NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Five Tips for Staying Fit in College

ThinkstockPhotos-stk162012rke.jpgWith busy class schedules, homework, exams to study for and papers to write, not to mention wanting to have something of a social life, trying to stay fit in college can really be a challenge. On top of this, many students hold some form of a job where they work between 10 and 25 hours on any given week. Whether you are an undergrad or graduate student, the same thing applies. When all this stuff is on your plate and the schedule continues to fill up, one of the first things that tends to get pushed to the side is getting to the gym!

Here are five tips that will help you stay fit during your education.

1. Schedule Your Workout

Just like you schedule a time to write a paper or study for an upcoming exam, do the same for a time to work out. If you use an agenda or a mobile calendar, set aside at least 30 minutes to be active during your day. Many studies show that those who exercise on a regular basis actually get better grades and have more concrete, focused study habits.

2. Bike or Walk to Class

Whether your campus is small or large, simply biking or walking to class can help to keep you fit. Plan your day to leave enough time so that you can make the bike ride or walk to class and still get there on time. If you do happen to commute far enough that you must drive to campus, try to leave your car parked further away so you can bike or walk the rest of the way to class. Additionally, you can take some time to walk or ride after lunch, before the next class begins or at the end of your busy school day.

3. Watch Your Diet

Healthy eating on campus can be one of the biggest challenges for students. Due to the demanding schedule and often being on a “time crunch,” it’s easy to simply just grab and go, with thoughts of nutrition going out the window. But by simply watching your diet and walking, you can keep yourself more fit without much effort. Try to pack your lunch choosing healthy foods to eliminate the fast food stops and be certain to carry around a water bottle to drink as much water as you can throughout the day for proper hydration.

4. Find a Workout Buddy to Help Get You to the Gym

There are many benefits to working out with others. Having a workout buddy or small group that plans to meet at the gym on certain days will help you to stay on track. If you have the accountability as well as someone banking on you being at the gym, you are far more likely to actually get there and get the work done. Find someone with similar workout goals and interests and start planning to go together.

5. Use the Gym as a Study Break

Everyone needs to take a break from studying. Set a schedule where you use one of those breaks to get over to the gym for a workout. It will allow you to focus better, clear your mind, and be ready to get back to it once you are done. Study for a few hours, take an hour to get your workout in, and then get back to it!

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Regardless of your level of education or area of study, adding in a workout will benefit you in more ways than just staying fit. If you are having some trouble trying to fit in exercise with the busy demands of school, try to implement these five tips!

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness nutrition walking accountability hydration college staying fit

Focus on Fluids: Summer Hydration Made Easy

ThinkstockPhotos-586741530.jpgFluid (mainly water) is needed by all body cells for function. Water helps to regulate body temperature, carry important nutrients and oxygen to cells, remove waste, lubricate all joints, and protect organs and tissues. Our bodies are composed of approximately 67 percent water. As summer approaches and the temperatures increase outside, it is important to make sure you are taking in enough water.

How Much Fluid Do You Need?

So how much do you really need to be drinking each day?

  • Drink at least 8–12 cups of fluid each day (1 cup = 8 ounces).
  • Drink 2–3 cups (16–24 oz) of fluid about 2–3 hours before exercising.
  • Drink 1 cup (8 oz) of fluid 10–20 minutes before a workout.
  • Drink 1 cup (8 oz) of fluid every 10–20 minutes during exercise.
  • Drink 2–3 cups (16–24 oz) for every pound of body weight lost during exercise.

Infuse Your Water with Flavor

I often hear that water is boring or that many don’t like it, so that is the reason individuals are reaching for soda, juice drinks, or other high-calorie beverages. However, the best option for hydration and decreasing unnecessary sugar intake is still to consume water.

  • Here are a few combinations that you can add to a cup of water or sparkling water for a fun, flavor-filled drink that is not so boring!
  • Watermelon and jalapeño
  • Lime and basil
  • Apples and cinnamon sticks
  • Strawberries and basil
  • Raspberries and pineapple
  • Blueberries, lemon, and mint
  • Peach and mint
  • Cucumber, melon, and mint

Monitor Your Hydration

On a final note, a simple way to monitor your hydration status on a daily basis is to monitor the color and frequency of urination. Continue drinking fluids until you are urinating approximately every 2–3 hours. When your urine is a pale color, you can be confident that you are adequately hydrated. If you are urinating more frequently and/or your urine is clear, you are drinking too much. If you are urinating less frequently and/or your urine is dark in color, you are probably dehydrated and really need to increase your intake of water.

