Dr. Smood NYC

Dr. Smood NYC

I am always looking for new, trendy, and healthy places to grab a bite in NYC, and when I find a good one I can’t wait to tell all my friends about it!  I recently found a Well + Good article about a new cafe in the city, Dr. Smood.  With the tag line “Smart Food for a Good Mood,” I was immediately intrigued.

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The sparknotes of the Well + Good article that so caught my attention basically explained that a Danish couple, frustrated by the lack of healthy grab-and-go eateries, decided to open their own in Miami, and worked with the holistic nutritionist and healer Dr. Etti-Zion to develop the menu.  They developed a spread of items that was anti inflammatory (80% plant based), organic, and nutrient dense.  The entire menu is dairy free, and each location makes its own nut milks.  The coffee is made with white coffee beans, which means the beans are lightly toasted instead of roasted, which results in a cup of coffee that’s higher in antioxidants and lower in acidity.  Lastly, the sandwiches are made with a special ‘performance bread’ made with only four ingredients (millet flakes, spelt flour, water, and salt) that doesn’t spike your blood sugar and is low carb.  This keeps you full longer, provides consistent and stable energy, and doesn’t put you into a food coma.

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Since I don’t generally eat sandwiches or wraps, it was the homemade performance bread that won me over and I decided that I absolutely had to visit Dr. Smood.  Literally on my next available day off from work, I headed into the city for an early, healthy, and satisfying dinner.  When I arrived, I was immediately happy with the vibe and the mood.  The music playing was trendy and upbeat, but not so loud as to be distracting, and there was a wide variety of customers ranging from business people grabbing a quick bite to people sitting in the corner reading a book and sipping on a matcha latte.  At the register, in typical Madeline fashion, I asked a ton of questions.  The guy behind the counter was extremely patient with me, very knowledgable, and was visibly excited about the products at Dr. Smood, which is something I always love to see.  I wound up taking his recommendation to get the Wild Caught Salmon sandwich (smoked salmon, avo, tomato, vegan cream cheese, on the performance bread), and he even threw on some vegan homemade pesto for an added kick of flavor.  I also got an iced matcha latte, and, forgetting where I was, blurted out my default “unsweetened, please” part of my order.  To which he pleasantly replied with a smile, “Ma’am, we don’t sweeten anything back here.”  Music to my ears.

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The sandwich was delicious, the portion size was perfect, and I can honestly say I was full for hours afterwards (which is very rare for me, especially after a sandwich).  I was so happy that, for dinner plans with my cousin a few days later, I insisted that we come here.  For my second time around, I got the vegan sandwich and added turkey to it, and tried the Hawaj White Coffee.  Since I had someone with me this time around, we also got the Organic Cinnamon Rolls to share.  The sandwich was just as delicious and satisfying as the first one, and the coffee was really tasty and spiced in such a unique way.  The cinnamon roll wasn’t your typical ooey gooey bun, but was definitely tasty and satisfied my post-meal sweet tooth.

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Overall, Dr. Smood is definitely a place I can see myself becoming a regular at.  It’s a little pricey, but definitely very reasonable for a dinner in NYC, especially taking into consideration the quality of food you’re getting.  In addition to sandwiches/salads/coffee/tea/pastries, they also sell juices, smoothies, and snacks like granola and veggie jerky.  I highly recommend, and I would love to hear your thoughts once you try it out!

Stay fit and fresh, all!

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Tips for Buying Lunch at Work

Tips for Buying Lunch at Work

Try as you might, are you still finding it difficult to prep your meals in advance for the week?  Or maybe you just really hate cooking and want to do it as little as possible.  Whatever the reason may be, I understand that preparing every meal of every day in advance isn’t a lifestyle that suits everyone.  To each their own!  If buying lunch is something that you do regularly, it’s so important to make well-informed and smart decisions to stay on track with  your goals.  I’ve been out of the buying lunch game for a while now, so I decided that for a week I would buy my lunch instead of bringing one from home, and use my experiences to come up with some tips and tricks for you on buying lunch.

As an extra little side experiment, I didn’t tell my team at work about my lunch-buying research, and wanted to see if/when they would become alarmed and concerned by my sudden change in routine.  I didn’t have to wait very long – it happened on Tuesday.

