[Editor’s note: Chef Ali Lopez is running the Bayshore Marathon tomorrow morning — good luck, Ali! We’re all cheering for you — You’ve got this! ~MRG]

By Ali Lopez
MRG Contributor

Anyone who knows me knows that avocados are my thing! In fact, I probably eat an avocado a day. Besides tasting amazing, this little fruit is a nutritional powerhouse. One avocado can supply more than 20 runner-essential nutrients, including potassium, copper, zinc, brain-boosting choline, vitamins E and K, and B vitamins. They even have more potassium than bananas for an electrolyte boost and also have powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can help your body recover after a hard workout.

Another reason avocados are also worth adding to your diet is that they provide healthy monounsaturated fats (the good fats!) Monounsaturated fats are necessary for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins and they help keep you full longer and keep your blood sugar more stable. I find that adding good fats to a meal doesn’t leave me crashing and hungry an hour later. And avocados are the only fruit that actually offers you a good amount of protein.

avocado-good-kind-of-fatSo how do you get more avocado in your life? Sure there is always guacamole. But there are so many other ways to add this lovely green fruit into your day. A good way to start is by swapping it with less-nutritious foods or by adding it to your meals to help boost flavor and nutrition — and give you staying power.

Here are some of my favorite ways of using avocado:

For breakfast, I love a piece of whole grain toast spread with avocado and topped with a fried or poached egg. In the summer I love to add a slice of a fresh, ripe tomato between the avocado and the egg. You can also just add some diced avocado to your favorite breakfast egg dish, omelets, scrambles. It’s all good!

IMG_0638Another great breakfast idea (or post-run refuel) is an avocado smoothie. You can just add a quarter or half an avocado to your favorite smoothie recipe. Or try this one:

Ali’s Avocado Smoothie

1 banana (preferably frozen)

½ an avocado

1-2 cups spinach or kale

1-2 Tablespoons nut butter

½ cup water, coconut water, ice, yogurt, milk (dairy or non-dairy)

Blend all together and drink. You can get creative and add other fruits to it (mango, pineapple and berries are awesome) or get decadent and add a tablespoon or two of cocoa/cacao powder for a chocolate treat.

For lunch, avocados are great for swapping in for mayo if you are making egg, tuna or salmon salad. I like to mash the avocado with some dijon mustard and sometimes a little greek yogurt for a tasty “mayo free” salad. Or try spreading it on a sandwich instead of mayo or cheese.

IMG_0479Or give my delicious dressing/spread a try:

Ali’s Avocado Dressing/Spread

1 avocado

handful of basil leaves (or cilantro)

½ cup plain yogurt

¼ teaspoon sea salt

ground black pepper, to taste

squeeze or two of lemon or lime juice

water to thin, if desired

Add the avocado and basil to the food processor and blend well. Then add the yogurt, salt and pepper. Combine. Taste and add lemon or lime juice. Taste again and season as you like. You can leave this thick and use it as a topping for burgers, potatoes, a spread for sandwiches or thin it a bit with water to use as a salad dressing. You can also use cilantro instead of basil for a completely different flavor.

For dinnertime, you can just add avocado to your favorite dishes for an added fat and nutrition boost. Try topping a baked sweet potato with black beans and avocado, or top a piece of grilled salmon or chicken with some diced avocado and tomato (or strawberries, when they are in season … amazing!) You can also make a yummy avocado pesto to toss with pasta. Just replace some of the olive oil in your favorite pesto recipe for a rich and creamy pesto!

If you want to read more about the magic and wonder of avocados check out this article »

Have a fueling question for Ali? Post it below in the comments section or email MRG with your healthy-eating questions at michiganrunnergirl [at] gmail [dot] com 

Ali will answer your questions in upcoming columns here on MRG. You can read her post about the Power of Smoothies, here »  She’s also written about superfoods and shares a great recipe for kale salad here »

Ali

Ali

Ali Lopez is a northern Michigan runner, chef and health coach. You can learn more about her at her web site Healthy Chef Ali. She’s also on Facebook here »

You can listen to a conversation about running and eating between Ali and Heather on a recent MRG podcast episode here »

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