So drink up!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: summer hydration water

How to Hydrate During Half Marathon Training

ThinkstockPhotos-650727070.jpgHydration is just as important, or maybe even more important, than proper nutrition and a balanced training plan. Dehydration is the largest contributor to fatigue when training or running. Our body sweats to regulate body temperature and complete many other functions that keep us healthy. When our body loses fluid and electrolytes through these processes, it needs to be replaced.

In order to be hydrated enough to enjoy your race, it’s important to think about consuming fuids before, during, and after the run.

Before: The days leading up to the race or a long run, it is important to really focus on constantly drinking water throughout the day so that on the day of the long run or race you are just topping off your tank. A general recommendation is to drink half of your body weight in oz. Example – a 150lb person would consume 75 oz of water.   It’s recommended to stop drinking about 30 minutes before a long run or race so you have time to use the facilities.

During: Drinking while running a half marathon may sound like a challenge, but actually taking a second to drink the water provided along the race course will make you feel SO much better at the finish line. Try to drink 16-20 oz an hour. This will vary depending on how much you sweat, how hot it is and the intensity of your exercise.

After: Proper hydration helps with recovery, so it’s essential to replenish when you complete your race. It’s typically recommended to drink about 24 oz for every pound of body weight lost during the race.

Now, you may be wondering about sports drinks. Sports drinks are higher in calories and sugar than water and they also contain electrolytes like potassium and sodium that your body lost through sweat. The purpose of sports drinks is to help replenish your body of the nutrients it lost. If you are running for more than an hour, sports drinks may be a better option to help you recover.Now that you understand WHEN to hydrate, let’s talk about HOW to hydrate:

How to Hydrate for a half marathon

Water Bottle:

I carry this water bottle with me throughout the day. I love that it has the measurements on the side, so I can monitor how much water I consume. Because I carry it with me, I am more inclined to drink throughout the day rather than all at once when I think about it.

Hydrating Fruits and Vegetables:

Foods such as lettuce, grapefruit, watermelon and broccoli have a high water content. Consuming foods like this throughout the day will help your hydration levels stay balanced.

Homemade Sports Drink:

This homemade sports drink is the perfect balance of carbohydrates and electrolytes to help you refuel AND it’s made with real ingredients. The citrus are thirst quenching and provide simple carbohydrates that are easily digested. Pure maple syrup is lower on the glycemic index, which means that these carbohydrates are digested at a slower rate for longer lasting energy. Water and the coconut water are both fluid, and the coconut water is also a source of electrolytes to help your body maintain balance.

It’s very simple to make at home, and I’ll include the link in the comments below!

The takeaway here is to make sure to drink water throughout the day, and when you are completing your longer runs or the actual race make sure to consume water or a sports drink every hour and immediately following the race to help maintain energy levels and aid in the recovery process.

Comment below with your favorite ways to hydrate and I’ll see you next time with more half marathon training tips!

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This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, nutirition specialist. Follow Tara on her blog, Treble in the Kitchen. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition running mini marathon hydration Mini-Marathon Training Program

10 Winter Fitness and Wellness Tips

ThinkstockPhotos-619079130-1.jpgAs much as no one wants to admit it, the winter months are in front of us. Even though I grew up in a northern snow belt along the Great Lakes, cold weather is not my thing. In fact, I really don’t like anything about it. And often along with the winter blues comes a decrease in health and fitness due to the lack of motivation. To counteract that feeling, let’s look at ten tips that can help you be healthier this winter.

  1. Work out. I know it’s easy to lose motivation to keep working out when it’s cold out, it’s dark by 5, and you have to put on your snow boots and warm up the car before going to the gym. But working out actually helps to build your immune system and keep you healthy. So make sure that you build those workouts into your schedule.
  2. Eat well. It’s important to make sure that you stick to clean eating, especially through the holidays. All the additional sweets, snacks, drinks, and other goodies that come with the holidays are sometimes hard to resist; do your best to stay focused on your goals.
  3. Drink lots of water. Being sure that you have proper hydration is always important regardless of the time of year. Carry around a water bottle everywhere you go and make sure you keep drinking.
  4. Cover your head in outdoor workouts. If you do decide to work out outdoors, be sure to wear a hat or something to cover your ears. Making sure you stay warm and don’t catch a cold will be vital to your winter wellness success. (Here are some more tips for dressing warmly for winter workouts.)
  5. Get some sun if possible. Studies show that getting your vitamin D is essential. If you can dress appropriately, try to get outside on a nice day or plan that beach vacation during the cold winter months.