 So for my week of buying lunch, I tried to go to places that are chains, and places that are typical lunch spots. I wanted my experiences to be able to translate into general guidelines for you, but also provide specific and relevant examples.  Here’s what I wound up munching on this week for lunch:

  1. Poke (I went to a spot near my job, but all poke places are pretty similar so my tips here can be applied wherever it’s convenient for you)
  2. Sweetgreen
  3. Chipotle
  4. Stamina Grill (Ok so this one isn’t a chain, but it looked so good I had to try it)
  5. Buffet style deli (again, I went to a spot near my job, but my tips here can be applied to any buffet style deli)

Before I get into the details of each individual day, here’s a few things that I learned as general notes:

First, this might seem silly to even mention because it’s pretty obvious, but it’s so much easier to plan out your day when your lunch spot posts its nutrition facts online.  It’s important to assess the accuracy of the facts posted once you actually get your meal and can see what’s in it, but it’s so much easier to estimate when you have a starting point.  Also, don’t automatically assume that a place doesn’t have macro information online.  I am pleasantly surprised at the amount of restaurants lately that post nutrition information.  Best practice would be to Google ‘[Eatery name] nutrition information’ for any place you’re interested in eating at.  You might be surprised at which of your favorite restaurants actually post information!

Second, when you are estimating the calories/macros in a meal, break it down by each individual ingredient or component of the dish, rather than just trying to place a guesstimated number on the dish as a whole. When estimating, you’re already by default not really getting an accurate number, so by taking a general high level assessment of a dish as a whole and slapping a number on it, you’re almost positively going to be pretty far off.  Also, taking each ingredient/component individually ensures that you don’t accidentally leave something out in your consideration.

Third, keep the blinders ON at the checkout line.  I know there’s a ton of good stuff on those impulse shelves just begging to be purchased while you wait patiently on line to get rung up.  I fell victim to these impulsive purchases this week too…sometimes they’re so hard to resist!  If it’s not something you would normally eat, or if it’s not something you would have brought from home to go with your lunch, then don’t impulsively grab it while you’re waiting on line.

Fourth, when you’re at an eatery that offers ‘signature’ dishes as well as ‘build-your-own,’ it’s almost always better to make your own.  The signature dishes always have more ingredients than you’d have thought to order on your own and probably use dressings and sauces that you wouldn’t have otherwise selected.  Although they’re delicious, they have a ton of extra calories as opposed to if you were to build your own.  Best practice would be to skip directly to the build your own portion of the menu so you aren’t tempted by the signature dishes.

Fifth, on a similar note, best practice is that bowls are always better than wraps or burritos.  The wrap/tortilla adds a lot of avoidable carbs and fills you up with fairly empty calories.  I personally much rather get a bowl and fill it with protein and veggies instead.

Sixth, another best practice – plan your dinners in advance so you know exactly what macros you need to hit on lunch in order to meet your goals for the day.  Since lunches are going to be spontaneous on a day-to-day basis, dinners will need to be well planned.

Seventh, even if you’re buying lunch, you can always bring certain components from home to make it the most ideal meal.  For example, if you make your own salad dressings or dipping sauces, bring them with you and add your own flair to your store-bought lunch!  Also, if you’re having trouble hitting your protein, which was often a struggle for me this week, you can always bring some extra protein from home to supplement.

Eighth, check the restaurant’s menu prior to your arrival, and preferably right after you eat breakfast, so that you can settle on what you’ll order at a time that you’re not starving.  They say you’re not supposed to go the grocery store hungry, otherwise you’ll blow your life savings in one shop getting one of everything because you’re so excited to eat.  This follows that same idea.  Once you get to the eatery and smell all the delicious flavors in there, it’s going to be really difficult to settle on one of the more healthy options.  So check the menu early, and stick with your original decision once you get there.  It helped me to log into my macro tracking app in advance the lunch that I chose, because then it felt like a more final decision that would require more math and planning if I wanted to change it. And who has time for that, right?

