Blended smoothies are healthy nutrient-rich drinks that can serve as both meals and snacks. Commercially bottled smoothies, however, can be calorie and sugar bombs that have also been pasteurized. Unfortunately, this heating process kills all the beneficial enzymes a fresh homemade smoothie has to offer. The solution? Create your own fresh and healthy smoothie this Summer with 5 easy tips from a pro.
Before you get started, however, let me share why I know so much about smoothies. For over 12 years our family had a successful smoothie pushcart business in several locations around Eugene, Oregon. We served tens of thousands of customers during the 1980’s, a time when smoothies were a novelty because they were not available commercially in any store. Lulu’s Smoothies (our business name) allowed us to create the freshest chunky smoothies imaginable on the spot, while dozens of people lined up patiently for their summer treat. In fact, customers knew me as Dr. Smoothie because of my nutritional knowledge of this fantastic treat, including my spontaneous wellness advice.
So, when you make your own fresh smoothie, follow the directions below from a pro. Be creative and explore numerous options. At the end of this article are a few smoothie recipes to try. Let’s get started!
Start your smoothie off right with a healthy base of liquid to help blend ingredients. More liquid makes a thinner smoothie; less liquid makes the smoothies thicker and have more body. Your smoothie may have a sweetness, tartness, or hold-your-nose-and-chug-it type of taste. Here are some tips for your liquid.
Water is a great sugar and calorie-free option that doesn’t add any extra taste. You can also use a few ice cubes that, when blended, will give bulk and crunch to your smoothie. Other commonly used nutritional “waters” include coconut water (for an excellent guide for the benefits and use of coconut water, visit our friends at Better Mind, Body, Soul), or even cold green tea.
Milk or non-dairy milk adds flavor and nutrients. If you use non-dairy milk (rice, almond, coconut, hemp, soy, etc.) select an “unsweetened” variety. You can still choose flavored non-dairy milk, such as vanilla, but without the added sugar.
Juice, such as unfiltered apple, cranberry, carrot, orange juice, and the like, can also give flavor and natural sweetness to your liquid base. Try not to use juice that has any type of added sweetener.
Tip: try adding both milk and juice together. 1-2 cups liquid is a good place to start your base.
Fruits & Veggies
Most people think of a smoothie as being fruity. So, throw a banana into your liquid base, add some blueberries, strawberries or raspberries, apple junks, pineapple, mango, papaya, watermelon — you get the idea, play around with the fruit you add to create unique tastes and texture. The fruit can be fresh, but frozen fruit also give a nice chunky and crystal-like texture if not blended too much. I personally like a combination of fresh and frozen fruit. Also remember that some fruit give a sharper taste, like raspberries; others are milder, like strawberry. So, get to know your fruits by playing around with intensity of taste. I like to add my fruit by the handful, which is about ½ cup or so.
Now, add a nutritional punch to your smoothie with a veggie or two — you won’t even notice the flavor. Spinach (most definitely!), kale and collard are excellent powerhouse leafy greens. Just add a couple handfuls. Don’t worry because the other flavors of the smoothie will most likely cover up any veggie flavor. Also try pureed pumpkin or sweet potato (for fiber and antioxidants), even cucumber and celery.
Did you know that you could add cooked grain to your smoothie? Try cooked rice, quinoa, and millet, even oatmeal. These add thickness and fiber to your smoothie (especially oatmeal). Try adding ½ cup to start, and take it from there. A note on oatmeal: you could actually use uncooked oats in your smoothie. Simply grind the oats in your blender beforehand for easier integration with other ingredients. Start off with ¼ cup and adjust according to your preference.
Creamy, Chunky or Crunchy?
A chunky smoothie is where it’s at for me, not some entirely pulverized creamy liquid. Okay, so I like chewable bits of fruit and/or bits of nuts and seeds. That’s because years ago, as “smoothiemeister” of our family’s business, I made our chunky-style fruit drinks to both drink and chew on. If this is your desire, just don’t over blend, as simple as that! A good way to prevent over blending is to start-stop the blender numerous times until desired texture of chunky-creaminess. Don’t worry; the manufacturer knows everybody treats his or her blender that way!