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  6. Wash your hands. I know this is the standard thing you see in every public bathroom or on the back of the stall doors. But for real, wash your hands to help prevent you from getting the flu or other illnesses going around. Catching something could really set you back in getting in your workouts and healthy eating.
  7. Set a goal for the spring. Have a goal in place as the winter months start so that you can keep it on the forefront as something to work toward.
  8. Get a trainer or workout buddy. There is no better time to treat yourself to some additional accountability. Hire a trainer for the winter months or find that accountability partner to keep you in check!
  9. Watch your intake. You must be mindful, especially around the holidays, of what you are taking into your body. Also, keep in mind that drinks add a lot of unwanted calories, so watch what enters the black hole!
  10. Join something. The options are endless…group exercise, HIT classes, group training, a training program of some sort, co-ed sports…the list can go on. Find something you like and sign up to keep you engaged.

Whatever emotions the winter months may bring you, use these tips to be successful with your winter fitness and wellness!

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS winter fitness nutrition fitness center goal setting equipment group training accountability NIFS programs hydration HIT outdoors personal training wellness vitamin D

Safe Workouts in the Dog Days of Summer

ThinkstockPhotos-497566061.jpgSo many people have been expectantly waiting for this hot summer weather to be able to get outside for their workouts. And I can tell you that I am also one of those people; but there are some dangers behind the dog days of summer that we all need to be aware of.

Taking your exercise outside is an awesome idea, but I wouldn’t cancel that gym membership so fast. Let’s take a look at both the dangers of the steamy outdoor workouts and ideas on how to stay cool.

Why Outdoor Exercise Can Be Dangerous in Hot Weather

When the temperatures and humidity rise, working out outside can become dangerous, and it can happen very quickly without anyone even realizing it. The hotter and more humid it becomes, the more you sweat, and the sweat cannot evaporate as quickly as it should. Because of this, your internal body temperature rises and can become deadly.

Some warning signs and symptoms of reaching that dangerous and potentially deadly state are weakness, dizziness, muscle cramps, confusion, headache, increased heart rate, and vomiting.

How to Keep Cool for Summer Workouts

But there are some ways that we can help ourselves during the dog days of summer if you do choose to work out outside. Take a close look at this list and consider taking these steps:

  • Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. Drink as much water as possible for proper hydration.
  • Wear sunscreen. Lather up with sunscreen to protect your skin.
  • Wear sunglasses. This important piece of equipment protects your eyes and conserves energy.
  • Get the proper clothing. You want to wear light and loose, moisture-wicking clothing.
  • Consume the proper nutrition. Eat a well-balanced diet, and make sure to eat something small before you head out for a long run or Bootcamp class.
  • Check the air quality. This is important because it affects how you breathe. The higher the level of AQ, the harder it will be to breathe; the lower, the better. According to EPA standards, if the air quality number is over 100, it’s not good. If it’s below 100, it’s considered satisfactory air level.
  • Stay out of the sun. Look for shade to work out in.
  • Monitor your heart rate. If it gets too high, take a break.
  • Listen to your body. If your body is telling you stop or it’s too hot, listen to it!
  • Stay inside if it’s above 90. It’s better to hit the gym than to put yourself in danger.
  • Bring water to your workout. Try to keep hydrating yourself as you work out; don’t wait until you are thirsty.
  • Cool towels help. Take a cool, damp towel and put it over your head or around your neck.
  • Wear a loose-fitting hat. Wearing a tight hat holds the heat to your head, so in order to protect yourself from the sun, wear a loose-fitting hat that allows your head to breathe.

If you do decide to work out outside in the dog days of summer, do the best you can to take the proper precautions and protect yourself from harm. Listen to your body and be sure not to over-do it!