Lastly, choose a solid rotation of 5-6 eateries that you like, and try to generally stick to those same places.  The more you eat at the same place, the better you will get at estimating the macros in your meal.  You’ll be able to track patterns about a certain place based on how your body reacts to its food over time.  To take an extreme example, if you eat at the same lunch spot every single day and are tracking your macros at a deficit but you aren’t losing body fat, it’s safe to assume that you’re underestimating for lunch.

Ok, with those general observations out of the way, let’s get to each day’s meals!

Monday – Pokegreen

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I absolutely love sushi in general.  It’s really refreshing, especially now that it’s starting to get warmer out, and I like the fact that all ingredients are raw and visible.  The way sushi will get you, though, is with the rice and the sauces.  When I order my poke bowls, I always skip the rice and have them put my mix-ins over a bed of lettuce instead.  Also, instead of getting one of the mayo-based dressings, I will get Ponzu sauce, or plain soy sauce.

On this day, I ordered a bowl with lettuce as the base instead of rice, salmon and tuna as my proteins, and the following mix-ins: cucumber, edamame, corn, seaweed, and roe.  I chose Ponzu sauce as the dressing (but I even recommend soy sauce, which is equally as delicious and essentially free of calories).  I generally try to order as many low-cal veggies that a place like this has to offer, such as cucumber, celery, tomato, etc. And I will choose a maximum of two higher carb mix-ins like corn and edamame.   Once I got back to work, I googled each of the ingredients in my bowl to get an estimate on the nutrition facts of each.  I also estimated that they gave me a full serving of each fish (about 3 oz), and that an ice cream scoop (which is what they used for the mix-ins) is 1/4 cup.  After taking each ingredient into consideration, my meal came out to P – 71, C – 52, and F – 29.  It was a whopping 750 calories, which is almost double what I usually eat at lunch, so needless to say I was pretty full after.  Retrospectively, I thought about how I could have changed my order to have a more favorable spread of macros.  I decided that I could have done double tuna instead of half tuna half salmon, which would have saved a lot of fats.  I also could have done without the corn, which has a lot of carbs.  Lastly, I could have done soy sauce instead of the Ponzu.  Had I made those three simple alterations to my order, I’d have saved about 200 calories.

Tuesday – Sweetgreen

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After yesterday’s accidental huge lunch, I decided to play it ‘safe’ and get a salad on Tuesday.  Believe it or not, I actually had never tried Sweetgreen before.  In general, the salad was tasty and the ingredients were fresh, but my experience here wasn’t the most ideal.  Maybe I had gone at an off-hour, but a bunch of popular ingredients weren’t restocked so I had to wait quite a bit of time for my salad to get made.  Also, maybe I’m spoiled but I really wish they had chopped the salad.  Either way, I enjoyed it and will go back again before jumping to any conclusions, since it was my first time trying it out.

I know I just mentioned that I wish Sweetgreen had chopped my salad.  When you read that, I’ll bet you said out loud, excitedly, ‘but Madeline, there’s a place specifically KNOWN for chopping their salads – you HAVE to try it!’  Let me take just an extra minute of your time here to talk about Chop’t.  I used to be an avid Chop’t goer, a few years back.  When I started counting my macros, though, I educated myself on the nutrition facts and ingredients in their salads, I had a really hard time getting any of their signature bowls to fit my diet plan.  I still wanted to go there, though, so I decided to just build my own salad, and it came out to literally $17.  That was my last time going to Chop’t.

I actually forget the exact ingredients I ordered in my salad since I didn’t write them down immediately afterwards.  I do remember that after looking up the nutritional information of corn yesterday, I decided to do without it in my salad.  For protein, I got chicken and an egg, and as dressing I just got a squeeze of fresh lime.  I estimated this lunch at P – 30, C – 20, and F – 12.

