Smoothies have been a bit of a food trend for quite a few years, and now green smoothies have also become vogue. A friend has recently gotten into a green smoothie kick after having one at the local farmers market, and she asked what I thought about them. My response was, what’s not to love? Smoothies can definitely have their place in a healthy diet, especially when you fill them up with lots of great ingredients! Just be aware that some smoothies you can buy pre-made, are loaded with sugar and will not do you any nutritional favors.
Step one in smoothie making is to define its purpose. Is it a snack? A meal? A treat? A way to refuel post-workout or fuel up prior to a workout? This will help you to decide what to put in, to reach the appropriate amount of calories, protein, and carbohydrates. Personally, I’ve been using smoothies as a post run drink for years, and the recipe changes with the season and with the type of workout I’ve had. After a four mile loop I don’t need to bulk up my ingredients in the same way as I would for ten miles, so I make sure to adjust accordingly.
I usually start with the fruit I have in the house and see what I have that will go together. I typically have bananas and they go with almost anything (in my mind), as well as frozen strawberries, blueberries, cherries, pineapple, mango and raspberries. Frozen fruits are not only cost effective, but they are usually picked at the peak of freshness and frozen not long after, which helps them to retain both flavor and nutrients. When in season, I also like to use things like watermelon (you need to cut back on the added liquids), oranges (not just the juice), and almost any other type of fruit; I’ve also used canned pumpkin when I had some left over from another use. Here’s where you can definitely add a handful of spinach or other greens and see what happens. Bright green color but not too much flavor change (depending upon the amount) is typical. This is a great alternative for those who aren’t yet ready to have a spinach salad but still want to reap the benefits of this nutritional powerhouse.
After you have your fruit sorted out, you can proceed with the type of liquid you want to use. I typically use skim milk and sometimes soy milk if I have it in the refrigerator; when combined with the other ingredients, it brings my protein to carbohydrate ratio right into the 1:3 or 1:4 range where I want it. Sometimes I use other things like tart cherry juice, almond milk or coconut milk for a change of pace. If I use one of these alternatives, I make sure to include some greek yogurt or silken tofu to reach my protein needs.
Other add-ins you can try are flax seeds or chia seeds. These are a good source of Omega 3′s as well as fiber. If you use flax seeds, make sure they are ground before adding because the hard outer coating of these seeds will keep them from being digested. Some people also add a scoop of uncooked oats for the fiber and protein they add. With all of these options, you will need to be aware that they will absorb a lot of the liquid in your smoothie and adjust accordingly.
Lastly, add-ins like vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg can be great flavor boosters. A tablespoon of cocoa powder will not only add flavor but it is rich in flavonoids and minerals. Some people even like a dash of spice to perk things up. In the summer, adding a few ice cubes are also a great way to cool down and make your smoothie a little more slushy in quality. Experiment with the many combinations that can be made easily in your own kitchen to suit your own personal taste!