smoothie

Healthy Fast food: Backyard Bowls

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       There is plenty of healthy plant based food in LA so I knew it would be a satisfying discovery for each meal coming here, but I was also sure that I'd go back to Backyard Bowls. I discovered it 2 years ago when I was staying for the first time in LA, and I would walk more than 1h back and forth just to go to their place in WeHo!! Haha, yes I like to walk, but I also love their food. Is it an extraordinary culinary experience? Probably not. But it is exactly the way I conceive food: healthy, abundant, plant based and simple but still with lots of flavors.

They have several locations and the pictures in this article are from their Santa Monica location which is the area I am staying.

 

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       The Menu

       Is simple: smoothie bowls (acai, pitaya, green bowls), smoothies, porridge bowls, toasts and grain bowls. That's it. The bases of a plant-based diet. I told you I like to eat a "high carb low fat" kinda diet and I feel like that's what I can easily get without thinking about it too much at Backyard Bowls because the carbs are in the center of everything (and carbs are definitely life). And you have quantity on your plate (actually in your bowl) which is also one of my criteria when I go to a restaurant: how much food will I have on my plate?

The other thing I like is that when you eat in, you get a proper bowl, a proper spoon: no plastic and no waste. It's something I was missing when I tried to have acai bowls in New York. Maybe the next improvement would be to also give a proper cup for the water fountain but I know it's not always easy to organize it.

Finally, it's fast food: you order at the counter and wait for your food that you can eat in or take away. It's really nice to know that you have healthy and yummy options when you are in a hurry.

 

       What Do I personally order?

       I generally go for a large (yes large, and the portion is huge! but we know as plant-based eaters that we tend to eat a lot more in quantities, especially on HCLF) Island bowl, which is my favorite of their smoothie bowls: there is mango in it, which is one of my favorite fruits, and coconut milk! It's a simple tropical bowl and I love how they aren't cheap on the granola compared to other places! It's very hot in LA so I love how a smoothie bowl cools me from the inside.

I was also very curious to test their grain bowls because macro bowls are really my favourite way to eat, and I am always more attracted to savory meals than sweets. So I built my own: green rice, hummus, hot sauce, cauliflower + chickpeas, sweet potato puree, shaved carrot, avocado, shallots and pickled beets, sprouts, micro greens and toasted almonds. And it was delicious! Like, really delicious! I really felt like I am going to make efforts to cook the same way at home because it is accessible and it is a way to eat that I would like to share.

 

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Santa Monica Neighborhood

Santa Monica Neighborhood

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Backyard Bowls

Website. They have many locations so check if there's one close to you!

 

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How to keep cool during summer

90°F (32°C) and above is the average temperature during summer in NYC, and I know we're not the only ones to suffer from the summer heat. I do love summer and the sun, but if I don't have a pool to cool down next to me at any minute, I can become unproductive and feel a little dizzy.

So how to cool down for a while ? I tried cold showers, and it feels great for a short time but the feeling doesn't last long enough for me, and air conditioning is nice, but ecologically-wise we know we can do better. The thing that really works for me is banana "ice cream" and frozen smoothie bowls. Why is it better than classic ice cream ? Because as it isn't loaded with sugar and preservatives, and it's full of natural ingredients (if you make it right), you can really eat a full bowl of it ! And believe me, you do end up shaking and covered in goosebumps. After that, the heat feels necessary and not "too much" anymore, and personally, depending on how much I have, this feeling lasts a good half an hour (even more if I'm indoors and I can't warm up quickly).

I tried different simple combinations that change from the classic banana and plant based milk. If you want more of the cold effect, try and top your bowl with frozen berries. When I do so my lips turn blue, which goes away quickly in the sun (but don't do it during winter - I'm speaking from experience).

 

Mango matcha "nicecream"

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Ingredients :

  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1/2 cup plant based milk
  • 2 teaspoon of matcha powder (adjust to your taste)

 

Coffee "nicecream"

Toppings :

  • 1 kiwi
  • Pumpkin seeds

Ingredients :

  • 3 frozen bananas
  • 1/4 cup plant based milk
  • 1 expresso (or 1/4 cup of coffee, as strong as you like)

 

Simple Acai Bowl

Toppings :

  • 2 dried figs
  • flaked almonds
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Ingredients :

  • 1 pack of frozen acai
  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries

Toppings :

  • 2-3 tbsp granola
  • Fresh strawberries
  • You can add some tahini if you like
 

Juices VS Smoothies

About 2 years ago I was kind of obsessed with juices and wanted to start almost all my days with a great vitamin-energy packed juice. Today, I am more into smoothies than juices and I only drink once in a while. Why is that ? Well, during that time I read and educated myself more about food in general, especially about fibers and sugar absorption. Both juicing and blending have their pros and cons, but I saw that smoothies were more adapted to what I like and want. Here are the main differences between them :

Smoothies

Blending pulverizes the whole fruits and vegetables into a smoothie.

  • You keep the fibers which help keeping your digestive system healthy.
  • It makes the sugar absorption slower and more even.
  • It still makes the digestion and absorption of nutrients quicker than entire fruits or vegetables since the fiber is broken apart.
  • It keeps you full longer than a juice.
  • Some nutrients may be harder to absorb and stay in the fibers.
  • For the same amount of fruits and veggies, a smoothie will have a bigger volume so you tend to have fewer servings of fruits/veggies in a smoothie and fewer nutrients.

Juices

Juicing removes the pulp/fibers and keeps the nutrients and the water.