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness center equipment injury prevention summer hydration sunscreen

New USDA Guidelines: Making the Nutrition Recommendations Work

ThinkstockPhotos-501294518.jpgEvery five years, the USDA releases new Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Typically people get their idea of what healthy eating is and what they should be doing from all kinds of sources. Maybe it’s from a magazine, a TV news report, something a friend or family member suggested, or from reading blogs. Wherever you get your information, know that a team of researchers put together the most recent scientific evidence to come up with their recommendations for Americans. Here’s what they found, with some of the most important takeaway tips.

Strive for a Balance Over Your Lifespan

The new guidelines shift away from recommending foods you should or shouldn’t eat, and instead emphasize the importance of a balanced overall eating pattern. Here are the specific recommendations:

  • Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. Eating patterns are the combination of foods and drinks that a person eats over time.
  • Focus on variety, nutrient-dense foods, and amount.
  • Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats, and reduce sodium intake.
  • Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.
  • Support healthy eating patterns for all.

Watch Sugar, Fat, and Sodium Intake

The new guidelines also put a cap on sugar, saturated fat, and sodium that can lead to heart disease and obesity, and are easy to overeat. The limits are as follow:

  • Less than 10% of calories per day from added sugars.
  • Less than 10% of calories per day from saturated fats.
  • Less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium for those over age 14.

A couple issues that have arisen after the release of the most recent guidelines is the lack of straightforward numbers for sugar and saturated fat. For example, most people are not aware what 10% of their calories would be from sugar and saturated fat (most sources from sugar are in sodas and juice drinks, and saturated fat is from red meat). Instead, an easier recommendation for the public to follow would be to drink more water instead of sugary drinks, and to eat vegetarian meals two to three times per week instead of red meat.

Moderation Is Key

My-Nutrition-Coach-outline-no-back-1.jpgOverall the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans are a helpful tool in reinforcing what we already know: a balanced diet with all of the food groups in moderation is the best one to follow.

If you need help planning your meals or knowing what to eat, consider a personal nutrition coaching session or using the My Nutrition Coach app daily.

Learn More

This blog was written by Angie Scheetz, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition calories hydration sodium sugar

A NEAT Way to Burn More Calories (Part 2 of 2)

In the first part of this blog series you learned about NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis) and how it can impact the number of calories you burn each day. From James Levine’s article, you can conclude that NEAT can burn an average of 330 calories per day in healthy individuals, and up to nearly 700 calories per day in others. 

You have probably started thinking of ways you can add more NEAT into your day for weight loss or weight management. The most common suggestions are parking farther away, taking the stairs, or getting a desk you can stand at. Those are all great suggestions, but in this blog I will provide some other ideas that you can fit into your day.   

5 Ways to Burn More Calories at the Office or During the Workday

  1. Have walking meetings. Instead of sitting at a coworker’s desk to discuss work, try walking around the office or outside to discuss work. You may find that ideas and communication come easier to you than when you are sitting. 
  2. Drink more water. First, it will help you stay hydrated, which is good for your health. But secondly, it may help you get up from your desk more by increasing the number of times you have to go to the restroom. You could even plan time to get up and visit the water fountain. 
  3. Invest in an activity tracker. These trackers, such as the Fitbit, can provide you with an estimated number of steps and calories burned each day. With this tracker you can set a goal for yourself. This can help motivate you to get up from your desk and move to help you reach your number of steps or number of calories you need to burn each day.ThinkstockPhotos-533536853
  4. Walk during your lunch break. Walk instead of driving to restaurants nearby if you are going to eat out. If you packed your lunch, walk to find a nice spot to eat instead of just eating at your desk. Getting up and moving will help you increase calorie burning, and going outside will give you fresh air and vitamin D from the sun.
  5. Get your coworkers involved. Create a team goal or competition. You could schedule a few times each day when everyone in the office needs to stand up and move/walk for about 5 minutes. If you are trying to make it a competition, you could have a challenge each day to see who can get the most jumping jacks or pushups throughout the day.

5 Ways to Burn More Calories in Your Leisure Time

  1. Be active while watching television. If watching television is part of your daily leisure time, try adding in small activities to complete while watching your favorite show. You can fold laundry or organize and pay bills. You can get up and sweep or vaccum the floor on commercial breaks. You can even prep for dinner by chopping vegetables as you watch your favorite show!
  2. ThinkstockPhotos-200358726-001Play with your kids or pets. They are bundles of energy that can help get you on your feet and moving. Play a game of tag, basketball, or soccer with the kids. If you have pets, use toys that they like and keep them (and you) active. 
  3. Take a short walk after dinner. Instead of sitting down to watch TV or laying down for bed, try going on a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. 
  4. Have an active date. When meeting with friends or family, you can try to make the date active by riding bikes to your destination. You could also choose to do something active like mini-golf or visiting a state park. One fun idea is visiting a ceramics studio and creating or painting pottery. 
  5. Keep up your household and landscape. Everyone wants a beautiful and clean home. So try staying organized and keeping up with daily cleaning and organizing. You can try planting new flowers, washing the car, or repainting the front fence. 