Wednesday – Chipotle

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This might come as a surprise to you, as it did for me when my fitness guru told me, but Chipotle is a macro counter’s heavenly dream.  The food is delicious, obviously, and you can walk out of there with literally any spread of macros that your heart desires.  It’s a great option for grabbing a quick bite out, and you don’t even need to plan much ahead of time for it since it’s so customizable.  If you aren’t aware of all of the customizable options at Chipotle, you’re absolutely doing it wrong.  If you remember one thing only from reading this post, I hope it’s the following customizability hacks at Chipotle that can totally save your macros:

  1. I’ll start small.  Omit any ingredient you don’t want.  Low carb day?  Skip the rice and beans altogether.
  2. Customizable scoop sizes!  I know it’s difficult to tell exactly how much is in each spoonful of goodness that goes into your plate, but you can request baby scoops, half scoops, large scoops, and double scoops of any ingredient you want.  The price of your lunch might vary, but at least you’ll be getting a meal you’re comfortable with.
  3. Unlimited veggies!  I don’t know why, but I always forget about the fajita veggies until my bowl has already passed along to the next assemblyman behind the counter, and then I have to ask them to go all the way back to the beginning of the process just to get me my veggies.  I’m the worst.  But seriously, don’t skip those veggies.  They’re really tasty, filling, and add some greens to your day.

I ordered my typical Chipotle order – burrito bowl, no rice, 1/2 scoop beans, double chicken, double fajita veggies, tomato salsa, corn salsa, and lettuce.  P – 75, C – 45, F – 17.  633 calories total, but they’re 633 calories I’m totally fine with.

Thursday – Stamina Grill

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So if you’re not in this specific area, you unfortunately can’t go to the Stamina Grill.  This place was very cool.  Everything is made to order using fresh ingredients.  For wraps, the tortillas are whole wheat and low carb, and the french fries are baked instead of fried.  They also do juices and smoothies, but I didn’t get one of those so I can’t speak about them from experience.  On this day, I got the Stamina Wrap (chicken, spinach, and egg whites), and I added low-fat mozzarella cheese.  I used the internet to estimate the macros for the low carb whole wheat wrap and the lowfat mozzarella, and I eyeballed the chicken and egg whites once I got the wrap in order to try to get the portions right.  I settled on P – 45, C – 19, and F – 14 for the whole wrap.

Friday – Essen Deli

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I both love and hate buffet style deli lunches, mostly because they’re so hit-or-miss.  Generally speaking, they’re pretty good because you get to pick and choose exactly what you want to fill your plate with.  The downside is that you never really know what’s in each dish and how it’s prepared.  I was a little bit disappointed when I walked into this particular Essen location and perused the hot and cold buffet because there wasn’t any option that wasn’t already pre-seasoned and pre-dressed.  Usually at these buffet spreads, there’s at least something that’s steamed, and at least one salad option that you get to dress yourself.  Not here, though.  I definitely had the most difficulty on this day because it was just really difficult to estimate my macros.  A little trick that I do when trying to decide which options to choose when at these types of eateries is to take the serving spoon and move aside all the food in a plate until I can see the bottom.  If there’s a pool of oil down there, chances are the food is also covered in it.

I wound up choosing a salad as a base to my dish that was dressed with a sweet dressing and tossed with strawberries, almond slivers, and dried cranberries.  It was definitely a high carb/sugar salad, but I chose it because it was the only salad option that didn’t have a creamy salad dressing.  croutons, or a visible pool of oil in it.  I topped my salad with a generous portion of grilled chicken, and roasted cauliflower.  All of the veggies had oil on them, so I accounted for about 2 servings of olive oil for the veggies alone.  Overall this meal was really tasty, but probably the highest calorie salad I’ve had in years.

Let’s recap.

Buying lunch out definitely has its pros and cons.  The pros include that the food is certainly tasty, and you can have a nice variety every day.  Also, if you pack your lunch the night before like I do (instead of preparing every single container for the week at once) it does save a lot of time and energy spent cutting things up and planning/packaging a meal every night.  Oh, and so much time saved not washing dishes.  Lastly, there’s the social aspect of it.  I joked around earlier that my team was concerned with my sudden behavior change, but kidding aside it was really nice spending that extra 20-30 minutes with them while we walked to lunch and waited on line together.

The cons, though.  Buying lunch every day is way more expensive than prepping it yourself.  It also prevents you from being accurate in tracking your macros.  Lastly, buying food out is very high in sodium.  I rarely cook with any salt, so I was very aware of the amount of sodium in the lunches that I bought.

Overall, I enjoyed this experience.  And while I’ll never be the type of person at work to buy lunch every day, I will definitely remember that there are viable options out there if I do want to buy lunch occasionally but don’t want to totally blow my macros.

