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Thursday
Apr302015

Review of Freshii Boston: Healthy Fast Food

I've noticed a bunch of healthy fast food eateries popping up in the Boston area (hallelujah!), many of which have smartly planted themselves next to big health clubs like Equinox and Boston Sports Clubs. I was invited to check out the newest location of Freshii on Dartmouth Street in the Back Bay, adjacent to my gym Healthworks. Freshii has two other locations in Boston, Fort Point and the Financial District, and is actually a world-wide chain with 160 restaurants in 13 different countries.

When I walked into the Back Bay Freshii I could feel the positive energy of a new establishment (opened on April 13). It was a compact, clean modern space with polished wood tables that seat about 18 customers. I was most struck by the number of employees behind the counter...at least ten, five of whom smiled at me ready to take my order. Eager! ๐Ÿ˜„ They all looked young in their 20s and were joking and laughing with each other. It created the vibe of a college campus dining hall, which didn't bother me but may not be every customer's preference. 

I'd already studied the website and menu beforehand, which excited me. Their mantra is "Eat. Energize." with a mission to "serve fresh food to energize people on the go." The menu is customizable and includes soups, salads, wraps, bowls, burritos, frozen yogurt, juices and smoothies touted to supply "fiber-rich, slow-burning carbs, essential fats and lean proteins." They also tap local suppliers for sustainability and fresh ingredients. Definitely my kind of everyday food!

The items I ordered were unarguably fresh. I'll describe each one below.

The Metaboost Salad $8.99 had field greens, spinach, kale, mangoes, carrots, edamame, almonds, goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. It was a generously sized salad with beautiful greens but just a tad skimpy on the good stuff: dots of goat cheese, a few edamame and tiny diced mango here and there, and some almonds that I had to poke around to find. It tasted fine, though the salad came already heavily dressed in the vinaigrette which was too tart for me. Next time I'd order the dressing on the side.

The Market Wrap $7.99 came with field greens, spinach, quinoa, beet slaw, apple slaw, carrots, cranberries, avocado and honey dijon dressing in a whole grain tortilla. It was BIG! The filling was lightly covered with a mild and creamy dressing that hinted of a mayo base, which I enjoyed. The beets, apple and cranberries added the right amount of sweetness.

I had to try the Green Energy Juice $6.99 because I haven't yet found a take-out green juice that I've liked ๐Ÿ˜œ. This one blended apple, cucumber, kale, lemon, carrot, romaine and spinach. I was immediately turned off by the muddy color...it looked dreadful (I'd suggest they serve this in a non see-through cup!). But after closing my eyes and taking a sip, I found the flavor to be good. I tasted all the greens, apple and cucumber, and could tell it was all natural without any added sweeteners. On a day that I've skimped on vegetables and fruits, I'd readily order this.

Of course I had to try their specialty FroYo $4.99 offered in two flavors, an original tart or cookies and cream, with two toppings of your choice. I decided on the cookies and cream with slivered almonds and strawberries. The portion was generous and both the yogurt and toppings tasted very fresh and delicious—easily becoming my favorite item. The price is great for the quality and amount you get!

The nutrition information of every item is available online so if you're watching calories, protein, sodium, fiber, etc. you can compare and make the right choice for you. It's a mixed bag with most of the items high in sodium and calories, but there are a few lower sodium and lower calorie options. You can also customize a salad, bowl or wrap and order the dressing on the side to fit your specific nutrition goals.

I didn't think this was the greatest healthy fast food ever, but if I were traveling and eating on-the-go I'd make a beeline to a Freshii if it were available. The ingredients are healthful and fresh and the prices are reasonable considering they use local produce. They're also a green company that uses eco-friendly cleaning products, and distributes utensils, paperware and packaging that are either biodegradable or easily recyclable. A fast food company with a global mission to do good, for our health and environment. Please check it out!

Disclosure: I received a Freshii gift card to help facilitate this post. The thoughts and opinions expressed are my honest evaluation of the menu items.

Thursday
Apr232015

Loving Matcha and Green Tea Smoothies

I've been drinking a few cups of green tea every day for the past few years. I do enjoy the taste but more than that I've noticed that since I began drinking the brew I've experienced fewer cold viruses. So now when I have a scratchy throat, instead of popping vitamin C pills I drink extra green tea. The tea is easy on my stomach unlike coffee. I recently discovered matcha green tea, which as you can see below presents as a vibrant green powder instead of tea bags. Matcha tea is ground whole green tea leaves, so you end up drinking a super strong concentration of its cancer-fighting plant chemical epigallocatechin gallate (up to 3 times more than is found in regular green tea), yet with only about a third of the caffeine in a cup of brewed coffee...so less stomach irritation and jitters.

To prepare a cup of matcha tea, you only need about a half to one teaspoon of the powder mixed into warm water (boiling water can destroy the tea creating a bitter taste) and then whisked briskly until the tea dissolves and a foam is created. It tastes like regular green tea but more intense. Matcha tea is all the rage now, added to smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, banana bread and even cookie dough. It adds that beautiful all natural grass-green hue (I have a feeling St. Patrick's Day recipes will pop up next year using matcha tea!). DavidsTea offers three kinds of matcha green tea and three more flavored matcha varieties. They'll prepare it for you hot or cold, and even sell a special tea bottle with a built-in wisk in the cover so you can easily shake up your matcha tea to go.

Below is my first try at an easy matcha smoothie incorporating my usual fave smoothie ingredients. It's mildy sweet, rich and filling. Enjoy!

Matcha Green Tea Smoothie 

Ingredients

1 cup vanilla soy or almond milk

1 small frozen banana

1/2 cup diced pineapple

1 tsp matcha green tea powder

2 tablespoons chia gel* 

Directions

Add all ingredients to a blender, and blend on high until mixed well.

*To make a batch of chia gel, mix 2-3 tablespoons of chia seeds into 8 ounces water and let sit for 15-20 minutes.


Tuesday
Apr072015

Quick and Easy Granola Bars

If I can take any kind of shortcut with cooking, I will find it! So when I say these bars are quick and easy, you can trust they are. This recipe has four ingredients and needs only a saucepan and baking dish. Goes into the oven for about 20 minutes. I eat a packaged granola bar every day because it's convenient and satisfying, so I loved this homemade version from Diary of a Fit Mommy. She used three ingredients that most people already have in their kitchens. I only changed it by adding one more ingredient of a chia/flaxseed blend sprinkled on top of the bars before baking.

Easy Granola Bars

Ingredients

3/4 cup honey

1 cup peanut or almond butter (or sunflower seed butter if nut allergies)

3 cups old fashioned oats

Chia, ground flaxseeds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. On low heat, add peanut butter and honey into a medium saucepan and stir until melted. Remove from heat.
  3. Pour oats into the mixture and stir well until combined. 
  4. Pour batter into a 9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle the seeds evenly over the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until top is firm to touch.
  5. Cool well before cutting into squares.

The one downside with these bars is that they're crumbly. When trying to cut them into squares, some fell apart. So I saved the crumbles in a Tupperware and have been sprinkling them into my Greek yogurt and oatmeal...or just eating a spoonful when I need a quick pick-me-up!