Make mine green, or red, or brown, or…
Like snowflakes, no two smoothies are exactly alike. Even when made to the same recipe, there are so many variables that change the end result – the size of a handful of leafy greens, the sweetness of a berry, the freshness of a carrot. But no matter; like snowflakes, every home-made smoothie can be a thing of beauty. Not to mention a gift of immense flavor and goodness!
If you like to incorporate a smoothie into your daily diet, you probably have a more-or-less recipe that you rely on, tossing in a little of this and a little of that. Toss in a little planning, and you can tailor the smoothie to fit your needs of the day. Feeling tired? Make an energizing smoothie. Feeling fat? Make a healthy and dietetic smoothie. Don’t feel like eating but know that you should? Make a smoothie that gives you the biggest nutritional bang for your buck.
These days, you can find smoothies in coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants. But although they look yummy, and sound like they should be good for you – beware. As with all prepared foods, check the ingredient list. Too many shop-bought smoothies contain several servings of sweet fruits. When they’re all whizzed up with maybe a little yoghurt, that’s a lot of sugar to dump into your system.
In this post, we’ll focus on making a healthy everyday smoothie. The ingredients we mention are more of a guideline than an exact list – you can vary them based on what’s in your fridge and your preferences. If you follow the guidelines, you’ll be making yourself a healthy, delicious, and nutritious daily treat.
What I put in an everyday smoothie
My smoothies always include some leafy greens, some berries, a healthy fat, and some liquid (I usually use coconut water, sometimes non-dairy milk). I usually also add some flaxseed, a couple of different vegetables, some protein powder, and whatever daily supplements I haven’t taken by the time I’m making the smoothie. Here’s why…
Leafy greens, vegetables – these nutritional powerhouses should already be in your daily diet and there isn’t an easier way to incorporate them, especially if they’re not your favorite things to eat. Use organic vegetables if you can; frozen are often cheaper than fresh and are just as good.
Berries – along with their many good antioxidant properties, berries lend sweetness and flavor to the smoothie. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries, are the best ones to use, due to their lower sugar content and high antioxidant qualities. (Use organic fruits if you can; again, frozen are often cheaper than fresh and are just as good.) For a bit more sweetness and flavor, you can include dates or bananas, but limit tropical and very sweet fruits, such as pineapple, mango, etc.
Healthy fat – by including a healthy fat, such as a piece of avocado, or a spoonful of a nut butter, you slow down the rate at which your body absorbs the sugars from the fruit, and save yourself from a big sugar spike in your blood stream. A sprinkling of cinnamon helps in this regard too.
Supplements – I really dislike taking pills, capsules, lozenges, and most medicines of any kind. Really. So if I can add my supplements to my daily smoothie where they completely disappear, I’m happy. I’ll occasionally add in some homemade yoghurt, but I prefer to use it as a topping. I sometimes add in a couple of probiotic capsules. (Note that probiotics shouldn’t be whizzed up in a high-power blender because they don’t usually survive, which renders them useless. Instead, just empty the capsule contents into the mix after whizzing and stir in.) I almost always include a scoop of protein powder, and some flaxseed too.
A few words about protein powder…
- I usually use a whey-based protein powder so that I get all the extra benefits of whey. The components of whey protein help to keep our gall bladder, pancreas, and digestion operating normally. At the same time, whey helps us digest food, and helps to keep us feeling full (because it regulates the passage of food though our system). Importantly, whey also helps us to create glutathione (a major antioxidant of particular value to the liver and important for supporting our immune system).
- If you prefer a vegan option, you can use a pea protein powder, or just add some hemp seeds directly into your smoothie.
- All of that said, there’s no need to go overboard with the protein. We need only about 45 – 50 grams of protein per day (a little more as we get older), and just one scoop of some protein powders can give you around 20 grams. So do your best to balance the amount of protein in your smoothies with the amount that you get from other foods.
And a few words about flaxseed…
I have two tablespoons of flaxseed every day. Flaxseed provides fiber which, like the healthy fat, slows down the absorption of sugars from the smoothie. Including flaxseed in your smoothie is one of the easiest ways to get it into your diet. Flaxseed provides many other benefits besides fiber; we wrote more about them in Starbright Berry Muffins. Note that the flaxseed (like chia seeds) will thicken the smoothie so if you’re not planning on eating it right away, you might want to add a bit more liquid to it.
The intangibles – along with sneaking in any supplements that you might not enjoy taking, you can also add ingredients that are really good for you, but that you might not otherwise enjoy. I’m thinking of things like chia seeds and matcha, but I’m not a big fan of cinnamon either. I include them all, and they disappear into the delicious smoothie without my having to taste them! I often include a knob of peeled fresh ginger for a little spicy warmth (as well as its anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits). But one of my favorite “intangibles” is lemon segments (complete with skin!) – the burst of citrus really brightens up the smoothie.
If the consistency matters to you…
As for the consistency of the smoothie, I like mine to be really thick. So thick, in fact, that I eat it with a spoon. The consistency is easily controlled by the amount of liquid you add (including the number of ice cubes you use). Needless to say, I add the coconut water sparingly and probably never use more than a third of a cup. I adjust the amount based on how thick the mixture looks while it’s being whizzed up. Because my smoothies are so thick, I can get away with topping them with a big dollop of creamy homemade yoghurt. They look like a delicious dessert!
If the color matters to you…
An additional consideration, meaningful to some people, is the color of the smoothie. I tend not to worry about the color, because I know that the smoothie is full of good ingredients. (Even the khaki-colored smoothies are OK with me, but I’ll admit that they don’t look all that appetizing!)
If you don’t like brown or muddy-looking smoothies, limit the number of ingredients and stick to similar colors. Using leafy greens, pieces of apple, and some broccoli will result in a luscious green smoothie. Whizzing up some leafy greens and pieces of beet will give you a brown, almost chocolatey smoothie. Blending leafy greens, pieces of broccoli and carrot, along with some red berries will give you…khaki. (A bit like the one shown here!) You can usually counteract the khaki color by including a small piece of red beet.
Because I always include leafy greens, I don’t end up with many bright red smoothies. It’s a trade-off I’m willing to make, but if having an occasional red smoothie is important to you, leave out the greens but incorporate some beet, carrot, or red cabbage to balance out the berries a bit.
So this is my everyday smoothie “recipe.” Next time, we’ll look at guidelines for making a smoothie to help you when you have no appetite, but know that you need to eat properly.
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