Monday, June 30, 2014

What's in Your Smoothie?

It's Summer in many places, except San Francisco of course. It's June-gloom here, all day, every day. For those of you who are experiencing a true Summer, with this change in weather often comes a change in cravings, a change in our preference for certain foods, and a desire to eat more cooling foods rather than warming foods. Or perhaps, smaller meals throughout the day, rather than a few larger, heavier meals. There's no right or wrong here, rather, it's interesting to pay attention to how our bodies adapt to the seasons. This change is real, folks!

It's no secret that I approach nutrition wholistically. This is purposely misspelled to really emphasize the notion of whole body, mind, and spirit being integrated into my nutritional practices. When I mention cooling vs. warming foods, this is coming from my studying of Chinese medicine principles, which were integrated into my Nutrition Consultant Certification training and which I find completely fascinating. 

The idea is that foods are neutral, cooling, or warming, and can be used to balance the body out. And, in the hotter seasons, like Summer, eating more cooling foods can help balance out the hot (literally) body. 

I'm a big fan of smoothies, whether for a snack or a meal. They're fast and easy to make, can pack a ton of nutrients and fiber in, and tasty. When it comes to smoothies though, it's very easy to go overboard with too much fruit. Enter sugar overload. You may be asking yourself, but, it's fruit? It's natural sugar. In the words of my very wise nutrition mentor: Sugar is sugar. 

So, lets talk smoothie tips. Get your blenders out!

1. Pick your fruit strategically
I'll stick to one or two fruits, maximum, in my smoothies. I will often resort to smoothies for a hearty afternoon snack or on-the-go meal. My absolute favorite fruits to incorporate into smoothies are mixed berries. I'll often buy the frozen, organic mixed berries from Trader Joes. Berries are a great smoothie ingredient because they are low-glycemic, and won't spike your blood sugar as much as some other fruits. 

A lot of people love bananas in their smoothies, as they can help give a creamy texture. Bananas are higher in carbohydrates and full of potassium, which can be especially helpful in repairing muscles post-workout. Some people are sensitive to bananas in that they find them constipating (we will talk about poop here on the blog because, well, everybody poops...hopefully). So, as always, pay attention to how your body feels when consuming various foods.

Finally, now is the best time to buy fresh Summer fruit at Farmers Markets! So, if you can, buy it and stock up. Even if you can't eat it all, don't be afraid to freeze leftover fruit. I did that with mango-nectarines two weeks ago and they were delicious in a smoothie. The freezer is your friend.

2. Add in a healthy fat
Balance out your smoothie by adding in some healthy fat. Fruit and liquid does not a smoothie make! That, my friends, is what I like to call a sugar-bomb. Adding in healthy fats can help your body to better digest the natural sugars from the carbohydrates, and even out your blood sugar. 

Fats are my favorite, and these are my go-to smoothie fats to add in:
  • Sunflower seed butter: Trader Joes makes a great, affordable one - it's my favorite fat to put in smoothies, hands down
  • Almond butter: crunchy, creamy, both will work
  • Flax seeds: provide a nutty flavor, some crunch, and some anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats
  • Chia seeds: only add in if you're going to drink your smoothie immediately, otherwise, your smoothie will turn into slime as the chia seeds congeal
  • Avocado: avocados are even higher in potassium than bananas! Not to mention, they give your smoothie a creamy texture.
3. Sneak some greens in
As I like to say, get yo greens! First and foremost, I want my smoothie to taste good. However, I love adding frozen spinach into my smoothies for some extra greens, fiber, and nutrients, and the spinach is masked by the many other more potent flavors in the smoothie. Kale however...I am not a fan of kale in smoothies (but some people are!). I am a fan of kale fried in bacon fat, though.

4. Add in a source of protein, as needed
Incorporating a serving or so of a nutritional or protein powder into a smoothie can help further give it staying power. After a hard workout, it's great to give yourself that added protein to help repair your muscles. I recommend Vega brand proteins to many of my clients because they taste good, are plant-based, organic, and easily digestible; in fact, I love Vega so much that I started working with them part-time doing demos and samplings at Whole Foods! My favorite flavors are the Vega One French Vanilla or Vega One Chocolate. They've got amazing nutritional stats!

If protein powders aren't your thing, you could also try some yogurt; if sensitive to cow's dairy, there are tons of goats and sheep's milk yogurts out there. Just make sure to pay attention to the grams of sugar on the yogurt label. Ideally, there would be zero!

5. Switch it up! Think outside of the blender.
As with all meals in our diet, it is important to alternate various ingredients and foods so that our body doesn't become allergic over time. When it comes to your smoothies, don't drink the same one every day; switch it up! For liquids, I like to alternate between unsweetened almond milk, unsweetened coconut milk, or coconut water. 

