Smoothies have taken the world by storm! I’m not sure how many of us were drinking them 20 or 30 years ago, but these days, they’re hard to miss. And there is good reason for all this mainstream smoothie mania.
Smoothies offer a heaping dose of fruits, vegetables, and superfoods, blended into a tall, tasty drink. You can make them in less than 5 minutes and take them on the go. They’re the perfect breakfast for anyone who wants a straight shot of nutrition—or anyone who doesn’t have time to cook in the morning.
Here’s the caution: Smoothies aren’t all made equally. If you walk into a chain smoothie bar, you’ll probably find concentrated juices, flavored yogurts, and sweeteners that will trick you into thinking you’re consuming something healthy. If your smoothie is full of dairy and sweeteners—even natural ones like agave, it will probably leave you feeling bloated, congested, and crashing after a sugar high. These are not the kinds of results that made smoothies famous!
Instead, make your own easy smoothies—that way you can make sure each ingredient counts. My morning smoothies always include 5 key components to ensure they are nutrient-dense and energizing.
1. Dark leafy greens: They boost the immune system, detoxify the body, and provide plant-powered energy. Dark leafy greens are the perfect base for a smart start.
2. Fresh or frozen fruits: Fruit gives your smoothies a kiss of sweetness, so no additional sugar is needed. If you have fresh fruit that’s going bad, pop it into an airtight container in the freezer to use in future smoothies.
3. Protein powder: Pea protein powder provides about 15 grams of protein per serving, which can help you feel fuller longer. But please read the label. Many protein powders contain a host of sugars and additives. If you’re not a fan of protein powder, try a nut butter for extra protein.
4. Superfoods: Many superfoods are available today— add them to your smoothies. Read about their individual benefits and see which ones might be good for you. Some superfood options include spirulina, maca powder, chia, flaxseeds, and coconut butter.
5. Smart liquid: To blend your ingredients, you’ll need to add some type of liquid. Beware of fruit juices, which can increase your glycemic load. Instead, opt for homemade or store-bought green juice (made only with greens), coconut water, nut milk (like almond or cashew) or filtered water.
From there, you can get creative! Cucumbers, avocado, and garden herbs (like mint and basil) are other favorite smoothie add-ins. Mix and match ingredients to keep your mornings fresh and vibrant.
Smoothie Making 101 (makes 3 to 4 cups)
1. Start on green. Add to a blender about 2 cups of roughly chopped or torn greens, such as kale, collards, or Swiss chard.
2. Go bananas. Toss in ½ cup of fruit, like blueberries or roughly chopped apple. If you like your smoothies on the sweeter side, add ½ banana. Frozen (for a cold smoothie) and fresh fruit are both great options.
3. Power up. Scoop in a serving of pea protein (the serving size will be listed on the label) or 2 tablespoons of nut butter. Add in 1 teaspoon of your favorite superfood.
4. Customize it. Add any other ingredients you have on hand or want to utilize for additional health benefits, such as ½ an avocado for a healthy dose of fat, or mint or basil for some extra flavor.
5. Add liquid. Pour in 2 cups of liquid, like green juice (made only with greens), coconut water, nut milk (almond or cashew) or filtered water. If you like a thinner consistency, add another ½ cup, or if you like your smoothie extra cold, add a handful of ice cubes.
6. Hit blend and enjoy. Blend on high until all the ingredients are broken down and well incorporated. Stop and scrape down any ingredients that stick to the side of the blender, and blend again. Pour into two glasses or a 1-quart Mason jar, and drink away!