How to Make a Sensational Smoothie

What’s an easy, nutritious breakfast or an energizing snack? A smoothie! But don’t you dare buy the smoothies you’ll find on the shelves at your local store. Many -- even those that are labeled organic -- are full of cavity-causing, waistline-expanding sugar. For example, one 10-ounce Stonyfield Strawberry Super Smoothie contains a whopping 38 grams of sugar -- that’s 144 calories’ worth and just 1 g less than a 12-oz can of Coke. And a small Mega Mango Smoothie at Jamba Juice weighs in at 53 g of sugar. (The large contains 95 g!)

The good news: It’s simple, fast and cheaper to make your own much-healthier smoothies at home. They’re filling and sweet, but they won’t overload you with sugar. Plus, smoothies are an easy way to get in some extra fruits, vegetables and bone- and teeth-building dairy. (You can use other liquids if you’re avoiding dairy.) All you need is a blender (preferably one that will crush ice) and a few ingredients.

Mix-and-match Smoothie Recipe

To make one serving, follow the steps below. If you want some delicious combinations to get you started, check out some of my favorites after the lists.

Step No. 1: Start with one of the following liquids:

1 cup water

1 cup milk (organic if possible)

1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or milk from another nut)

1 cup unsweetened coconut water

1 cup plain yogurt

Step No. 2: Add one of the following healthy fats and proteins:

3-4 tablespoons vanilla, chocolate- or berry-flavored whey protein powder (organic and sweetened with Stevia if possible); I like tera’swhey products

2 tablespoons nut butter (almond, peanut, cashew -- without added sugar if possible)

1 tablespoon flaxseed or coconut oil

1/4 avocado (sounds strange, but gives smoothies a wonderful creamy texture)

Step No. 3: Add one or two of the following fruits and veggies:

1 cup frozen fruit (blueberries, strawberries, peaches, mangos, cherries); try a combo, such as strawberry-peach

1 frozen banana, peeled and cut into chunks

1 cup grapes

1 cup melon cubes

1 cup pineapple chunks

1 cup chopped apple

1 carrot, chopped

1 cup kale (stems removed)

2 cups spinach

2 teaspoons SuperGreens powder (available at health food stores)

Step No. 4: Add three or four ice cubes; process until smooth and creamy.

Step No. 5: Taste and add 1-2 tablespoons of agave or honey (or a packet of Stevia if it’s not sweet enough). Blend again briefly and enjoy!

Here are some of my favorite combinations:

· Strawberry-chocolate Smoothie: 2 tablespoons chocolate whey protein, 1 cup frozen organic strawberries, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk and 4 ice cubes

· Blueberry-almond Smoothie: 2 tablespoons almond butter, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 1/2 frozen banana, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk and 2 ice cubes

· Mango-lime Smoothie: 1 cup mango chunks, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 cup coconut water and 4 ice cubes

· Kale-apple Smoothie: 1/2 cup kale, 1/2 peeled and chopped apple, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 cup plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon or more agave syrup to taste and 4 ice cubes

What’s your favorite smoothie combination? Comment below or connect with us @Completely_You

5 Fast Breakfasts That Boost Your Health

When you’re busy (and who isn’t?), it’s tempting to take shortcuts -- especially when it comes to the first meal of the day. But instead of sloughing off breakfast, start off on the right food and set the tone for a healthier day -- every day. Here’s how:

Stay Slim Mondays
Opting for fresh vegetables first thing in the morning ensures you’ll be more likely to get in the recommended 2 1/2 cups of daily servings to stay fit and healthy.

Carrot Smoothie (2 servings)

  • 2 cups carrot juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt

Pour all ingredients into a blender and blend until smoothie reaches desired consistency.

Tough Teeth Tuesdays
Combine the calcium cache of cheese with the phosphorus found in eggs, and you’ve served a wakeup call for strong bones and teeth.