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Now that you have some ideas for staying active and burning more calories, you can start adding more NEAT into your daily life and start burning an extra 330 to 700 calories each day!

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This blog was written by Masie Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: staying active exercise at home weight loss calories hydration weight management exercise at work workplace fitness

Healthy Eating While Traveling

ThinkstockPhotos-494262007Whether you are traveling for business or for pleasure, it typically means you eat most meals out or on the go. It can be challenging to make the most balanced choices and keep your eating on the right track. You want to try foods that are special to that region, you are busy and grabbing the first thing that sounds good, and you don’t have access to a grocery store for more fresh foods; these can all be challenges while traveling.

Tips for Healthy Eating on Vacation

Following these tips will help you enjoy your food choices and not derail all of your hard work!

  • Drink plenty of good-for-you fluid. This includes water, tea, decaf coffee, 100% juice, and milk. Staying hydrated will help to keep your metabolism working efficiently, flush out the sodium from restaurant meals, and keep you hydrated when traveling can zap that from you. 
  • If you are splurging, keep it to one per meal. There is nothing wrong with trying foods that you might only get on vacation. However, if every meal is a splurge without any of the good-for-you foods that your body requires, this can be a problem! Allow yourself the ice cream cone, but one scoop will do! Enjoy the bacon cheeseburger, but pair it with a side salad. Always try to scour the menu and choose the one thing you really want and then balance your plate to fit the 3-food-group-per-meal rule.
  • Pack snacks from home. This can help keep you satisfied between meals so you are more in control when sitting down to a meal. Make sure to eat every 3 to 5 hours and choose snacks that have fiber and/or protein to help keep you full. Easy and portable snacks to pack include nuts, trail mix, fresh or dried fruit, snack-size protein bars, and peanut butter sandwiches.

Plan Ahead for Better Nutrition While Traveling

Here are some final tips to keep in mind while traveling:

  • Request a refrigerator in your room to keep healthy perishable snacks and meals.
  • Bring a water bottle with you to fill up at rest stops or after security at the airport.
  • Keep alcohol in moderation. 
  • Avoid minibars in hotel rooms. 
  • Visit the local grocery store once you’ve arrived at your destination. Stock up on healthy snacks and convenient meals. (This is better for your budget, too!)
  • Research menus ahead of time. 

However, the most important tip is everything in moderation! Enjoy your travels, try something new, and get out there and explore the new city!

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This blog was written by Angie Scheetz, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating snacks hydration traveling

Five Things to Do Before EVERY Workout

5-things-to-do-newI consider myself a group fitness junkie. While I either teach or complete a group fitness class most days of the week and feel very comfortable and confident taking a wide range of classes, I remember the days when I was SUPER nervous about stepping foot into unfamiliar territory.

To this day, there are five things I do as preparation before every single group fitness class to help ensure that I get the most out of my workout and have a blast while doing it!

1. Map it out.

If I am attending a new-to-me class at a studio I have never been to, I make sure to figure out where the studio or fitness center is a day or two before the class. I also call to ask about parking. Many fitness centers have their own parking lots, but some rely on street parking or reimburse you after you pay. Are there showers? If not and you need to shower, it’s good to know this ahead of time so you don’t wind up in a bind! It’s a huge stress reliever and timesaver to figure out those details ahead of time.

2. Pack my bag and pick out my workout gear the night before.

As an avid morning worker outer, laying out my clothing and gear the night before is crucial, so that I don’t forget anything while I’m a bit groggy at 5 a.m. That being said, I pick out my clothes and gear the day before even if my workout isn’t in the morning! I find that it makes it easier to get there and it’s one less thing to worry about when I’m already a little nervous about trying a new-to-me class. I also do this with classes I have been to over and over again. I would hate to forget something or run late because I couldn’t find something that I needed. 

