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Banana Nut Cranberry Granola Protein Bars

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I could go on for days about my favorite clean protein and granola bars.

It’s so much easier than it used to be to find a bar made with real ingredients that will actually satisfy your hunger longer than the time it takes to eat it. I always seem to have one in my purse, in the dashboard of my car, and especially in my book bag (shout out to my 7:10-10:30PM class on Monday nights heyyyyy!).

I can’t go super long periods of time without eating, and by super long I mean about two hours tops. Fruit and nuts are great go-to fillers, but what about when I need something a little more satisfying? The thing is, there are products out there, but in all honestly, that stuff gets expensive! In true StrawberryMint fashion, I decided to make a granola protein bar that tastes good, travels well, and fills me up with only wholesome, real ingredients.

What I like about these bars is that they’re super versatile. You can pretty much add whatever you have in your pantry or whatever you’re craving most. I recommend mini dark chocolate chips and dried cherries for a healthy treat on the sweet side. If you want extra protein and crunch, add a variety of nuts – toast them for a few minutes in a dry sauté pan over medium heat to pump up the flavor volume. Coconut flakes, dried blueberries, or even pepitas (pumpkin seeds) would be delish, too.

This particular recipe started with a bunch of super hearty oats. I you only have quick oats on hand, that’s perfectly fine. I like using multigrain oats with rye, barley, and wheat for some additional substance and texture. Ground flax seed adds fiber and omega-3 essential fatty acids that you won’t always find in even the cleanest store-bought granola bars. I add a scoop of my favorite protein powder, which helps to tame my hunger and fight off snacking temptations throughout the day. The struggle is real, y’all. 

Ripe bananas and maple syrup add a layer of sweetness without making the bar taste like dessert. Hints of cinnamon and nutmeg with dried cranberries and slivered almonds bring everything together to form a delicious, nutritious, and flavorful granola bar packed with hunger-satisfying protein. The texture is similar to that of a Clif Bar – soft, but firm, and pleasantly chewy. Perfect for on-the-go snacking and makes a great companion to a hot mug of coffee or tea.


Here’s what you’ll need:

3 cups of oats (I use Trader Joe’s Organic Multigrain Oats with rye, barely, oats, and wheat)

1/4 cup of flax seed, ground into flour consistency

1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (optional; I use SunWarrior Raw Vegan Protein)

2 medium bananas, mashed

1/4 cup of good quality maple syrup (grade A is preferable) 

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/3 cup of raw slivered almonds

1/3 cup of dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine oats, ground flax seed, and protein powder.

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In a smaller bowl, mash bananas and stir in maple syrup, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

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Transfer wet mixture to oat mixture and stir thoroughly until everything is moist. Then fold in nuts and cranberries.

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In a well greased or lined 8×8 pan, use your hands to firmly press in the mixture, paying close attention to the edges.

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Bake for 30-35 minutes until firm. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and slice into bars to cool completely.

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Store the bars in an airtight container. They will also freeze nicely! :)

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This recipe will make about 10 good sized bars. Each bar has 170 calories, 3.3 grams of fat, 5.1 grams of fiber, 8.1 grams of sugar, and 6.1 grams of protein.

Enjoy!

- Kelsey

 
13 Comments

Posted by on January 19, 2015 in Morning Glories

 

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Pompe Disease & Prayers for Paul

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So this is far from a recipe post…

As I said at the beginning of this year, my goal is to be more authentic with my readers. I have so much love for the blogging community. So many of you feel like old friends that I’ve never even had the chance of meeting. Not many times in life can we connect with people who share the same interests and passions as ourselves in such a convenient and meaningful way. I am thankful. 

In my attempt to be more authentic, I want to share with you something that has been on my heart. Yesterday, Paul McIntosh, a great guy I went to high school with and a strong athlete/baseball state championship teammate of my husband, publicly shared his diagnosis with Pompe disease. This disease is a very rare form of muscular dystrophy that is always progressive and often debilitating. There is no cure. 

The only treatment option for this disease is a very expensive therapy, and without it, most people with the disease progress to the point of requiring a wheelchair and mechanical ventilation. Paul gives a more thorough explanation of this disease and his story here.

I’m sharing this with you today because Paul is planning to do something pretty amazing, and he needs our help. 

