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?

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Let’s Talk About Snacks, Baby

Supermarkets are full of ready-to-eat snacks these days—some are pretty healthy, others not so much. While I’m a big proponent of putting fresh, made-at-home meals into your mouth, in our go-go-go world even I like a little packaged convenience now and then. (And, let’s face it, bananas get boring.) Here’s what typically lands in my shopping cart each week.

Here’s the beef! Every piece of Krave Jerky looks like fresh meat—‘cause that’s what they use to make it, natch.
Here’s the beef! Every piece of Krave Jerky looks like fresh meat—‘cause that’s what they use to make it, natch.

Krave Jerky Clean, healthy, natural is my mantra when it comes to packaged snacks, and Krave Jerky lives up to it! Not only are the ingredients quality (no nitrates!), the inventive flavors make this meat treat a million times better than anything you’d find at a gas station. I like the beef options best—Sweet  Chipotle tops the list for me, but the Black Cherry BBQ Pork is pretty darn tasty, too. In fact, Krave Jerky is so good that I convinced the suits that run the San Jose Sharks to stock their concession stands with it—you’re welcome!

 

Jelly is full of added sugar, so I top a slice of Eureka! Saaa-Wheat Organic Bread with all-natural peanut butter and fresh nectarine pieces instead.
Jelly is full of added sugar, so I top a slice of Eureka! Saaa-Wheat Organic Bread with all-natural peanut butter and fresh fruit instead.

Eureka! Organic Bread I’m not really big on bread—Michael K. Farrell is gluten sensitive, and I don’t usually buy food that he shouldn’t eat (since he eats EVERYTHING and complains about the tummy ache later…). But I love the loaves from Eureka! They use organic ingredients and slip a little something extra in every slice, specifically seeds and whole grains.

Sometimes I mix Garden of Life Raw Meal into organic whole milk, which defeats the whole vegan thing but tastes incredible!
Sometimes I mix Garden of Life Raw Meal into organic whole milk, which defeats the whole vegan thing but tastes incredible!

Garden of Life Raw Meal I’ve been adding this potent powder to my post-workout smoothies lately. It offers 34 grams of protein per serving, and it’s loaded with all kinds of good-for-you nutrients. Plus, it contains pro-biotics (live cultures also found in yogurt) to aid digestion. The Vanilla Spiced Chai flavor is my favorite—it has the power to transform ordinary water into a creamy, delicious snack.

What are your favorite healthy snacks? 

Disclaimer: All of these items can be purchased at Sprouts Market. I was not compensated by any of the brands featured for writing this post. The opinions presented are mine and unbiased.

What To Pack For A Trail Run (Hint: It’s Not The Kitchen Sink)

This stuff comes with me on every trail run.
This stuff comes with me on every trail run.

I’m an efficient suitcase packer. I keep it simple, only bring the essentials, and make sure everything fits neatly into the overhead bin. But when it comes to packing for a nice little run in nature, I have an overwhelming urge to load my backpack with all kinds of “might needs” and “just in cases”— like a headlamp (even though I only run trails in daylight) or a poncho (it never rains here in Silicon Valley!). In an effort to cut weight, I’ve forced myself to come up with this barest-of-the-bare sundries list that acknowledges my paranoia but doesn’t indulge it too much.

The North Face Enduro Pack Hydration Pack Better than a bulky backpack, The North Face Enduro Pack was worth every penny. It comes with a bladder to store my water, and the small size forces me to fill the pockets wisely.

Badger Sport Sunscreen CreamSunscreen Burns, brown spots, skin cancer—no thanks! I apply SPF head-to-toe before leaving the house, and then every two hours when I’m in the sun. I like this Badger Sport Sunscreen Cream SPF 35, because it blocks out both UVA and UVB rays, and it’s 100% certified natural.

Cortizone 10 Poison Ivy PadsPoison Ivy Pads The best way to avoid a painful rash is to steer clear of over-grown paths. Still, contact happens. Last summer Michael K. Farrell stood knee deep in 3-leaf itchiness—these single-use Cortizone 10 Poison Ivy Relief Pads would have been super helpful.

GU for the trailEnergy Gel I’ll suck down a GU on runs lasting more than an hour, but I usually carry four with me on the trails—you know, in case I get lost and need a “meal.” (GU Peanut Butter is still my fave flave.)

Toilet paper in a baggieToilet Paper Mother Nature doesn’t always provide this for you. I bring mine in a baggie, and I pack it back out with me to a garbage can if I end up using it.

The North Face Women's Verto JacketLight Jacket Shady woods and Bay Area winds can make temps drop fast, so I keep The North Face Women’s Verto Jacket handy—it scrunches up (hence, all the wrinkles) into its own pocket! It also happens to be water resistant in case of pop up showers. (Seriously, this fear is unfounded. Weather.com shows a 0% chance of precipitation around here most days.)

I also carry along my cell phone, sunglasses, and car keys—those are necessary for actually getting me to the trailhead and then home again.

Am I missing anything important? What do you pack for outdoor runs?

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?

Trick or Treat: Halloween Candy For Sidelined Runners

Halloween haul
Halloween haul
My dream Halloween haul: organic peanut butter and dark chocolate. The neighbors probably won’t be handing these out tomorrow night. Boo!

I’ve never been too worried about what I put in my mouth. As a runner I’ve got the luxury of burning off those not-so-healthy foods on my next long run. But now that I can’t get in my typical 30 to 35 miles per week, I’m starting to worry about all the little extras that somehow make their way into my diet. And I just don’t trust my willpower with all the Halloween candy hanging around. Here’s what I’m eating and skipping this week: 
 
Treat! Dark Chocolate Recent research from The Cochrane Library suggests dark chocolate and cocoa may lower blood pressure and could potentially decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. Yum! It’s still full of sugar though, so I’m sticking to an ounce and really savoring each bite. 
 
