Cara Harbstreet Shares Her Passion for Health and Vitality + Her Winning Smoothie Recipe
As a registered dietitian, clinical nutrition specialist, and runner, Cara Harbstreet keeps a tight and active schedule. She’s motivated – not just by her own internal drive and passion for a vital life – but by seeing her patients and her clients achieve success too.
Cara’s delicious Wild Blueberry Mango Lassi Smoothie was a runner up in this year’s Wild Your Smoothie Recipe Contest. We recently had a conversation with her to learn more about the inspiration behind her delicious recipe, why she believes smoothies are such a perfect food and what she loves about her profession. Here’s what she had to say:
“Most of my clients have a general idea of how they’d like to improve their health and diet, but they struggle with how to translate that into setting goals and behavior change,” says Cara.
As a registered dietitian, Cara’s job is to help build a lasting framework for success, which includes providing tools, support, and accountability. “Many of my clients are concerned about illness or a family history of certain diseases,” she explains. “We work together to collect information that is backed by research, and we create a plan for how to incorporate healthy eating habits into their lifestyle.”
“A lot of people struggle with the basics. They want to be healthy and they want to be there for their families and enjoy living the life they want to live, but they struggle with creating a successful plan. I really enjoy when my clients get validation that their efforts are working,” she says.
As part of her consulting work, Cara offers cooking classes and workshops to help inspire clients and put culinary tools in their toolbox. “Many people lack skill and confidence in the kitchen, and giving them tools for cooking can be really helpful.”
Becoming a health advocate
Cara grew up in Kansas City where she lives today with her husband and assemblage of furry friends. In addition to her private practice, she is a diabetes educator at Children’s Mercy Hospital, where she provides family education for newly diagnosed Type I Diabetes Mellitus patients. In 2016, Cara created Street Smart Nutrition, an online resource for people seeking healthy recipes, articles, and advice. In addition to providing individual, family, and small group nutrition counseling, Cara is also a freelance writer for local and national media. Before becoming a nutrition blogger and influencer, Cara was an athlete, a high jumper, to be exact. She picked up long-distance running after her collegiate career was finished. Today she still runs, and when we spoke, she had just completed her ninth half-marathon.
“Running is a passion for me. It’s a huge stress reliever and a way of clearing my mind,” says Cara. But she confesses that her early running career would have been more successful if she had known then what she knows now about food as fuel. Cara believes that nutrition can help to treat and prevent injury; it can help you develop lean muscle mass and strong bone density; it can create physical wellness and promote overall health and longevity. “The connectivity of these issues was missing when I was younger,” she confesses.
To stay healthy and manage her stress, Cara runs about 15-25 miles per week, practices yoga a couple of times a week, and tries to hit a group exercise class each week. Because her energy level is high in the late afternoon and early evening, she prefers to run after work. She does not use music. “I actually prefer quiet and the chance to concentrate on my thoughts. This is a chance for me to shut down from all electronics,” she says.
The winning recipe
Cara is a regular smoothie drinker, especially during the spring, summer, and fall months. Her winning Wild Blueberry Mango Lassi Smoothie recipe combined some of her favorite ingredients, including:
- Frozen Wild Blueberries
- Frozen Mango
- Plain kefir to create a creamy texture
- Spices, including cardamom and cinnamon
“For this contest, I wanted to try something new, so I conjured up a combination of flavors and used my Magic Bullet to blend it up,” says Cara. She discovered the Lassi at a local Indian restaurant and she liked the flavor, so the idea of adding Indian spices was intriguing. “Spices are easily overlooked, yet they are a great way to get more antioxidants and more anti-inflammatory properties into the diet, plus they are anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and they support healthy blood sugar levels.” Cara says she likes cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, which help support our immune system.
Frozen fruit is a staple for Cara, but before the contest, Wild Blueberries were new to her. “I immediately noticed the better, more intense flavor, and the beautiful color of the Wild Blueberries,” she says. “Now I keep them in my freezer all the time.”
She’s a big smoothie drinker too because they are so adaptable and provide an easy way to add nutrition with a variety of new ingredients. “I make smoothies in the morning as breakfast, or before and after a run as a quick fuel,” she says.