It’s Smoothie Time!

One of my favorite breakfasts to get me energized for the day is a fruit smoothie. This post will be less “recipes” and more “smoothie theory” and “tips.” Smoothies are so versatile that there’s no need to look for an actual recipe to follow. But there ARE some things to bear in mind as you’re blending away.

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  1. GrEeN SmOOtHIeS!!!

I love a green smoothie — a fruity blended shake with a generous handful of kale or spinach mixed in. (Those are my go-to veggies, but you can use romaine, chard, collards, really any leafy green. They all have their own unique flavor, so experiment and see what you like best!)  I once read a tip that said to start with 40% greens and 60% sweet fruits in your smoothie, and ramp up to 60% greens and 40% fruit. However, you can absolutely do less greens if you’d like — the point is that you’re drinking your vegetables, which give you the vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, fiber, and other nutrients you need. You can only eat SO MUCH salad; cooking your greens is OK but you lose a lot of the nutrients that way. Green smoothies are a great way to get more greenage into your body, and it can be done almost without you even noticing: Pineapple is a great fruit for disguising the “green” taste of a green smoothie. I can add twice as much kale to my smoothie with a few chunks of pineapple, and it makes for a remarkably refreshing drink!

2. The right equipment.

No, you don’t need a Vitamix – though you might want one. I have a Montel Williams Health Master (yeah really) that my mom bought me from an infomercial. It’s a high-powered multi-speed blender that handles my kale stems just fine. You need something like that – your standard blenders will burn out quickly, and they won’t always liquefy your ingredients into a pleasing (or even palatable) consistency. So if you can afford a Vitamix, spring for one now and spare yourself the wasted time, money, and energy. You may also be able to find a used one on craigslist or in a yard sale, so keep an eye out. I have friends who have also had great success with the Ninja and Magic Bullet products – but I had an Oster brand personal cup-blender thing once, and it was a waste of $20. You really need a lot of horsepower, and you won’t regret it.

3. Avocado.

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OK, I really don’t put avocados into my smoothies — mostly because I enjoy the taste of avocado, and save mine for savory dishes (or eating right out of the half-shell!?!) but a good friend was notorious for putting avocado in her smoothies. She said it gave the smoothie a creamy texture, and would use that in place of a banana. But a word of caution, according to her — you must drink your smoothie right away if it contains avocado. Otherwise it will continue to thicken as it sits, to the point of becoming undrinkable. (And if you’ve ever left half an avocado anywhere for long, even in the fridge, I’m sure you can imagine that avocado smoothie becoming quite unpalatable, too.)

4. B-A-N-A-N-A-S

Bananas are a very inexpensive way to add a wonderful sweetness and a creamy texture to your smoothie. Feel free to add several! Don’t worry about the sugar content, either. They provide the type of sugar your brain and body use for fuel! Google Freelee the Banana Girl if you don’t believe me. Bananas are a staple in my house. Sometimes my son (who’s not too crazy about smoothies, especially if they’re green) will request a “banana shake:” bananas, coconut or cashew milk, usually cinnamon and vanilla, often a spoonful of peanut butter or almond butter, and mayyyybe a scoop of vegan protein powder (more below on these ingredients.)

Bananas too ripe? Smoothies are a great vehicle for overripe bananas — the riper they are, the sweeter! Still got more than you can use up? Peel them and freeze them!

5. Liquids.

There’s nothing wrong with using plain old water in your smoothie! It helps keep you hydrated, and doesn’t add unnecessary sugar like juice tends to. (The sugar in juice, unless it’s fresh squeezed, is not nearly as healthy for you as the sugar in real fruit, because pasteurized juice has had the nutrients literally cooked out of it; unpasteurized juice’s nutrients have deteriorated for as long as it’s been sitting there. Even when fresh, juice is missing the fiber which helps your system to absorb the sugar slowly and properly.) That being said, using only water as the liquid in your smoothie can sometimes be bland and unsatisfying, especially when you add greens and don’t have a banana and/or a pineapple to bump up the flavor and sweetness profile. Fresh orange juice is really nice in a smoothie from time to time. Try a blend of orange juice and water. Coconut water is a nice, refreshing way to hydrate as well. Look for a brand that’s not from concentrate. The flavor will be subtle, but will add a complexity that plain water won’t.