Breakfast Quesadilla (2 servings)

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons light jalapeno cheddar cheese
  • Two 6-inch soft fat-free tortillas
  • 1 tablespoon diced green pepper
  • 1 tablespoon diced onion
  • Nonstick cooking spray

In a skillet, use nonstick cooking spray and prepare eggs with green peppers, onions and 1/2 cup cheese. Flip once; cook until done. Then heat tortillas in the microwave until warm (about 30 seconds). Layer a tortilla, egg mixture and tortilla with cheese on top. Cut into six pieces and enjoy.

Heart Health Wednesdays
Eating oatmeal is a proven way to lower your cholesterol, but let’s face it: Pancakes sound much more tempting. Get the best of both.

Oatmeal Pancakes

  • 2 cups pancake baking mix
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups low-fat milk
  • 2 eggs
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Grease griddle with cooking spray and heat to 375 F. In medium bowl, use a spoon to stir all pancake ingredients until blended. For each pancake, pour 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle. Cook until edges are dry. Turn and cook other side until golden.

Brain Boost Thursdays
Blueberries pack a huge antioxidant punch to help keep your mind nimble.

Blueberry Waffle Sandwich (3 servings)

  • 3 ounces low-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 whole-grain frozen waffles
  • 3/4 cup fresh blueberries

In a bowl, stir together cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar. Heat waffles in toaster. Spread cream cheese mixture on waffles. Spoon blueberries over cream cheese on three slices. Cover with remaining slices. Cut each waffle sandwich in half.

Protein Punch Fridays
A high-protein breakfast will keep your hunger at bay throughout the morning. Stay satisfied -- without the saturated fat -- with this tasty option.

Sweet Greek Breakfast (1 serving)

  • 6 ounces Greek yogurt
  • 1 ounce raw walnuts, chopped
  • 1 medium apple, chopped
  • 1 handful raisins
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Stir together all ingredients in a bowl and enjoy!

What are your favorite breakfast foods? Comment below or tweet us @Completely_You

8 Healthy Foods That Make You Happy

When you think of comfort foods that make you happy, does your mind drift to mashed potatoes and mac ’n’ cheese? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it shouldn’t. Research reveals that certain healthier staples can soothe your soul and get you grinning. Incorporate these eight expert picks into your daily diet, and you’ll get more energy, less stress and an even brighter smile. Consider these your new happy meals!

1. Salmon

“The omega-3s found in salmon have been proven to boost mood,” says Lauren Slayton, a registered dietitian and the director of FoodTrainers, a nutrition center in New York City. These healthy fats don’t just put a smile on your face; they also help you keep it there: A recent study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that people who consistently consumed more omega-3s were 30 percent less likely to develop gum disease than those who got less. Don’t like seafood? Reach for other omega-3 sources, like flax and walnuts.

2. Avocado

Even if you’re not a guacamole fan, this green fruit can bring you happiness. “Avocados contain serotonin, a type of feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain,” says Slayton. Try using a few slices as a creamy substitute for mayo in sandwiches, or toss some cubes into your lunchtime salad.

3. Raisins

Although they’re known as nature’s candy, raisins are one sweet treat that won’t cause cavities. In fact, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry found that the healthy antioxidants in raisins helped slow the growth of two types of bacteria that set the stage for tooth decay and gum disease. Snack on a handful for an instant hit of energy.

4. Dark Chocolate

It’s no wonder many women consider chocolate comfort food. “Chocolate is high in magnesium, a mineral that calms muscles and can relieve anxiety,” says Slayton. For an even bigger dose of the mineral, try satisfying your sweet tooth with dark chocolate–covered almonds.

5. Cereal

The next time you pick up a box, check to make sure it’s fortified with vitamin D. More than 60 percent of Americans don’t get enough of this sunshine nutrient, which has been shown to fend off the blues -- especially during the dark days of winter. Pair those puffs or flakes with low-fat milk for a dose of bone- and teeth-fortifying calcium.