Paul will be running in the Tobacco Road Marathon on March 15th of this year. He is dedicating the 26.2 miles he will be running to advocate and raise funds for those living with this extremely rare disease. All the money Paul raises will go towards the UPF fund to help members of the Pompe community with their Pompe-related needs and expenses.

With such a rare disease, funding is not readily available for those who need it most and awareness is typically not widespread. Paul is passionate about using his diagnosis to advocate and serve others like him. He is studying medicine and will be an incredible doctor one day.

Here are a few things you can do to help:

1Pray for Paul and his journey

For physical and mental strength as he prepares and trains for his marathon; for perseverance when difficult times arise; for avenues of advocacy and support to arise for Paul as he desires to care for those with neuromuscular diseases such as Pompe; for medical advances so that one day soon, Pompe disease will be better understood and ultimately curable.

2. Donate to Paul’s fundraiser here

Paul has partnered with a non-profit organization, the United Pompe Foundation, to raise money for his cause. His goal is $12,000, and I believe we can exceed this. In Paul’s words: “I ask you to donate to this cause. I will be running 26.2 miles during the marathon, and I encourage you to donate whatever you feel led to give, even if it’s just 50¢ or $2 per mile. Please know that your donation will immeasurably benefit and support others who suffer from this degenerative disease. All donations are greatly appreciated (and tax deductible)! And remember, “Together We Are Strong.”

Thanks for reading this post. Hopefully now you know a little more about a disease that not many people have ever heard of. I know I do. Hopefully something stirred in your heart to move to action – whether that be through prayer or financial support.

With lots of love and appreciation,

Kelsey

 
5 Comments

Posted by on January 17, 2015 in Sweet Treats

 

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Healthy Chocolate Fudge Brownies

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My chocolate consumption is semi-problematic.

I’m a snacker. My husband is a three solid meals a day kind of guy, I, on the other hand, am a 37 snacks and eating whenever possible kind of girl. I eat throughout the day, and while most of my snacks are healthy and nutritious, I can’t say I’ve ever gone a full day without a little chocolate.

Thankfully, dark chocolate actually has some pretty positive health benefits. Do I only eat dark chocolate you ask? That’s a negative.

I believe a lot of people struggle with healthy eating and weight loss/maintaining weight loss because of DEPRIVATION. When you tell your body no, it often will keep bugging you until it’s almost impossible to not give in. I want chocolate a lot, but my body doesn’t need a lot of it. Dilemma? No way.

Here’s my tip – if you want something that isn’t super healthy, first try to find a way to change it up a bit. Craving pizza? Make it on the stovetop with a tortilla to cut out extra carbs and calories. Dying to indulge in a donut? Bake, don’t fry. Add fruit for extra vitamins and health benefits. What about french fries? My weakness! Try crunchifying veggies instead of frying white potatoes for a smarter alternative.

This brownie recipe will easily cure any chocolate craving without all the bad stuff. It’s bound with coconut flour, which creates a super dense and fudgey texture. Extra dark cocoa powder adds lovely antioxidants while the agave nectar gives just enough sweetness without making the brownies taste too sugary.


Here’s what you’ll need:

1/2 cup of coconut flour

1/2 cup of organic dark (or extra dark) cocoa powder

1/2 cup of coconut oil, melted

2 tablespoons of ghee, melted

3 eggs

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of agave nectar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon of salt

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Whisk together coconut flour and cocoa powder until evenly combined.

With an electric mixer, mix coconut oil, ghee, eggs, agave, vanilla, and salt. Be careful not to mix eggs with melted oil/ghee when it’s hot. Allow the oil/ghee to slightly cool before mixing with eggs to avoid scrambling the eggs.

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Transfer the brownie batter to a greased 8×8 glass baking dish.

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Bake the brownies for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow the brownies to cool before slicing.

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Then eat and enjoy knowing you just totally dissed that nasty box of pre-made brownie mix. You just stepped on the notion that brownies and fudgey chocolate should be avoided at all costs. You just demolished the idea that dessert is a no-no.

Eat. And Enjoy.

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- Kelsey

 
9 Comments

Posted by on January 14, 2015 in Sweet Treats

 

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Vanilla Orange Chia Pudding

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Here I am once again, jumping on the bandwagon. 

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you haven’t been able to avoid the rave about chia pudding. I was confused at first. Is this dessert pudding? Does it actually taste like pudding? What the heck am I supposed to do with it?