Here is a smoothie recipe I am totally digging right now:

1 cup frozen berries
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 heaping spoonful sunflower seed butter
1/2 scoop Vega One Chocolate 
A spoonful of cocoa nibs, optional (but give a cocoa flavor with a crunch)

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy immediately!

What's your favorite smoothie combination?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I'm back + What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW)

I'm back. 

I'm excited to share my revamped blog. I am still figuring out what my blogging schedule will be, but I'm thinking a few times a week, concentrating on recipes, healthy living, and of course, nutrition! I hope everyone enjoys the new look and new tagline. In case you're wondering where that originated from, well, I do love [sustainably raised] pork chops. And pork belly. And bacon. #passionateaboutpork 

So, I took a little more than a year off from blogging, to focus on some big life goals. Mainly, to complete my Certified Nutrition Consultant program at Bauman College in Berkeley. I finished in March and couldn't be more excited to be working in the field of nutrition and seeing clients. There are some more exciting life changes happening, so stay tuned in the next month or so as I'll be sharing news on the blog. 

I can't think of a better way to get back into the swing of things than to talk food. So, shall we? I spent the weekend indulging in Chicago for a super-fun wedding. After a large-grocery shopping trip on Monday night, I was ready to get back into the swing of things in terms of healthy eating. So, w
elcome to this girl's edition of What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW). Which is really, what I ate on Tuesday that I'm showing you on Wednesday. 

Somewhat early, I woke up and laced up my running shoes. I ran to my favorite workout place in the city, the Lyon Street Steps, ran up and down the steps and then ran home. It took about an hour and my quads were dying. Side note: I am officially out of running shape. #toomuchyoga

Around 8am, I made a cup of hot green tea and ate a few dried plums. For some reason, I've been digging dried plums lately; I rarely keep dried fruit in the house because it tends to be moldy and fairly high in sugar, but lately I've been enjoying a few pieces. My love for dried plums (aka prunes) is predictable given that I am known to many of my dearest friends as a grandma. But that's another story. I'm trying to drink more green tea right now instead of coffee. This is because sometimes, too much coffee can negatively impact my anxiety levels, among other things. So, I'm just paying attention to how I am feeling, and making small changes, like more green tea and less coffee. 

I worked from home this morning, and around 9am, I ate two of these baked egg muffins I made last night. I've never made these before, but was really happy with how they turned out. I'll be sure to post the recipe soon; these guys had red bell pepper, onions, eggs, and chicken sausage, along with some spices. 

As I got ready to leave for my client meetings, I made a quick smoothie to take with me: frozen organic spinach, frozen organic mixed berries, Vega One Chocolate, almond butter, and almond milk; I drank this smoothie around 11am. I actually try to not drink a smoothie first-thing in the morning. It's cold and sometimes I feel as though it is shocking my body. I like to start my day out with warming foods, and tend to feel much better with a late-morning or mid-afternoon smoothie, once my digestive system has warmed up for the day.

I am never hungry immediately after a run, however, I'm trying to pay more attention to my post-run recovery eating. As you can see from the above, I ate in stages throughout this morning. In an ideal world, I would have eaten a mix of protein, fat, and some carbs around 45 minutes to an hour after my run to replenish my glucose levels. But hey - like I said, I'm working on it.

In between meetings, I sipped lots of hot green tea and around 2pm, ate a kale salad with persian cucumbers, this amazing peanut dressing, and leftover chicken thighs from my dinner last night. It was delicious! But, what's missing from this meal? It could have used some more carbohydrates. But unfortunately, I was unable to get my child-sized hands on additional food; I definitely wasn't completely satisfied after this meal, and was starving by the time dinner rolled around.

After work, I met my friend for a fun dinner in Oakland at a restaurant called Hawker Fare. It was asian-fusion and delicious. Any restaurant with ribs, pork belly, or pumpkin-coconut curry has my heart. Immediately. We shared food, which is the best way to eat; nourishing our bellies together!

A mojito-like cocktail (I drank half; it was too sweet)

Blistered green beans with bacon jelly - these were to.die.for.

Tofu & pumpkin in coconut curry with basil & bamboo

Beef ribs with peanut sauce & cucumber salad 

And finally, once I got home, I curled up on my couch, wrote this post, and enjoyed 3 squares of dark chocolate. Truth: I really wanted a big ole chocolate chip cookie. 

And, those are my eats for the day. Sure, there could have been more vegetables. There will always be room to improve when it comes to our nutrition. The important thing is paying attention to hunger cues, and not ignoring them. Doing so can damage our metabolism. And that's a whole other post. We have to nourish our own bodies; no one else will.  

So, on this lovely day, tell me what are you eating?