter are more than 2/3 full, and all of them are expired. I simply forget to take them—something I was reprimanded for the other day when I met Steven Joyal, M.D., vice president of scientific and medical affairs of Life Extension, a health and dietary supplement company. “It’s virtually impossible to get all the essential nutrients you need from foods alone, so you should at least be taking a daily multivitamin,” he says. I sat there nodding politely, mentally kicking myself for wasting money on those past-dated pills.

Vitamins and minerals help our bodies work as efficiently as possible, but they’re especially important for athletes because we put more than just the normal wear and tear on ourselves. As runners, we’re constantly subjected to cancer-causing free radicals when we run outside—from the sun, pollution, and other sources. Plus, our activity causes internal stress (the break down and repair of muscle tissue, for example). Which means loading up on antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies and popping a daily multivitamin are key to running farther, faster, and for life.

Additional caplets to consider:

  • Magnesium Sweat a lot? You could be low on this mineral, which escapes the body through perspiration. Magnesium is responsible for maintaining muscle and nerve function, keeping your heart rate steady, and fortifying bones.
  • Calcium If you want to reduce your risk of stress fractures, this one’s for you. Three servings of dairy a day should put enough calcium in your diet, but the body often utilizes it more effectively when it’s taken as a supplement paired with magnesium and other minerals.
  • Vitamin D Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, making it vital for strong bones. Your body naturally makes it when it’s exposed to UV light. But when days become short on sunlight (hello, winter), a supplement can fill the gaps.
  • Fish Oil Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, like salmon and sardines, reduce inflammation and muscle soreness. And if you’re not a fan of seafood, you’re missing out. Dr. Joyal says, “I take fish oil on days I won’t be eating fish.”

I bought a new set of vitamins and Dr. Joyal gave me this handy-dandy sorter to help me remember to take them everyday. (Yes, Gramma, it’s just like yours!) This morning I successfully swallowed all of my pills. My fingers are crossed.

Are you good about popping pills? How many vitamins do you take daily? 

Are Runners Bland?

I had Indian food for dinner with one of my favorite running buddies yesterday. As we debated which dishes to get, I noticed that we were both gravitating towards the milder options. Neither of us wanted a super spicy meal to mess with our tummies and make the next day’s run unpleasant. It made me think about the foods I eat all the time: Oatmeal, bananas, turkey sandwiches. Pretty boring stuff.

Last night’s feast was the most exciting meal I’ve eaten in a while. But no proper curry fan alive will tell you chicken tikka masala is adventurous.

I find it funny that I’m willing to take on a marathon, sign up for trail races, and do two workouts a day without apprehension, but the thought of eating something that might upset my stomach brings me to my knees. More evidence that the hardcore persona I want to project to the world doesn’t match up with my insides.

What did you have for dinner last night? Do you sacrifice spices to keep your workouts on track too?

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.

I Feel So Empty Inside

This week has been an easy one for me when it comes to running. The mileage is low and I’m not stressing out about hitting times, I’m just making sure my legs feel good. But even though I’m not burning as many calories as I usually do, I’m craving them like a maniac.

Seriously, I’ve been hungrier than ever this week. It’s like my stomach just won’t feel full. And I’m definitely giving in to the urges. Yesterday at my desk I snacked on a banana, peanut butter cookies, butter toffee almonds, string cheese, and applesauce—and that was on top of lunch (ham, cheese, sprouts, and cucumbers on a whole wheat roll), second breakfast (grapes and a croissant), and breakfast (oatmeal with frozen peaches). I had dinner with a friend last night and I was so hungry by the time I got there, I thought I was going to gnaw my arm off.

Scientists have found that exercise increases the production of a protein that curbs appetite, so it makes sense that my body would be craving more food now that I’m not running as much. But it’s gotten so bad I’m afraid to open the work fridge for fear that I might eat someone else’s leftovers. (Whoever brought in the humus and grilled chicken, consider yourself warned.)

Countdown to the Boston Marathon: 5 days!

Is anyone else hungry right now? Do you feel the urge to eat more when you’re exercising less, too?

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.

Eating On The Run: 3 Snacks That Can Help You Reach The Finish Line

In her new book Running For Women, Kara Goucher talks a lot about, well, running. (Who better to do that than a pro-runner gunning to win the Boston Marathon?) She also covers nutrition. My favorite message from her chapter on food: “Eat when you’re hungry; stop when you’re full.” That’s always been my mantra when dining, but what about when you’re on the run?

If you’re just heading out for an easy one, you don’t need to worry about eating or drinking anything fancy—Kara reports plain old water is perfect. But for anything over an hour, it’s a good idea to replenish your carbohydrate levels during your pavement pounding session. You can do this with sports drinks, like Gatorade, or by sipping water and eating specially formulated gels, gummies, or chews. (I like to refer to this stuff as “run candy”—you can find a colorful assortment of it at almost any sneaker store.) They all work, but it’s important to find one that your stomach tolerates and that you can maneuver easily from your pocket to your mouth. It’s also smart to figure out which one works for you before race day (your tummy will thank you!). Here’s what I’ve been experimenting with:

1. Clif  Shot Roks Protein Bites I have a tough time chewing while I’m on the move—I can’t even walk and chew gum without biting the inside of my mouth. So when I bring these with me, I have to stop to snack. They’re actually designed to be a post-run recovery food, but I like eating a couple in the middle of my runs. (Maybe because I let myself take a break.) They’re delicious and really keep my energy up.

2. Nutrilite Endurance Cubes I discovered these during this season’s marathon training after reading about them on Kara’s blog (clearly, I like her writing). Kara uses them to supplement sports drinks when she does her longer runs. Because I have a chewing issue, I sort of let the cubes melt in my mouth. It’s fun to use them to count down the miles—I’ll pop one every 10 to 15 minutes and when the pack’s empty my run is done.

3. GU Energy Gel I’ve been downing this stuff since high school, so it’s almost like bringing a faithful friend along with me when I go out for long runs. I like GU for three reasons: it’s the right size for that little pocket inside your running shorts, it always gives me a boost when I’m starting to feel sluggish, and it comes in yummy flavors. (The chocolate mint tastes like an Andes candy!)

Countdown to the Boston Marathon: 12 days!

Do you snack on the run? What’s your favorite run candy?

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.