Month: February 2014

Green Smoothies 101

If you’re anything like I used to be, you’ve probably never pictured yourself sipping on a nice, cold glass of spinach and kale.  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it or even that you won’t like it!  I can remember times in my life when I couldn’t even remember the last time had eaten a fresh fruit or vegetable.  I can’t even imagine living that way now.  On a typical day, I go above and beyond my government recommended 2 1/2 cups of veggies (although, let’s be honest, I don’t listen much to what the government recommends I eat).   The vast majority of those veggies come from green smoothies.  In my world, smoothies are a daily routine, and salads are just for fun!  But even now that you are (hopefully) on board with this green smoothie idea, it can be hard to know where to start.

Personally, I like my smoothies to be relatively low-calorie, but this is because I drink them between meals or with meals rather than as a meal replacement.  (Maybe I just enjoy eating too much to call a smoothie a meal!)  I focus on nutrient density and packing in as many veggies as I can!  Most of all, it must be delicious or I won’t drink it!  When it comes to green smoothies, the variations are endless, but below is the basic formula I go off of.  If you are a beginner, start here!

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My Basic Formula for Green Smoothies:

1/2 cup berries (raw or frozen):

Blueberries are great to start with.  Other good options include blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc.  I try to keep the fruit to 1/2 cup or less, because although some fruit is healthy (mainly berries), too much fruit equals too much sugar.  For me, this is usually the upper limit of fruit I will eat in a day.  Therefore, as you get more used to the taste of veggies in your smoothies, you may want to reduce this amount to 1/4 cup or so per smoothie.

1/3 of a banana:

I use green bananas that haven’t fully ripened yet, due to their lower sugar content.  If you want to start with a sweet smoothie, go ahead and use a ripened banana.  Sometimes I omit the banana all together because I find it unnecessary and just don’t want the added sugar, but there is something about adding a banana to a smoothie that just makes it taste more like a smoothie!

1 cup chopped greens (raw or frozen):

Spinach is the best place to start, as it is bland and easily masked by the sweetness of the berries.  Later on when you get more adventurous, you can try collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, even parsley!  The flavor of these greens might be a little more noticeable than spinach, but thesmoothie will still be quite palatable in my opinion!  Freezing them first will help take some of the bitterness out of greens.  Eventually, you may want to increase your portion of greens to 1 1/2 or 2 cups.

1/2 cup yogurt or milk of choice:

I usually add some full-fat yogurt to my smoothies, which adds a little under 100 calories.  Although I don’t like to do a whole lot of dairy, I also don’t take a probiotic supplement nor do I have another major source of calcium, so yogurt it is.  Other good alternatives to give your smoothie more of a liquid consistency might include coconut milk, almond milk, kefir, etc.  Depending on your other ingredients, even canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix) can work well here!

Optional Ingredients:

More Veggies! (1/2 cup or so):

I often look through my vegetable drawer to see what else I might be able to add to a smoothie.  They don’t all have to be green.  It’s best to start with veggies that taste either bland or sweet by themselves.  Obviously, onions and peppers may give your smoothie an odd taste.  Good choices might include carrots, avocado (trust me!), cucumbers, and squash.

Nut Butters (1 or 2 tbsp):

If your smoothie is going to be a meal replacement, you should add some protein and healthy fats.  I am not a big fan of peanut butter, and often opt for cashew butter or almond butter instead.  Nut butters can give your smoothies more of a cookies and cream sort of taste.

 Healthy Fats:

Again, if your smoothie is a meal replacement, don’t skimp on protein and fat.  Coconut oil works well here (Use a tablespoon or so.  Coconut oil contains very high amounts of lauric acid, a beneficial medium chain fatty acid, albeit an omega-6 fat.)  Avocado, chia or flax seeds, ground coconut, and even olive oil can be good choices.  Don’t skimp on fats, but don’t overdo it either.  Always read the label before adding it to your smoothie!

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