So I did some research.

Chia pudding is the consistency of tapioca pudding. It is often made with almond milk or coconut milk, which makes it a convenient vegan snack with tons of protein, fiber, and nutrients from the great and powerful chia seed.

It think the reason chai pudding is so popular, aside from it’s super duper nutritional content, is the simplicity of the recipe. All it takes is a “milk” base, chia seeds, and just about as much creativity as you’d like for flavoring. When you allow chia seeds to hang out overnight with liquid (almond milk in my case), they expand and soften, which is responsible for creating the thick pudding consistency.

I made my first chia pudding with fresh vanilla beans and fragrant orange zest. I love that combination for some reason. It’s kind of exotic, a little Tahitian tropical, I think. A flavor combo you seem to find most often at fancy restaurants with gourmet custards or French pastry creams.

I’ve been topping my vanilla citrus pudding with bananas, toasted nuts, granola, fresh berries, dried apricots…just about anything has been good to me! I was shocked the first time I had this pudding and felt so energized and re-fueled. Ancient Aztecs used to use chia seeds to fuel performance. That’s one reason I love this pudding right before (or even after) a good workout. It fills you up and gives you so much energy to conquer even your toughest sweat sesh or busy day at work.


Here’s what you’ll need:

2 cups of plain, unsweetened almond milk

2/3 cup of chia seeds

Two vanilla bean pods, scraped and insides removed

About 1 teaspoon of orange zest

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

1-2 teaspoons of agave nectar or honey (optional depending on desired sweetness)

In a large mason jar or resealable container, combine all of the ingredients.

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Fresh vanilla is so important for this recipe. The fragrance and flavor that comes from all the tiny little black beans does wonders for this pudding.

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Seal the container tightly and shake vigorously for about 10-20 seconds until everything is combined and evenly dispersed throughout the almond milk.

Store sealed in the refrigerator overnight.

Your finished product should be the consistency of tapioca pudding.

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Creamy and fresh with warm hints of vanilla and cinnamon complemented by pops of citrusy orange.

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Top with fresh or dried fruit, chopped nuts, coconut flakes, or even your favorite granola. I like mine drizzled with honey for a hint of sweetness.

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Enjoy!

 – Kelsey

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 12, 2015 in Morning Glories

 

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Vegan Banana Nut Scones

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By the end of the week, I always find myself making or baking something with the last one or two overripe bananas at the bottom of our fruit bowl.

If you know anything about me, it’s that I hate wasting food. I refuse to through food away, unless it’s truly inedible. Creativity is key when it comes to turning the last of something into a new and improved delicacy.

Sometimes my creativity fails me when it comes to bananas. I honestly feel like I’ve tried about everything you can do with brown bananas. Smoothies, ice cream, bread, muffins, pancakes; the list goes on. Here are a few of my personal favorite recipes:

Cranberry Muffins 1

Cranberry Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Baked Oatmeal 8

Banana and Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

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Two Ingredient Banana Pancakes

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Banana Ice Cream

I find baking to be especially hard when it comes to sticking with real, clean ingredients. It’s not easy recreating a gooey cookie, a soft loaf of bread, or a hearty morning muffin without all the bad stuff. Baking with bananas offers me some extra help because of all the natural sweetness that comes from bananas, especially when they’re extra ripe. Bananas are also great for vegan recipes. They act as perfect substitutes for ingredients such as eggs and dairy.

As I said earlier in this post, my banana baking has become a little excessive (and boring!). I’m getting pretty tired of baking the same old thing, though. So for some extra inspiration, I visited Cookie + Kate, a totally awesome blog that celebrates whole foods. If you have never checked it out, do that right now!

When I read her recipe for banana nut scones AND learned they were vegan, I was hooked. This girl speaks my language!

I gave these scones a shot and was so pleased. They were easy, super fun to make, and tasted like the most high calorie, fattening, sugary, guilt-ridden baked good I’ve ever put in my mouth. What a lovely surprise to know they really aren’t bad for you! Don’t you love when that happens?

So usually when I make a recipe that is inspired from another blogger’s recipe, I credit them, adapt it by changing at least 3-5 ingredients, and make it my own. Well, there’s no changing or adapting this recipe. It’s absolutely perfect just the way Kate made it, and I’d love for you to give it a try, too.


