Smoothies For Breakfast

Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to get myself on track to tackle the next phase of adulthood. I turned 31 earlier this year and have definitely started feeling it when I don’t eat well or drink a bit too much. So, while I’m watching those things, I’m also trying to give myself the proper fuel to watch two kids. If you don’t follow my dad blog over at PopPoppa, we had our second child about seven weeks early two months ago. With my wife’s maternity leave coming to an end in the relatively near future, I know I need to not only be really organized, but also equip myself with food that will help fuel me throughout the day. I do my best to cook healthy, homemade meals most nights that make for great lunch leftovers, but I tend to skip or overlook breakfast.

In an attempt to remedy that and also get a lot of fruits and vegetables in early in the day, I’ve started making smoothies in the morning. The process is super simple, but does take a bit of grocery store planning. I’ve added frozen strawberries, store brand vanilla Greek yogurt and kale to my weekly grocery list and also increased the number of apples, carrots and bananas I usually get, but I wouldn’t say that’s much of a hardship.

So, here’s my basic recipe:

1 banana
1/2 cup frozen strawberries*
1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
1-2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup kale leaves
1/2 cup milk
1 apple, chopped
1 tablespoon peanut butter

* = you can definitely use fresh, but if you’re like me and your kid adores strawberries, you give them the fresh ones and use what you can get

Basically, you just throw all this stuff into your blender or food processor. I’ve never used a juicer, so I’m not sure what the deal is there. For instance, I don’t know if you’d put the dairy products in there or mix later. Anyway, with our blender, since we’re dealing with a pretty full bowl, it takes a walk down the settings to get everything properly decimated. Even so, I still wind up with leafy bits and the occasional chunk of carrot or apple. That doesn’t bother me at all, but my wife can barely look at the finished product.

The beauty of the smoothie is that you can put pretty much anything in there and come out with an easy to consume breakfast. When I first started making smoothies years ago, I would put whey protein in there. I’ve swapped out the peanut butter for actual nuts like peanuts, walnuts and almonds, but you could also put in all kinds of nut butters. Same with the berries. This is also a good way to get rid of mushy bananas if you don’t feel like making bread of muffins. Last week I used up some leftover fruit salad instead of going with the berries which gave the smoothie a much different taste. Kale can be swapped out for spinach, endive or whatever other non-lettuce greens you might have. I’ve even tossed in extra mint and basil. Lastly, sometimes I’ll throw in a few tablespoons of orange juice or freshly squeezed lemon or lime to give it some nice tang.

I find cooking very relaxing and am quite fond of prep stuff like measuring and chopping, so an added bonus of making this smoothie in the morning — something I do after getting up with the kids, drinking my coffee and getting my morning work done — is that it gives me a bit of that zen kitchen experience early in the day which can be as good for me mentally as the nutrients in the drink are physically.

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Calorie Counting With The Lose It! App

lose_itLike just about anyone who sits around for most of their day and also happens to enjoy food, I could use to lose a few pounds. About a month or so back, my wife found a pretty handy little app to help with just that called Lose It! After downloading the app from the iTunes store (it’s free), you do some basic input like what you currently weight, what your weight loss goals are (how many pounds you want to lose a week) and then it gives you a calorie allotment for the day. Every time you eat something, you input the food into the app and it tallies up how many calories you’ve put in your face throughout the day.

There’s a few handy aspects of this app that I really like. For one thing, you can scan a food’s barcode instead of having to look everything up in the search engine. I’ve only found a few items not in the database. You can also add recipes to your personal settings by inputting all the ingredients and figuring out how many servings it makes. After inputting everything, I then share the information with my wife who’s also using the app. If you’re the exercise type (I’m not), you can also input that information which gives you more calories to play with that day.

This isn’t my first experience with this kind of thing, though. In college I started using the Weight Watchers program which worked out really well. It’s basically the same principal of figuring out where you want to be at and then adjusting your caloric intake so that that can happen. Both programs involve you sticking to the program, though, which can be the fatale flaw in the design for some.

I’m lucky in that, if I can stay focused and cook most of my own meals, I can stick to something like this pretty well. After having a really good first week and a half using the app and losing a good amount of weight, though, we went to visit my wife’s parents, ate out several times and since I didn’t choose the healthiest options, I put some of the weight back on which was a bummer. But instead of getting too discouraged, I’m refocused and figuring out menus with an eye towards healthier choices.

For the most part, I’m a big fan of the Lost It! app, though I do think some of the menu stuff could be improved. I’m not a fan of having to remember a four tap sequence to add a recipe or the fact that I have to hit about four buttons to get back to the main menu, but it’s definitely the kind of thing you eventually get used to, even if its a little inefficient. Plus, there’s definitely something psychologically pleasing about looking at a piece of technology on your phone or online and seeing the progress you’ve made. It almost seems better or more official when a graph shows you you’ve been losing weight. You want to keep seeing those weight inputs on the graph slope down instead of up, so it becomes a little easier to maybe skip a beer or frozen treat in favor.

One thing I will add about this program is that, like any weight loss method that focuses only on calories, it’s not necessarily the best way to go. Just because a food has fewer calories doesn’t mean it’s better for you in the long run because of the crazy chemicals you’re ingesting in the process. It’s also important to remember to get a good mix of fruits and vegetables, carbs and protein in. Technically, I could eat nothing and just drink beer all day and still be within my caloric limit, but that’s not a healthy way to go.

So, while Lose It! is definitely a good tool to have in your weight loss utility belt, it’s also important to have a good sense of what you’re eating, where it came from, what’s in it and how healthy it really is.