Another thing I like to do to give my smoothie a flavor boost is to add the juice of one fresh squeezed lemon. Make sure you have something sweet in there, of course, but this is a delicious (and VERY nutritious) way to “wake up” the flavor of the smoothie – and the lemon helps to gently cleanse your body as well. Lime also works well here.

Coconut, cashew, or almond milk are also great in a smoothie; but I don’t like to combine them with citrus or pineapple – it could curdle the milk and become a waste of ingredients. Though if you did coconut milk with pineapple, you might end up with a nice virgin pina colada!

6. Frozen Fruit.

You can add virtually any fruit into your smoothie, but don’t forget to check out the frozen section. There are several reasons for this. One is, the frozen fruit may actually be fresher! Frozen fruit is often picked when ripe and flash-frozen at the optimal time to eat it — whereas fresh fruit is usually picked when unripe and transported hundreds or thousands of miles to the grocery store, and sometimes sprayed with gas to then cause it to ripen. Doesn’t sound ideal, does it? Another reason is cost. In my area, you can buy 6 oz of fresh raspberries (possibly my favorite food) for like $4; or you can migrate to the frozen case, where that same $4 (or less!) will buy 12 oz to a pound of raspberries instead.  Finally, you may get a more consistent selection when you check the frozen section — depending on your area, fresh fruit will vary tremendously in availability, quality, and price by season. Frozen fruit is there for you all winter long. I usually use a mix of fresh and frozen in each smoothie, to keep my drink cold but still in liquid form.

Less can be more — I’m usually the person who wants the most ingredients possible in my meal, whether it’s a smoothie or a curry — and I’ve been known to add every fruit in the house into my smoothies. These are delicious concoctions, but you really only need one fruit to make a delicious smoothie. Right now I’m sipping on frozen cherries blended with coconut water and a splash of cinnamon. The juice of a lime would elevate this to an even higher level! And if I’d used coconut milk instead of coconut water, it’d be a wholly different beverage. Do you see how the possibilities are endless?

7. Mangoes…

Mangoes are wonderful in smoothies. They’re sweet, a bit creamy, and have a delightful tropical flavor. But wait, why does your smoothie suddenly feel…hairy?!?  Traditional mangoes have strands of fiber that run through them, especially closer to the seed, that can seriously affect a smoothie’s texture. Some ways to avoid this problem include: tasting your mango before you put it in the smoothie, and making sure the texture is acceptable; using frozen mango, which is usually less fibrous for some reason; and using Atalufo mangoes (sometimes called champagne mangoes) which are smaller, usually less expensive, and have a much smoother texture.

8. Fun Mix-In’s.

Feel free to add any of the following, for a breakfast shake that’s truly your own: Almond or Peanut Butter, Protein Powder*, Cinnamon (I add this to almost all my smoothies, and it’s ridiculously good), other spices such as ginger or clove or nutmeg, Matcha Powder, Cacao nibs or cacao powder, edible essential oils (orange, lemon, lime, clove, etc), vanilla powder or vanilla extract — or anything else that you think would be delicious in your smoothies!! I’m not usually a fan of adding an actual sweetener to my smoothies, preferring to rely on the sweetness of the fruit itself — but if I’m out of banana and pineapple, and maybe just need a touch more sweetness, a light splash of real maple syrup does the trick.

*A Word on Protein Powder:

Hailed by fitness junkies, health gurus of all stripes, and just nearly everyone, protein powder is actually pretty unnecessary. I’ll do a whole post about protein sometime in the future, so I won’t rant too long here. But just know that unless you are at a calorie deficit (read: starving yourself), it is virtually impossible for you not to be getting enough protein. It’s a made-up problem that simply doesn’t exist for 99% of the well-fed folks reading this. That being said, sometimes I like to add a scoop of vegan, soy-free protein powder to my smoothie (unless organic, you can bank on your soy being genetically modified; and whey is just terrible for you — again, more later). I’ve been using Doterra brand’s V Shake, and find that it keeps me feeling fuller longer than my strictly fresh fruit and veggie smoothies. But never, ever feel that you need to buy a product such as this one, for any reason.

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Alright, that’s all the time I have for smoothie building — drink up, enjoy, and happy blending! Let me know what you whirl up!

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Cheers, J