Trick. Peanut Butter Cups I love everything and anything that contains peanut butter. (Seriously, I think Elvis was on to something with those peanut butter and bacon sandwiches…) Sadly though, the typical peanut butter cup is loaded with fat, sugar, and artificial ingredients. For a similar taste, I’ll sprinkle a few dark chocolate chips on a teaspoonful of all-natural peanut butter. 
 
Treat! Tootsie Pops These suckers are only 60 calories, and, since they take a while to eat (unless you happen to be a dumb owl who bites after three licks), they’re more satisfying than one of those fun-size candy bars. The chocolate-y center offers no nutritional value, but in moderation I think this is still a good pick. 
 
Trick. Candy Corn Sugar, sugar, and more sugar make up the ingredients list on this popular seasonal treat. A fistful (about 20 pieces) contains 150 calories—not a terrible number for a snack, but the resulting blood sugar spike will only lead to you crashing and feeling tired in a couple hours. I won’t be making a stop at the candy dish with this offering.  
 
Treat! Raisins Kids hate finding “nature’s candy” in their stash (Can you blame them? This is a lunchbox staple, not a Halloween treat!). Still, this humble dried grape can subdue a sweet tooth in seconds. And when my legs are able to log distance again, I’ll be popping them instead of run candy—a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that raisins are as effective as sports beans for fueling workouts. Raisins are a natural source of carbohydrates, and they cost less, too! 

Which Halloween treats are your favorites?  Who’s getting dressed up?

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?

Beyond Base Camp: My Mt. Everest And Annapurna Circuit Adventure

Trying to sum up 34 days of trekking in the Himalaya is pretty tough, which is why it’s taken me almost two weeks to write this post. The actual hiking wasn’t too difficult—if you can run, you can walk up (and down!) a few thousand meters. It was dealing with everything else along the journey—cold sleeping accommodations, cold showers, cold travel companions—that often proved challenging. Still, I managed to smile more often than not and I will always remember this trip as one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. Here are a few note-worthy memories:

Bonding at 17,598 feet

Picnicking at Everest Base Camp You wouldn’t believe how great a peanut butter sandwich tastes when eaten after tip toeing through a rockslide zone and crossing a glacier. Dining with my FFEs (Friends For Everest’s) made the moment even more filling.

Om mani padme hum

 

Meeting a Buddhist monk Lama Tashi is 96 years old and lives at an altitude of about 4000 meters (13,120 feet) in a monastery carved into the side of a mountain. (Ahem, hill. In Nepal, it’s not a mountain if it’s less than 6000 meters.) He charged me Rs 100 to pray for my trek, and then I gave him another Rs 500 to bless the rest of my life. Best $7.68 I’ve ever spent!

I’ve got my hands full

Counting to five Experts say chatting with locals is the fastest way to pick up a foreign language. So when a couple of little girls decided they needed my help to walk home from school, I took advantage of the opportunity and got them to teach me a few words. I will always think of their smiles when I recite: Ek, Dui, Tin, Cahr, Panc.

Flushed with fever

Catching pneumonia Getting sick overseas might seem like a bad thing, but it really wasn’t that terrible. I learned that even when I have a fever, can’t stop coughing, and might have fractured a rib (the pain was insane!), I could still hike to the next guesthouse… and the next one… and the one three days later. I feel nearly invincible! (Nearly. My body was so wrecked that I slept for four days straight when I finally got home.)

Biking to Bhaktapur File this under: “What was I thinking?” Even though I had been diagnosed with a lung infection and was on medication that warned against operating heavy machinery, I still felt the need to spend my last day in Nepal doing something exciting. After pedaling through rush hour traffic (terrifying!), avoiding potholes the size of elephants on back roads (impossible!), and huffing and puffing my way up some killer hills (spin class doesn’t prepare you for this!), I made it to the medieval town of Bhaktapur. There, I took in views of ancient temples and enjoyed a calm cup of tea. The thought of traveling the treacherous 22 kilometers back to Kathmandu was almost too much, but I channeled my inner NYC bike messenger and completed the round trip.

Now that I’m home, I’m looking forward to lacing up my running shoes and getting back to my normal routine. Stay tuned for more adventures!

Crunchy Or Smooth: Peanut Butter Is The Bomb!

After my long run yesterday (16 tough miles, I think my body is still recovering from being sick), I made myself a bagel. Planning to top it with peanut butter, I pulled a jar of Peanut Butter & Co. Smooth Operator Natural Peanut Butter out of the fridge (I keep it there to prevent the oil from rising to the top of the jar—it’s a little harder to spread, but cuts back on all that stirring). While waiting for the toaster to do its thing, I ended up sitting on a stool in the kitchen spooning the contents of the last half of the jar into my mouth. (I was forced to smear cherry preserves on that bagel instead.)

While I would never suggest downing more than a cup of peanut butter in one sitting (a proper serving size is two tablespoons), I’m not too worried about all the fat and calories in the sticky stuff because it’s the good kind. Here’s what I mean by that: 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!

And PB goes well with so much more than just J. I like to stir it into oatmeal, swipe it on apples and bananas, and whip it up into smoothies. Don’t even get me started on the magic combo of peanut butter and chocolate. One of my favorite treats: A spoonful of peanut butter sprinkled with chocolate chips. Yum!

Countdown To The Boston Marathon: 14 Days!

What do you like to eat after a tough workout? Are you a peanut butter fan, too? 

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.