Spiriteds, we are going to turn our smoothie game up to 11 today. We are going to make a simple, convenient, healthy eating strategy even better. Oh, yes, Spiriteds. This is happening. I can’t even lie about my smoothie game. I eat them on the regular, and with a spirited little at home with me, it’s sometimes the only way I get nutrients into my diet during the day. Furthermore, now that the firstborn is starting to have a schedule of her own, sometimes it’s the only way she gets healthy nutrients on the fly, too. So, after doing a health article for another project, I realized maybe we could take our games up a notch in the Spirited community with tips to take your smoothie game to 11!!
Because the truth is, not all smoothies are created equal. They aren’t automatically healthy either. It all comes down to what you put into your glass of deliciousness that determines the outcome. I researched a few sources on the topic of how to make a healthy smoothie, and I was surprised by the bevy of suggestions. So keep reading!!! We WILL drink our smoothies and have them, too.
Get Your Greens On (except for the kale)
What in the actual what? But it’s true. If you are starting out in the smoothie game, or you’re trying to health-i-fy existing recipes, kale may not be the best leafy green mix-in. Grace Elkus at Cooking Light explains in her article Dos and Don’ts of Breakfast Smoothies. “If you start with such a bitter green, you may be tempted to pile on too much sugar.”
GUILTY. AS. CHARGED.
I was THAT person when I started making smoothies. I was ALL ABOUT THE KALE, but to get used to the taste, I added an inordinate amount of sweetener. Way to win at the smoothie game, Morgan. Now, perhaps your palate is more acclimated to the bitter green than mine was, but if you do find yourself adding more and more sweetener to offset the taste, let me be the first to say you are in good company. Also, Elkus has a solution for those of us in the too-much-sweetener-camp.
“It’s easy to mask the flavor of spinach, making it the perfect choice for green-smoothie starters,” she says. “Once you’ve acquired a taste for greens, begin branching out to kale or parsley.”
Noted. And knowing I was adding too much sweetener to my kale smoothies, I played around with other greens (incidentally, spinach) and came up with Green Apple Spinach Smoothie. No sweetener needed, and a legit source of leafy greens. Thanks to pineapple and banana, it has the right amount of natural sweeteness.
Best still, my heart.
Add Healthy Fats to the Mix
Quite possibly one of my favorite “a ha” moments was discovering how filling a smoothie could be with the right healthy fats and proteins. Daniel and Kelli Segars over at Fitness Blender suggest in their blog post Five Ways to make Healthy Smoothie Recipes even Healthier to add the right kinds of fats to smoothies. Doing so will pack an even more nutritional punch.
“Smoothies can be high in carbohydrate [sic] but low on fats, depending on what kinds of ingredients you have tossed into your blender. Fat, especially heart healthy fats, should not be avoided, even if you are ‘dieting,’” they say. “In fact, moderate amounts of dietary fat can help you feel full longer, which works in favor of someone who is trying to drop weight.”
One of my favorite mix-ins is the avocado. I easily mask it with other, naturally sweeter fruits. Once I discovered Single-Serving Chocolate Chia Smoothie, our family’s smoothie game was never the same. It’s the perfect recipe to hide an avocado. Combined with the chocolate, it tastes like chocolate milk, straight out of the blender, or like pudding, if it sits overnight.
Either way? Winning.
—> Click for Single-Serving Chocolate Chia Smoothie
Wait…avocado again? Well, yes. And no. It’s true avocado is a creamy add-on to smoothies and countless other non-smoothie recipes, like Lemon Avocado Dip. But there are other mix-ins that create a non-dairy creamy texture. These suggestions I admit I fell into as I breathed new life into our family’s smoothie repertoire. If you’re in the market to take your smoothie game to 11, think about adding the following to any number of drinks:
- Cauliflower – steam it first for a neutral, non-veggie flavor.
- Chia seeds – when finely ground in a smoothie recipe, these seeds thicken and cream-i-fy just about any recipe without altering the flavor too significantly (the final product will not taste as sweet but will be super delish).
- Cashews – if you have the time, soak these for a few hours, or even overnight. They taste like a dairy product without actually being dairy.
Because we ARE allowed to just say no to grainy, gritty smoothies. Especially if we’re taking it to 11.
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- Almond Butter Cauliflower Smoothie Bowl
- On-the-Go Strawberry Breakfast Smoothie
- Salted Caramel Breakfast Smoothie
Minimize the Sweeteners
It seems so obvious, that whole keep-sugar-to-a-minimum thing. And yet, I confess again and again to adding more sweetener than I should to lots of my recipes. From personal experience, I found it easier to reduce my sweetener intake if I reduced the amount each time I made a fresh batch.
So, rather than completely eliminating sweeteners cold turkey, I reduce the amount I include by teaspoons or tablespoons by the batch until I get the balance I am comfortable with. I also divide out the amount of sweetener by servings. I try to keep the overall amount per serving to no more than 1-2 tablespoons. This is based on our family’s particular needs, we aren’t always spot on, and your needs may be different. I also try to rotate the sweeteners I use, including maple syrup and honey, for variety.
Constantly a work in progress, I love the Segars’ suggestion to add spices to the mix instead of sweeteners. They say, “A great example of a spice that compliments most drinks is cinnamon. Not only are you eradicating the need for less than healthy flavor additives, cinnamon itself has a wealth of health benefits, including lowering ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels, regulating blood sugar, and providing anti-inflammatory compounds.”
I LOVE that idea. And now a new goal of mine is to find additional ways to add cinnamon, and similar spices, to the smoothie mix here on the Spirited blog.
Elkus suggests getting creative for a naturally sweet drink. “Fresh or frozen fruits should naturally sweeten your smoothie, but if you need an extra dose, try adding beets or dates.”
Don’t mind if I do.
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Go Fresh or Frozen
Frozen fruits aren’t inherently bad. The Segars state, “Frozen fruit is actually a great option as well, as the fruit is often frozen at it’s nutritional peak. Here’s a tip for healthy smoothies regarding frozen fruit; make sure that it’s just fruit. Avoid frozen fruits that have been sweetened in order to avoid excess sugars and extra calories.”
This is especially helpful if, like us, you live in a region where fresh fruit isn’t readily available year-round and your blankets need blankets. Honestly, Midwest winters wear me out by the time spring comes around. Although, to be fair, they do make me appreciate spring a little more than I think I otherwise would.
But, omigod, when I’m trying to eat healthy for my own benefit while making snacks and meals for two picky eaters (umm, where did they inherit that trait *side-eyeing myself*), I need the fruits wherever and however I can get them. Fortunately, a little label reading and I discovered a few generic frozen fruit brands that are all-natural. So, if you are trying to take your smoothie game to 11, but don’t have access to fresh fruit all the time, don’t worry! Frozen has its place.
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