Here’s what you’ll need:

Recipe from cookieandkate.com

1 cup of raw pecans or walnuts (I used pecans)

2 cups of white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/3 cup of solid coconut oil 

3/4 cup of mashed ripe bananas (about 2 medium bananas)

1/4 cup of almond milk 

2 tablespoons of maple syrup (grade A)

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

 For the maple glaze:

1 cup of powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon of fine sea salt

1 tablespoon of coconut oil, melted

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/4 cup of maple syrup (grade A)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

In a dry skillet over medium high heat, toast the nuts for a few minutes until fragrant. Chop them into very small pieces and reserve 1/4 of the nuts for the topping.

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In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, 3/4 of the nuts, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.

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Cut in the coconut oil with a pastry cutter or two knives until the oil is dispersed throughout the flour mixture in pea-sized pieces.

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In a liquid measuring cup, measure 3/4 cup of mashed banana. Add milk until you have a total of 1 cup, then add the maple syrup and vanilla. Mix well with a whisk or fork.

Mix the banana mixture into the flour mixture, gently folding with a large spoon until all of the ingredients are evenly incorporated. You may need to use your (clean) hands to finish kneading the flour into the wet dough.

Transfer the dough onto a floured surface. Form it into a disk about an inch in thickness. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter dipped in flour to prevent sticking to cut the disk into 8 even slices.

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Place each slice on a lined baking sheet. I love my new silicone non-stick baking mats. I never have to use extra oil to grease my baking sheets, and all my baked goods come off the pan clean and easy. 

Bake the scones for 15-17 minutes, or until they are light golden brown in color.

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While the scones are baking, make the glaze by whisking together all of the ingredients until smooth and creamy.

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Once the scones are slightly cooled, drizzle the maple glaze generously over each scone and top with chopped toasted nuts.

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Store in an airtight container in the fridge. They will keep for a few days. They also freeze nicely!

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Enjoy!

- Kelsey

 
6 Comments

Posted by on January 8, 2015 in Breads

 

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Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Sauce & Turkey Meatballs

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Not all comfort foods have to be high-carb.

I guarantee if you ask just about anybody what their favorite comfort food meal is, many of them would say some type of pasta dish. A steaming plate of hearty noodles covered with some type of sauce (whether it be buttery, cheesy, tomatoey, pesto-y, etc.). It’s hard to say no to pasta. It’s hard to avoid the temptation, especially during the colder months.

Here’s the thing – pasta really isn’t that “bad” for you, it’s just that not “great” for you either. Remember when I made lobster ravioli? Pasta is pretty much just flour, egg, and water (don’t get me started on what chemicals are lurking in boxed pasta). It’s carb-heavy, but we can’t live without carbs, right? The issue with pasta, in my opinion, is that you’re not getting any nutrition in place of all the calories, sugars, and carbs you’re eating. Don’t get me wrong, you can definitely make healthy pasta if you want to get pretty creative, but why go through all the trouble (and the messy kitchen) when you can have something so similar in…wait for it…VEGGIE FORM!?

Squash instead of noodles. Sounds kind of lame, I know.

Before I started cooking with spaghetti squash, I always envisioned someone eating a big bowl of squash pretending to be spaghetti with one of those awful fake smiles on their face, discretely tucking some away in their napkin while painfully pushing around the food on their plate to make it look like they’re eaten more than they have. If this is something you can relate to, I challenge you to give this stuff a try. I think your mind will be blown.

The other night I was craving spaghetti and meatballs. It had been dark and rainy all day, and the temps never reached above 40 degrees, which also means I never made it to the gym, or outside of my house for that matter. A big heaping dish of homemade spaghetti with hand-rolled meatballs was all I wanted, but the calories (after sitting on the couch in my PJs all day long), not so much.

So I popped a spaghetti squash in my oven, mixed up some lean turkey breast with fragrant herbs and spinach to make my body extra happy, replaced the breadcrumbs for a little almond meal, and slow cooked the meatballs in a rich, simple tomato sauce.

This recipe really satisfied my home cooked comfort food craving, and is a winner in my book because one huge serving of this spaghetti and meatball dish is less than 300 calories, and has only 17 carbs and over 33 grams of protein.

Give it a shot. I think you’ll be surprised, too.


