Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I do try to eat something every morning. Usually it’s a whole-grain English muffin with peanut butter and a latte, or a yogurt, berry, granola parfait with coffee. I follow the advice that you combine three food groups in the most easy to assemble or purchase format as possible.
So when Raley’s Something Extra Try-It program provided me with a free package of their “Deliciously Good Superfood Blend” greens as part of testing their NuVal System and the package read “Great as a stand alone salad, in pastas or in a smoothie” I knew what I was going to make for breakfast. That’s right, a pasta salad…oh wait, scratch that…a smoothie.
Now I’ve had a package of pancake mix sitting in my pantry for a year. I don’t cook in the mornings because of the following equation (Early Mornings + Sara) – Caffeine= Complete Lack of Coordination. But technically, smoothies do not require cooking, so I thought I would be fine. HAH!
I type this half covered in yogurt and honey. There will be no original photos of this adventure because I didn’t want to ruin my phone, camera or Ipad in the process. So let me narrate my experience…
I almost always keep a bag of frozen mixed berries in my freezer. They go great in smoothies, parfaits, on top of frozen waffles, etc. I bought a container for Sunnyside plain, fat-free Greek Yogurt because I knew I had vanilla extract and honey at home already. Now a word or 20 about Greek yogurt. It’s gained incredibly popularity over the last couple of years. It is higher in protein and thicker than regular yogurt. It is also tends to be lower in calcium. This is one of those cases where working in nutrition and compulsive label reading pays off…because the Sunnyside brand at Raley’s offers 60% of the daily value of calcium in each cup of its Greek yogurt. This is perfect for me on the weekends because I tend not to drink milk unless I’m at work.
Anyway, back to the smoothie. Into a Magic Bullet cup, I attempt to add a cup of Greek yogurt. Usually this is no problemo, but this morning I drop the container and yogurt goes all over me, the counter and a tiny bit makes it into the cup. Fabulous. I clean things up and then add the frozen berries, about a tablespoon of honey and a splash of vanilla extract to the container. Of course the honey did not want to squeeze out of its container and my hands are all sticky now.., Anyway, next come the greens. I take a handful of the baby kale, spinach and chard blend and stuff it down on top of the berries and honey. Now for a splash of pink lemonade. I screw the Magic Bullet blades onto the top of the cup and blend.
The result is a mauve mix speckled with green flecks the size of fresh ground pepper. A more powerful blender would probably completely disguise these salad particles but they don’t bother me. The flavor is good, like a regular berry smoothie with a little bit of herbal grassyness. Adding more greens will intensify this flavor but also turn the mauve color to a less appetizing brown (trust me, sometimes it’s better NOT to look at your food).
So back to the NuVal System. As I mentioned before, I work in nutrition and know a number of registered dietitians. I’ve read a lot over the years about front of package and point of purchase nutrition rating systems. Personally, I don’t find a nutrition facts label all that confusing, so I think these FOP or POP ratings a little unnecessary. I also find them misleading and a little biased towards fruits and vegetables. Many tend to weigh heavily those factors deemed negative in current public health circles….today that’s saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, sugar, etc less than those “positive” factors like nutrients of concern- calcium, vitamin D, potassium and fiber. And since different companies and grocery chains use different systems, it’s very confusing.
The NuVal pamphlet that Raley’s sent me explains that the system scores the overall nutritional value of food on a scale of 1 to 100 based on analysis of over 30 different nutrients- from vitamins to fiber to fat. The higher the NuVal score, the higher the nutrition. The pamphlet then provides ratings and recipes for select foods from four out the five food groups (dairy foods being omitted). While the ratings are listed, there’s no information explaining why Butternut Squash, Edamame and Oranges all score 100 but Lemons are 99, Oats are 57, Walnuts are 82 and Shrimp is 75.
All by itself, I don’t think NuVal is really that beneficial. There’s no context regarding how many total points you should reach in a day, no recommendations to eat a variety of foods from all the food groups or reminder that everyone needs some fat in their diet. But, I think if Raleys could add some of that information into its pamphlets.
Now the Superfood Blend was quite good and I’ll be adding greens to my smoothies from now on to make sure I hit the three out of five recommendations for breakfast. If I toss in some of the almonds and oatmeal I have in my pantry, I can pack five out of five into my breakfast meal. Sounds like a recipe for success, especially if I prepare them the night before.