  • Removing the fibers makes it a lot faster to digest and helps absorbing all the nutrients.
  • You can juice a big quantity of vegetables and have all the nutrients from them in only one juice and therefore absorb all the vitamins that you would have not eaten otherwise.
  • It gives some rest to the digestive system.
  • The sugar from fruits is absorbed also very quickly since the fibers are removed.
  • If you juice mostly fruits it can give you unstable sugar levels and all the side effects that come with it such as mood/energy swings.
  • You can get hungry again faster.

 

In both cases it's important to drink it quickly after it's made because the vitamins will disappear quickly. It's also important to use the right appliances to make them : if you want to make juices, it's better to use a juice extractor than a centrifugal juicer that will make vitamins disappear because of the heat. In the end, it's up to you. It's more about educating yourself about what you eat and know what food can be better for what reason. I think juices are great if you do green juices with a lot of veggies (so not too much sugar), if you need a big vitamin boost or a deep detox and rest your body/digestive system with a cleanse (but I'm not so much into juice cleanses, since they can be restrictive, it all depends on how it is done and for how long). Also simply if you prefer juices to smoothies, life is short so drink what you love ! I'm personally more into smoothies now because they are more filling while still packing many nutrients. Also because I can add healthy fats such as flaxseeds, nuts or avocado, and protein powders or plant based milks, which you can't juice.

I generally make only fruit smoothies with my favorite fruits, because I always have fruits at home and I don't plan my meals well in advance, but sometimes I'll adapt the recipe depending on what I need : energy boost to start a long day or exercise, refreshing but light if I only want the good taste without the calories, anti-inflammatory or detox... I have here 4 different examples of smoothies that are great to try depending on what you need.

Green detox

I like this kind of green smoothie if I have a hungover, for example. It's detoxing, the very watery fruits are hydrating and it brings all the good nutrients. Pineapple and kiwi are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants that are great for the immune system, which may be a little fragile after drinking alcohol.

  • 2 cups spinach (or your favorite leafy green)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 green apple
  • 2 kiwis
  • 1 cup fresh chopped pineapple
  • You could add 1/4 avocado to for the healthy fats and a smooth texture

It's funny because I found the taste quite good, not too sweet and a little acid, but without the taste of spinach. But I made my mom try it and she wasn't fond of it. I think it's also because my taste changed slightly since I started eating healthier : I crave less sugary taste except for fruits, for example. If it isn't your case, you can always add natural healthy sweeteners to your smoothies such as ripe bananas, dates, agave syrup, maple syrup... And remember not to force yourself to eat/drink something that you really don't like just because it is supposed to be healthy. There are healthy alternatives for everyone's taste !

RED refresh

I actually realize it looks like one smoothie I wrote about in the past. I think it's because I love raspberries so much and that I like to keep food simple. I also think organic berries should be often present in a healthy diet because of all the great nutrients they have. This one is really easy to digest as it only contains fruits and leafy greens (mixing fats and fruits can be hard to digest for some people), hydrating and good to cool down during summer. It's also full of antioxidants thanks to the berries.

  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1 squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water

Again, you may want to add more ingredients for a sweeter taste if you crave something more sugary while having the refreshing taste of berries. What I like in this smoothie is that it's super light so it's great as a little snack.

Vitamin C power

This one is a great concentrate of anti-inflammatory and vitamins, great if you're sick or if you want a little boost.

  • The juice of 4-5 carrots
  • 1 big orange (or 2 small)
  • 1 small piece of ginger
  • 1 small tea spoon of turmeric powder

The beta-carotene from the carrots is great when it comes to skin, but I also think the taste goes great with oranges. I chose to take only the juice from the carrots because they have a lot of fibers. And I don't think it's a vegetable that is good for smoothies. It's obviously better if you juice it yourself right before, if you can. The orange is loaded with vitamin C which gives the little energy boost we all need instead of taking supplements. The ginger and turmeric have great anti-inflammatory properties, actually turmeric is well known to be one of the best natural anti-inflammatory ingredients. Warning : it may taste weird for you at first because the ginger is really strong and the turmeric is a spice. I kind of like to try "weird taste" food, but if it's not your case you can try and adjust the taste taking out/adding ingredients. Start with a good orange-carrot juice/smoothie that many people love, and later you can try adding ginger and turmeric.

Healthy nutty energy

Good if you need energy for a longer time, if you want something that tastes less fruity and more sweet, to get some healthy fats for your skin, if you don't eat enough proteins or if you want to build more muscle.

  • 2 bananas
  • 1 cup plant based milk
  • 1 scoop vegan protein powder
  • 1 tbsp almond butter (or your choice of nut butter)
  • 1 tea spoon cocoa powder

I talked about the benefits of bananas here. The protein powder (I used Pulsin brown rice powder) isn't necessary if you don't want to build more muscle and if you eat a balanced diet, but for example there are days when I'll eat less food providing proteins because I feel like something else and it can be useful. I feel like it brings a little earthy taste that I kind of like. Almond butter is my favorite nut butter because I find it less thick. It's very important to choose a healthy nut butter : the less ingredients, the better. I chose one (french brand Jean Hervé because I am in France right now) with only complete almonds and it's perfect. Nut butter will give you healthy fats, and different important nutrients that you don't find in fruits, one of them is zinc that is a very important nutrient for a healthy skin, and also a little bit of proteins. I like the little spoon of cocoa powder because it makes the whole thing taste more like a dessert, but if you don't like this is optional. I find the taste super sweet like this without adding any other sweet ingredients because I always use very ripe bananas.