6. Green Tea

Feeling stressed? Brew some soothing tea. These green leaves contain L-theanine, an antioxidant that has been linked to relaxation. Sip a mug before that big meeting and you’ll score another benefit: fresher breath. According to research from Pace University in New York City, green tea’s polyphenols can destroy bacteria that lead to bad breath and tooth decay.

7. Yogurt

Scoop up a better mood with this calcium-rich snack. Yogurt contains probiotics, friendly bacteria that have been shown to ease depression. Plus, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology reveals that probiotics may reduce inflammation in the mouth, lowering your risk of gum disease and even oral cancer.

8. Popcorn

When you’re grumpy or sluggish, chances are you crave bread and pasta. “That’s because carbs increase serotonin levels in the body, which can put you in a better mood,” explains Slayton. But before you twirl up that spaghetti, snack on some popcorn. The whole-grain treat has the same beneficial effect -- and at just 31 calories per cup, it won’t wreck your waistline.

What are your favorite foods that make you happy? Share below or tweet us @Completely_You

6 Surprising Health Benefits of Pumpkin

If you’re like most, you probably think of pumpkin just twice a year: once as a glorified candleholder during Halloween and then again as the indulgent finishing touch to a Thanksgiving dinner feast.

But this big orange orb is actually one of nature’s nutritional powerhouses -- it’s packed with more than 100 therapeutic nutrients, including skin-protecting beta-carotenes and disease-fighting antioxidants, that can boost your beauty routine and enhance your health. Here are the top reasons the pumpkin’s goodness is a treat you should indulge in all year.

1.    Pumpkin erases years.

Pumpkin packs a powerful one-two punch when it comes to skin care, says dermatologist Audrey Kunin. It contains alpha hydroxy acids, a natural fruit acid that helps lift away old skin cells to reveal a radiant, more luminous complexion, plus vitamin A, which helps increase the rate of cell renewal to unveil younger-looking, softer skin. Rich in essential fatty acids, pumpkin is also an effective way to diminish fine lines and wrinkles, says skin care expert Kimara Ahnert. It’s loaded with vitamin C (which has been proven to spur collagen production and prevent the breakdown of elastin) and sodium hyaluronate to help hydrate and plump skin.

2.    Pumpkin defends against disease.

One of the most nutrient-rich foods out there, pumpkin is packed with disease-fighters, especially a turbo-charged combination of carotenoids, says Dr. William Clower, author of The Fat Fallacy. According to Clower, the National Cancer Institute estimates that up to 30 percent of all cancers can be prevented by eating the right foods, such as those rich in carotene, like pumpkin (just a 1/2 cup serving satisfies twice the recommended intake of alpha-carotene and 100 percent that of beta-carotene).

3.    Pumpkin ups your UV protection.

Like pumpkin, carrots are loaded with beta-carotenes, an antioxidant with serious oomph. Not only is beta-carotene responsible for pumpkin’s deep-orange color, it also provides potent protection against free-radical damage caused by the sun’s harmful rays. Applied topically, pumpkin extract can even enhance the effect of sunscreen and shield skin from other environmental factors, including air pollution, stress and secondhand smoke.

4.    Pumpkin boosts sexual desire.

The spicy scent of pumpkin is a surefire way to inject some sizzle into those stay-at-home evenings with your partner. According to studies at the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, the smell of pumpkin is a top-rated aphrodisiac. It’s also been proven to increase sexual functionality in both men and women -- one more reason to serve pumpkin ice cream or light a pumpkin candle on a random Tuesday night.

5.    Pumpkin helps you think faster and better.

Want a no-fuss, no-muss alternative to the heavy pumpkin? Try pumpkin seeds -- they’re notable for being a great source of zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, which not only help promote healthy bone density but can also sharpen your brain skills.

6.    Pumpkin keeps your teeth healthy.

Looking to improve your dental care? Try a little pumpkin seed oil when cooking; it can help you prevent cavities and tooth decay.

What’s your favorite way to eat pumpkin? Tell us below or tweet us @Completely_You