3. Arrive early.

Maybe it’s just me, but I like to “get in the zone” before a workout. Arriving at a class 10 to 15 minutes early allows ample time to speak with the instructor (if I’m new or have an injury he or she needs to know about), get out any necessary equipment, meet my neighbors, relax, and get a good spot!

4. Set a mental and personal goal.

If you’ve attended a yoga class, most classes ask you to “set an intention” for your practice. I have found that this is a great habit to get into for any fitness setting, whether it’s a boot camp class, BODYPUMP, yoga, Pilates, or small-group training. Setting a goal at the beginning may seem intimidating at first, but I find that it really helps me keep focus when my body is tired and my mind wants to give up on the last couple of reps.

Some example goals that help me get the most out of my workout are the following: 

  • Having fun.
  • Pushing through one more rep when I want to give up.
  • Increasing the weight I lift by a certain number of pounds.
  • Listening to my body and modifying if necessary.
5. Hydrate! 

It’s so important to drink enough water, especially when being active. I make sure to set out my water bottle the night before with all of my other gear, and I take a few sips while I head into class. It is ideal to drink about 20 oz. of water 2 to 3 hours before class, but if you wake up and work out first thing, do what you can. Drink another 10 to 15 oz. of water 30 to 60 minutes prior to class, and attempt to drink around 8 oz. of water within a half hour of exercising. Trust me, your body needs it! 

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This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, contributing writer, group fitness instructor, and author of healthy living blog Treble in the Kitchen.

 

Topics: goal setting group fitness workouts hydration

5 SUPER Smoothie Add-Ins for Healthy Eating

4773111471The weather is getting warmer, Mini Marathon training is in full swing, and some of our group fitness classes are able to meet outdoors for a fun twist on the workout. Yep, spring is here! The warmer weather and sunnier days definitely have me craving a fruit and veggie-packed smoothie first thing in the morning, no doubt about it. Full of fiber, plant-based protein, vitamins, and minerals galore, it’s pretty clear that drinking a smoothie is a guaranteed way to get in a nutrient-packed breakfast to start your day with healthy eating. 

You can make your own recipes using these hints. Start with a liquid base like almond milk, coconut water, or coconut milk. Add in about a cup of your favorite frozen fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, or cherries. Next, I always like to add in half of a frozen banana for extra creaminess! Last, pick one or two of these super-food mix-ins to really take your smoothie to the next level. Trust me on this one! Your body (and your taste buds) will thank you.

Spinach: Greens are known for their serious antioxidant cancer-fighting superpowers as well as their high vitamin and mineral content. It’s no wonder your parents were always trying to get you to finish those greens with dinner. Well, adding raw spinach to your morning smoothie is a great (dare I say sneaky) way to enjoy these greens so you can reap the nutrition benefits of this delicious veggie. I promise, you won’t taste a thing. Try adding a large handful of raw spinach to your next morning blend.

Chia: It’s no wonder everyone is chatting about chia! Rich in plant-powered protein and healthy fats that help promote brain function and heart health, these little seeds pack so much! They create a gel-like consistency when added to liquid so they will thicken your smoothie right up. Try adding one tablespoon to a smoothie for a tasty treat.

Cacao: Rich in magnesium, iron, potassium, and antioxidants, cacao is the raw form of chocolate. That’s right, it’s healthy to have a chocolaty, rich smoothie for breakfast. One of my favorite combos? Almond milk, frozen banana, almond butter, a dash of cinnamon, and a tablespoon of this delicious raw cocoa powder. (And maybe a handful of spinach!) 

Coconut water: Drinking coconut water is a great way to hydrate and start your recovery after a tough workout. It is lower in calories than most sports drinks and contains no artificial ingredients or added sugars (just be sure to read the label), which makes it perfect for restoring your hydration levels the way nature intended. Use about a cup of coconut water as the liquid base of your smoothie to give your body a natural electrolyte boost after your morning sweat session.

Avocado: Do you LOVE super-creamy smoothies? If so, avocado is the superfood add-in for you! Adding a quarter of an avocado to your smoothie not only gives you a boost of fiber, monounsaturated fats, and potassium; but it instantly turns your smoothie into a thick and creamy milkshake. Milkshake for breakfast? Oh, yes!

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This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, contributing writer, group fitness instructor, and author of healthy living blog Treble in the Kitchen. Meet our other NIFS bloggers.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating recipes breakfast hydration recovery