I hope this post was helpful!  What are your favorite lunch spots?  Do you run into the same difficulties I ran into this week?  I’d love to hear your experiences!

Stay fit and fueled, all!

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Milk and Roses – A Healthy and Adorable French Cafe in Brooklyn

Milk and Roses – A Healthy and Adorable French Cafe in Brooklyn

As fun and exciting as it is to explore New York City and all of its wonderful cheat meal opportunities, it’s equally as fun, and certainly more functional, to explore healthy options too.  Last week I ran out of prep by Friday night, so Saturday I had to wing it.  For breakfast I had some Purely Elizabeth cereal with almond milk and then headed to the gym.  Afterwards, I was very ready for lunch and was determined to find a spot in Brooklyn where I could hang out, get some work done, and have a meal that wouldn’t break my macros for the day.  After a bit of research, I decided I would try Milk and Roses, an adorable French bistro in Williamsburg.

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When I got there, I was immediately pleased with my choice.  Though I was *slightly* under-dressed in my gym clothes (what else is new, right?), the wait staff didn’t mention it so I walked in and sat down.  The atmosphere was very cozy and comfortable – it felt like I was sitting in my living room (if I lived in a fancy old Victorian home with red leather couches, a grand piano, and walls of bookshelves).  Once I got settled and opened my laptop, though, a waiter came over to me and politely told me that the restaurant adheres to a no laptop policy anytime outside the hours of 9AM-5PM Monday through Friday.  So I wouldn’t be getting any work done over lunch, but maybe that’s for the best anyway.

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It was 1 PM and they were still serving the breakfast/lunch (brunch?) menu, which is exactly what I was looking for.  (P.S. They take breakfast orders until 3:45 PM, like true heroes).  I ordered the avocado toast, greek yogurt with granola and berries, and a decaf latte.  The avo toast came with poached eggs on top, and the greek yogurt came with a heaping serving of fresh berries.  In retrospect, two dishes was too much food for one lunch, but I wanted to have a small variety of things to write about in this post, so #NoRegrets.

The latte was delicious, and perfectly foamy.

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The avo toast had just the right amount of perfectly seasoned smashed avo, a side salad, and the poached eggs on top, cooked just enough, made this a more nutritious option than plain avocado toast.  The toast was ciabatta, which is a little bit crusty on the edges for my liking, but that’s just a personal preference.  Overall, I highly recommend this dish.

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The greek yogurt bowl with granola and berries was pretty good too. The greek yogurt was light and fluffy, and the berries (strawberries and blueberries) were very fresh.  The granola was a bit sweet, though, and I opted to not eat all of it.  Overall, this was a tasty choice, but definitely something that you can easily make for yourself at home with more favorable macros.

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When it came time to pay for the bill, I learned that it’s cash only, but there’s an ATM on the premise, so it wasn’t a huge deal.  When I made my way to the ATM, I noticed that there’s a really cute garden/patio out back with additional seating.

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I would definitely recommend this spot and I’m so glad I stumbled across it this weekend.  There’s something for everyone on the menu, and the ambience is great for a cozy date, and is casual and accommodating for a larger group as well.  The food and coffee is good, and the wait staff is very friendly.  The prices are also really reasonable.  I can’t wait to go back and try their other brunch items, their dinner menu, and sit on the back patio when the weather is nicer!  If you decide to check it out, let me know what your favorite dishes are!

Stay fit and fun, all!

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#teavanatime

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Last week I had the pleasure of attending a really great event put on by Teavana at their Broadway and 9th Street NYC location.  I have always loved drinking tea for both the taste and the experience, however I have been a more consistent coffee drinker over the years.  I have been looking to reduce my coffee drinking, though, not because coffee is inherently bad, but because having a cup of coffee for me is an excuse to also have a lot of milk and sugar.  Tea has always been such a great alternative because I am capable of enjoying it without the added milk and sugar.  That said, I have been actively looking for a tea brand or company where I could consistently get tea that I know I would love.  Teavana put on such a great event at such a perfect time for me, and I’m so excited to share it with all of you!