Creamy smoothies, however, are easy to sip (don’t forget your glass straw!). Most people, in fact, expect a smoothie to be creamy. It’s easy: just run your blender continuously until all the ingredients are desirably creamed. (If too thick, simply add more liquid.)
Here are a number of nutritional options to consider making your smoothie incredibly creamy.
- Bananas are a staple of a good smoothie. The sweetest banana — when spotted and overripe — is also the most nutritious. Just tear 1-2 bananas into junks and throw into the liquid base. Tip: try adding a frozen banana for delightful creaminess.
- Avocado is a nutritional powerhouse, and when added makes an amazingly creamy smoothie. Simply add one-half of a ripe avocado to your usual smoothie ingredients.
- Creamy nut butter — almond, peanut, hemp, sunflower, etc. — is packed with healthy fat and contains protein. Almond butter is delicious and milder in flavor than peanut butter. Add 1 tablespoon or more of your favorite nut butter to your smoothie for a creamy addition. I love the hint of nut butter in my smoothie!
- Soft-silken tofu is excellent for smoothies, adding smooth texture, protein, calcium, and other nutrients. Silken tofu is the best to use. Shelf-stable silken tofu is a worthy staple to have in your pantry for that spontaneous smoothie craving.
- Yogurt, cottage cheese, or kefir are also nutrition powerhouses to enhance creaminess. Just add a few tablespoons or more to the blender. Here’s a special tip: put a couple dollops of yogurt on top of your glass of smoothie and let it slowly sink a little before stirring into the drink — it gives a thick creamy Yum to the lips!
For me a smoothie that is chunky, creamy and crunchy all at once is absolute heaven. Okay, so what is a crunchy smoothie? Here are three tricks I like to use:
- Partially blending frozen fruit, like blueberries, will create little slightly crunchy bits. Put them into the blender toward the end of blending.
- Put a couple tablespoons of coconut oil into the mix. The coconut oil is chilled into crunchy crystals during the blending — delightful!
- After making your smoothie, and if you can wait a while, simply place it in the freezer. The drink will slightly freeze up, but it will be a delicious slow-sip treat as the flavors melt together.
Smoothies are absolutely the best when consumed immediately. When they are stored in the refrigerator for a day or so, their taste flattens and the texture is foamy dull — they may still have nutrition, but they seem like yesterday’s workout: done and over. So, bottom’s up!
Many people prepare a smoothie as a high nutrition booster. The health food section of any store has a large selection of nutrient-rich protein powders to choose from, made from whey, peas, or even hemp. They are often flavored and sweetened.
There are also other nutrition boosters such as the following:
- Chia and ground flaxseed provide a source of omega-3 fatty acids. For seeds, add a couple of tablespoons.
- Matcha powder provides caffeine and a healthy dose of antioxidants to your smoothies (not to mention the beautiful green color!).
- Spirulina and protein powder are also smoothie staples to boost nutrition. You may even want to throw in a tablespoon of nutritional yeast.
- Bee pollen, Aloe Vera, hemp oil or seeds, are examples of supplements to add
- Other boosters: lemon/lime juice, turmeric powder, pureed ginger, vanilla or almond extract, cocoa powder, MSM, diatomaceous earth, a favorite spice, even an herbal tincture like Solomon’s Seal, etc.
- For all of these boosters, and many more not mentioned, follow label directions or add according to your own experience or desire to experiment.
Quick & Easy Cleanup
Smoothies are quick and easy to make. Unlike juicing that is more complicated and generally messy, cleanup after making smoothie is simple. Just follow these tips:
- Rinse your blender pitcher quickly under warm running water
- Now, add 1-2 drops of liquid dish detergent and warm water to the blender pitcher.
- Put the pitcher on the blender base, cover tightly with lid, and run for about 30 seconds.