Here’s what you’ll need:

For the squash:

1 large spaghetti squash

about 1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of pepper

1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme 

For the meatballs:

1 pound of 99% fat free ground turkey breast

1 egg white

1/3 cup of almond meal

2 large garlic cloves, grated

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning 

1 cup of fresh spinach, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese

1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 small shallot, minced

For the sauce:

12 ounces of organic tomato sauce 

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Carefully cut the spaghetti squash lengthwise and discard the seeds.

Season with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme.

Bake face down on a foil-lined baking sheet for 30-40 minutes, or until the squash is very tender.

While the squash is cooking, make your meatballs in a large mixing bowl.

With clean hands, combine ground turkey, egg white, almond meal, grated garlic, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, spinach, and cheese.

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Form meatballs that are all equal in size (about the size of golf balls). I use a cookie scoop to portion out the meatballs before packing them with my hands. 

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Heat olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add minced shallot and sauté for about 1-2 minutes to flavor the oil. Add the meatballs to the hot pan. Don’t try to move the meatballs until about a minute or so. They won’t release from the pan until the side touching the hot pan is seared. 

After about 1-2 minutes, turn the meatballs over and sear the other side. Continue this process until almost all the meatballs are golden brown in color.

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Combine the tomato sauce, tomato paste, and Italian seasoning in a bowl until well combined. Add to the pan of meatballs and simmer for about 5-10 minutes, until warm and bubbly.

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Scoop out the spaghetti squash from the skin (or serve directly from the squash itself) and top with sauce and meatballs. Sprinkle with extra cheese if you so desire :)

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Depending on the size of your squash, each half should be about two generous servings.

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This is such a fun and delicious way to turn a not so figure friendly family favorite into a dish that has no limits on second or third helpings. All the flavor is there with extra nutrition that your body will love.

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Happy clean and healthy eating, folks. Stay warm out there!

- Kelsey

 
6 Comments

Posted by on January 7, 2015 in Plenty of Pasta

 

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Orange Ginger Smoothie

Orange Ginger Smoothie

Let’s talk chia.

The first time I purchased chia seeds was about a week ago. I’ve heard the rave about this super healthy ingredient, but I’ve never pushed myself to try it – probably because I still have about 20 ounces of flax seeds hanging out in my pantry. Any recipe suggestions?

As per usual, my curiosity got the best of me. I did a little research on this trendy “superfood”, and this is what I was pleased to find:

A one ounce (28 grams) serving of chia seeds contains

Fiber: 11 grams.

Protein: 4 grams.

Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).

Calcium: 18% of the RDA.

Manganese: 30% of the RDA.

Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.

Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.

They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.

Chia seeds are high in quality protein, much higher than most plant foods. Protein is the most weight loss friendly macronutrient and can drastically reduce appetite and cravings.

Almost all of the carbohydrates in chia seeds are fiber. This gives them the ability to absorb 10-12 times their weight in water. Fiber also has various beneficial effects on health.

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I’m down with with all that!

Now for the reason why I made this smoothie.

Since ginger is one of my favorite foods, I wanted to make it stand out in a smoothie. Ginger is great for digestion balance and inflammation. It’s my go-to for just about any ailment, honestly.

I love green smoothies, but sometimes it’s fun to add veggies and nutrients in fun ways other than spinach and kale.

The flavor of this smoothie is sweet from the carrots and oranges, and a little spicy from the ginger root. A perfect combo in my opinion!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 large orange (half for juice, and half for flesh)

1 large carrot (or about 8-10 baby carrots)

1/2 inch of fresh ginger, peeled

1 teaspoon of honey (optional)

1 tablespoon of chia seeds

1/3 cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt

4-5 ice cubes 

Juice half of the orange and add to the blender. Peel the other half adding the orange flesh to the blender, including the pith and pulp (so much fiber!!!).

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Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth and frothy.

Top with additional chia seeds and enjoy!

I love this smoothie for breakfast, or even after a good gym sesh. It keeps you full and gives you the perfect boost of energy to conquer your day.

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I also love that it’s around 200 calories, less than 3 grams of fat, 9 grams of fiber, and 11 grams of protein. It’s also packed with over 100% of Vitamins A and C.

Happy smoothie making!

- Kelsey

 
3 Comments

Posted by on January 4, 2015 in Drinks

 

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