The event was an “Entertaining with Tea” session, featuring Teavana Teologist Naoko Tsunoda, and entertaining expert Chris Nease.  Naoko talked with us about five different tea blends, explaining the logic behind their flavors, how to perfectly brew them, and what foods to serve them with to best complement their rich flavors.  Delicious samples were provided, of course!  She also incorporated a bit of the history of tea into her segment, including the origins of the different teapots and why each teapot is ideal for different teas.  It was truly fascinating, and I had no idea there was so much that went into brewing a perfect cup of tea, including even the temperature of the water!  Chris’ segment centered around planning and executing the perfect tea party.  From table setting to food and dessert, and even tea related games to play, she did a great job sharing her creative ideas for planning a tea party that would go down in the books!

Check out both of their social media for tea-time tips and tricks!

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I was SO excited at the end of the event when we got a gift bag with the Teavana Perfectea Maker, as well as a sampling of tea and some other goodies.  I couldn’t wait to brew my own perfect cup of tea at home.  The Perfectea Maker was so easy to use, easy to clean, and made it simple to brew the perfect cup of tea in just a few steps.  I think the only tricky part is making the water the perfect temperature – 175 degrees Fahrenheit.  I have a cooking thermometer that I use to measure the water temperature, but Naoko also told us that water drops 5 degrees every time it is transferred to a new container (as long as the containers have similar sized mouths), so this is an alternative way to ensure that you are brewing your tea with water of the ideal temperature.  Some of the teas have dried fruit in the blend along with the tea leaves, so it is naturally sweet, fragrant, and yummy.  If you’re brewing tea for two (or more), consider the large option for the teapot.

While I was at the Teavana location, I couldn’t help but notice how friendly, helpful, and well-informed the staff was.  They are so obviously passionate about what they do, and were so knowledgeable about Teavana teas and their blends that they helped me pick out the perfect blend for me to take home. While I was browsing the store, I also saw a matcha set which came with matcha powder, an electric whisk, and a porcelain bowl to mix your matcha in.  The matcha sample during the event was so good that I couldn’t resist buying this set. I have not been disappointed.  My sister tipped me off to a great matcha latte idea, where you whisk the matcha powder into almond milk instead of water, and instead of sugar you can add some vanilla protein powder.  It makes a DELICIOUS vanilla matcha latte that, depending on how much almond milk and protein you add, can function as a great snack.

If you’re into tea, or you’re looking for a means by which to familiarize yourself with tea, Teavana is a great place to start!  Stay tuned on my Instagram for more tea-related updates… I placed an order with Teavana for all sorts of teas and they should be arriving any day!

Stay fit and full of flavor, all!

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Fuel Champion Restaurant – Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn, NY

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In honor of my most recent smoothie post, here’s another (brief) one dedicated to smoothies and healthy eating.  Just yesterday afternoon I visited Fuel Champion Restaurant in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.  Fuel offers health food and fruit/veggie smoothies, with the addition of protein powder by request.  The environment was very casual and most people took their food and smoothies to go, but there are some tables in the restaurant to sit and relax while you eat your meal as well.  In addition to health food and smoothies, Fuel offers a wall of refrigerators containing your choice of beverage, including Vitamin Water, Gatorade, energy drinks, and protein shakes.  In addition, there was also a large selection of packaged snacks such as nuts, trail mix, and protein bars, for a quick on-the-run boost.

The menu is extensive, ranging from breakfasts, wraps, and burgers, to salads and smoothies.  View the full menu here.  After much contemplation, I decided on the Fuel Energy Power Smoothie (which is actually not listed on the menu posted online but can be found on the menu on the wall of the restaurant), consisting of banana, blueberry, spinach, acai berry, and soy milk.  It was delicious to say the least, and even more satisfying because I watched it being made with my own eyes from all fresh ingredients.  Unfortunately, I have not tried the food at this spot yet, although I intend to try it soon; so keep posted on my Twitter and Instagram for more information!

Don’t live in Brooklyn?  That doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the delicious smoothie combinations on Fuel’s menu.  Check out the link above and try making some of them at home!  Then if you’re ever in the area, don’t forget to stop by to try your favorite recipes from their original source.

Fuel Champion Restaurant is located at 1715 Sheepshead Bay Road in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.  It is just around the corner from the Sheepshead Bay stop of the Q and B trains!

Stay fit and fresh, all!