- Pour the water out and rinse with clean water. Voila, you’re ready for your next smoothie craving!
There are a multitude of flavorful smoothie recipes to try, or to create your own unique concoction. It is hard to go wrong. However, with a little forethought, you can specialize your smoothie for added nutrition and purpose (like pre or post-workout, fat burner, etc.).
In the suggested recipes below, I have deliberately left out specific quantities of ingredients so that you can find your own unique recipe. As a rule of thumb, when adding nuts and seeds and powders, just use tablespoon amounts to taste and texture. I generally measure fruits (frozen or not) and veggies like spinach by the handful (which is about 1/2 cup or less).
5 Fun Smoothies with Attitude
- Banana Flax Smoothie: berries, banana, juice or water, yogurt, flax meal
- Green Dream Smoothie: greens, avocado, berries, cucumber, ginger
- Beach Fun Smoothie: coconut water, pineapple, mango, banana, cashew or almond butter
- Chunky Do Smoothie: peanut butter, cocoa powder, vanilla yogurt, banana, almond milk
- Fat Burner Smoothie: broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, pineapple spears, green tea
6 Smoothies with a Purpose
- Pre-workout Smoothie: banana, ¼ cup oats, flax seed, yogurt, liquid
This smoothie is an excellent pre-workout shake, delivering a great dose of protein, along with 20% of the RDA of Vitamin B-6, 22% of the RDA of calcium, 22% of riboflavin and 472 mg of potassium for quick muscle recovery and the energy you need to power through a tough workout. The fiber from the oats help you feel satisfied and also slow the absorption of sugar, to give you steady supply of energy without a sudden influx of insulin.
- Post-workout Smoothie: peach mango juice, frozen strawberries and peaches, spinach
Designed as a post workout smoothie, this recipe uses juice as the liquid to add post workout carbs. You can use fresh fruit and water instead if you like in order to lighten it up. The fruit and spinach in this recipe are high in Vitamin C, while spinach adds iron to the diet. That makes this a great post exercise drink to add to iron stores and boost your resistance to colds and illness. By making this with frozen fruit it will also cool you down nicely after a workout. If you want protein in your exercise smoothies, make this with milk or soymilk as the liquid.
- Slim Gym Smoothie: ¼ cup pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, spinach, peeled orange, carrot, banana, yogurt, liquid milk
Looking for a delicious way to slim down? This Banana, Carrot, and Orange Smoothie with a bit of Spinach and seeds may do the trick. It contains essential nutrients that are linked to enhanced metabolism such as B-complex, L-carnitine, iron and coenzyme Q10. Here is what you will get in one serving of this smoothie: 150% DV Vitamin A, 21% DV Vit B1, 34% DV Vit B2, 10% Vit B3 and so much more!
- Banana-Berry Combo Smoothie: banana, frozen blueberries, flax seed, milk
With 380mg of potassium and almost 25% of your RDA of Vitamin C, this smoothie is especially good for pre-workout help with muscle function and recovery. Blueberries are also really good for your skin.
- Tropical Protein Delight Smoothie: fresh pineapple, kiwi, unsweetened coconut, almonds, vanilla yogurt, coconut milk
This smoothie delivers on taste, but also supports the digestion of fats and proteins with the digestive enzymes from the pineapple and gives you a very healthy dose of both Vitamin C. The smoothie is high in protein, but low in calories, making it a perfect smoothie for breakfast and for weight loss. Kiwi adds a unique taste!
- Hello Sunshine! Smoothie: carrots, fresh peeled orange, ½ lemon with peel, coconut or nut milk.
The bright orange color and equally bright flavor of this smoothie make it a great one for early mornings or a hot afternoon. It’s also loaded with 150% of the RDA of beta carotene or Vitamin A and 105% of your Vitamin C, two powerful immune boosters. Be sure to include the pith of the orange as well as at least ½ of the peel, as these contain the majority of the antioxidant content.
While we can’t give health advice of any kind, we sure do know a lot about herbs and are happy to speak with you at any time about their properties and proper usage.