Smoothies are easily one of my favorite quick, easy, nutrient-packed foods. After walking home in the 90 degree weather (yes, New England goes from snow to 90s in 5 days), I was craving a smoothie. I threw together a simple smoothie with coconut water, strawberries, and chia seeds. The best part about smoothies is the unlimited combinations. You can create a new super smoothie everyday with the thousands of recipes out there, or your creativity. It's impossible to get bored with all the combinations.
They are perfect for a quick breakfast, snack, or post-workout recovery drink. Lately, I've been throwing together a smoothie for breakfast in the morning. I apologize to my neighbors for my loud blender at 7 am.
Most commercial smoothies tend to be fruit-based with additional sugar. That can send your blood sugar on a roller-coaster ride, and you'll end up starving in an hour or so. The key is creating a balanced super smoothie with some protein and healthy fats, as well as packing it full with nutrients. If you're feeling brave, you can even throw some veggies in there to start your day off with a bang.
Here's how to build a super-nutrient dense smoothie.
Frozen fruit is an excellent choice for smoothies because you don't have to add additional ice. Frozen fruit is frozen immediately after picking, so all the fantastic vitamins, minerals, & nutrients remain. It's also great in the winter when fruit is not in season, or you can freeze your summer fruit to use all year round. Thankfully, summer is finally here, and there will be tons of fresh and local fruit available, especially those antioxidant-rich berries.
If you want a balanced smoothie for a meal, add about 0.5-1 cup fruit. If you want a sweeter, more-fruit based smoothie, for a snack or a treat, add more fruit as desired. Fruit provides natural, delicious sweetness, but excess fruit will lead to blood sugar imbalance. Frozen bananas are a great smoothie base.
Avocado is a terrific fruit to add to a smoothie. Adding 1/4 to 1/2 avocado makes your smoothie super creamy, and avocados freeze really well. Just peel and pit them first.
Yes, it may seem strange adding vegetables to a smoothie, but green smoothies are all the rage. Adding a handful of spinach will turn your smoothie green (or even brown), but it won't change the taste dramatically. Start slow with a handful of greens, then you can add a little bit more if you don't mind the vegetable taste.
I usually add a peeled mini cucumber to my smoothie, and it adds additional hydration and phytonutrients. If you have a sturdy blender (Vitamix, Blendtec), you can try kale or other greens. Other blenders may not be able to handle these tougher greens. You can also chop up carrots and throw them in there.
Adding a handful of greens, or a cucumber or carrot is a great way to sneak in some extra veggies into your day.
The liquid base may be milk or non-dairy milk (almond or coconut, for example), yogurt, kefir, coconut water, kombucha, or even just water. Adding a protein, such as Greek yogurt or kefir, adds some protein and fats to the smoothie to keep it balanced and keep you satisfied. The kefir also adds probiotics to keep your gut healthy.
The fruits and veggies will add liquid when blended, so you only need enough liquid to blend everything together. If you like creamier or thicker smoothies, use less liquid, or yogurt or kefir.
This is the fun part! You can make a great smoothie with some fruit and yogurt, but if you really want to boost the nutrients and flavor, get creative and add additional items.
If you want additional protein, you can use protein powder, but I would recommend looking for one with minimal and clean ingredients. There are plant-based proteins, as well as clean whey proteins, even ones from grass-fed animals. Many protein powders have long ingredient lists with sugar, artificial sweeteners, and so many chemicals I can't even pronounce. Your protein should come mostly from food, but a clean protein powder occasionally is fine.
Some ways to add healthy fats and some protein include (if you're trying to gain weight, these are great additions):
- Almond Butter (or other nut or seed butters)
- Chia Seeds
- Flax Seeds
- Coconut or Olive Oil
- Shredded unsweetened coconut
- Full-fat coconut milk
Add some herbs, spices, and extras to kick the flavor and nutrition up another notch:
- Fresh herbs - mint, cilantro, parsley, basil
- Chai spices
- Vanilla Extract
- Cocoa Powder
If you want to sweeten it up and make it more of a treat, try:
- Maple syrup or local honey
- Dates (the food; or you could have a romantic summer smoothie date...)
- Ice cream
A great post-sweaty workout smoothie would include hydration, carbohydrates, and electrolytes, like this one:
- 1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks
- Handful fresh strawberries
- 4-8 oz coconut water
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- Sprinkle of cinnamon
A balanced breakfast smoothie may be:
Almond Butter Banana Smoothie
- 1 small frozen banana
- 1/2 cup full-fat kefir or Greek yogurt
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
For the brave, green smoothie folks, here's a healthy digestive-aid smoothie:
Basic Green Lemon-Ginger Smoothie
- Handful spinach
- Peeled mini cucumber
- 1 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
- 1 small banana
- 1/2 lemon peeled
- Few slices fresh ginger
If you want super smoothie ideas, there's tons of recipes out there or full Pinterest boards of them. Here's a great website with tons of green smoothie recipes.
What's your favorite smoothie recipe?