I first fell in love with smoothies when I moved to California just before 8th grade. They seemed to embody everything that was quintessentially Californian – fresh fruit, sweet, cool, and infinite possibilities. In college, I worked at Jamba Juice, back when it was still known as Juice Club, and learned all the tricks of the trade to making a delicious smoothie.
But it wasn’t until about two years ago that I tried my first green smoothie. Something about adding vegetables to my smoothie frightened me. However, at the time, I wasn’t getting enough vegetables in my diet. I also struggled with afternoon fatigue and had difficultly focusing during that part of the day. I had read that green smoothies might give me an extra boost of energy. Plus, nutrients are more readily available to be absorbed by your body from smoothies and adding greens to a smoothie can also help to slow down the absorption of sugar.
I embarked on a 30-day green smoothie challenge and haven’t looked back.
Basic Building Blocks of a Smoothie
Smoothies allow me to experiment. I very rarely follow a strict smoothie recipe. Instead, I use whatever is in the house, eye-balling each ingredient. It’s funny, because even after almost 15 years since my Jamba Juice days, I remember how a smoothie should look inside a blender.
There really is no right or wrong way to make a smoothie. For those of you just getting started, here are the basic building blocks to make a great smoothie.
1) Pick a base. This can be anything from your milk of choice (cow, soy, almond, etc.), water or coconut water. I personally like coconut water. I find that it adds an extra dimension to the smoothie compared to just water.
2) Add greens. Your greens should be one of your first ingredients in the blender. This way, the other ingredients will weigh down the greens in the blender and ensure that they are blended. Otherwise, the greens tend to stick to the side of the blender.
If you’re new to green smoothies, start out with a mild leafy green vegetable like baby spinach. You will barely taste it in your smoothie. As you get accustomed to making green smoothies, you can add other greens like kale, broccoli, cucumbers, swiss chard – really anything. I typically add two handfuls of greens to my smoothies.
3) Add fruit. You can add fresh or frozen fruit. Frozen fruit helps to thicken the smoothie whereas fresh fruit makes the smoothie more watery. I like to add about a half of a cup of frozen fruit.
4) Add extras. Smoothies are a great way to sneak in some powerhouse nutrients. You can add ingredients such as plain yogurt, flax seeds, chia seeds, goji berries, maca powder, protein powder, etc.
Helpful Smoothie Making Tips
Pay attention to size. Smoothies can easily balloon in size, calories and sugar content. Pay attention to how much of each ingredient you add and remember that fruit can also have a fair amount of natural sugar.
Prep your greens ahead of time. This saves me a lot of time in the mornings. I often rinse and spin my greens, then store them in the salad spinner in the refrigerator.
Use frozen bananas. Frozen bananas are a great addition to smoothies. If you prep and freeze your own bananas, do NOT slice the bananas and throw them all together into a container in the freezer. The banana slices will all stick together. Instead, slice the bananas and lay them on a plate or tray and place it in the freezer. Once they are frozen, you can combine them in a container and store in the freezer.
Balance the flavor. If I use a more distinctive vegetable in my smoothie (i.e. kale or swiss chard), I try to balance the flavor with a sweeter fruit like frozen pineapple or mango. This helps cut some of the bitterness of the greens and mask the flavor a bit.
A good blender helps. Having a quality blender helps assure the ingredients are blended together properly. There are a number of good blenders on the market such as Vitamix, NutriBullet, Magic Bullet, Ninja Blender, etc.
Here’s one of my favorite smoothie recipes. It’s simple and great for spring and summer!
- Mango-flavored coconut water (1/2 cup – 1 cup)
- 2 handfuls of baby spinach
- Nonfat plain yogurt (1/2 cup)
- Frozen peaches (1/2 cup – 3/4 cup)
- 4-5 strawberries fresh from the farmers market
What’s your favorite smoothie recipe? Share in the comments below!