Welcome to Week 13 of One Simple Change: my year long series of weekly tips dedicated to enhancing your health and your life. If you are new to my blog, One Simple Change is a series I began early in 2012. I try to post something for OSC every Friday; I also post new recipes on Healthy Green Kitchen once or twice a week.

Last week I discussed the benefits of juicing; today I want to talk about smoothies.

I love smoothies and I’m pretty sure many of you feel the same. Often referred to as “healthy fast food”, smoothies are popular because they can be blended in a hurry and make a quick and tasty breakfast or snack; smoothies are also infinitely customizable and, like fresh juices, smoothies are a great way to get more raw food into your diet.

Some people don’t understand how smoothies differ from juices, though, so let’s clear that up right away. A (fresh) juice is a drink made in a juicer. Juices are high in enzymes and nutrients, but contain no insoluble fiber (the juicer spits out the fiber). Juices are simple for the body to digest, and the nutrients they contain are very easy for your body to assimilate. Juices made from organic fruits and vegetables are wonderful for you; they are one of my favorite healthy drinks.

Smoothies are different: they are made in a blender, not a juicer, so they contain fiber. Smoothies can contain fresh fruits (and also veggies, like leafy greens), and you can add lots of other things to smoothies, too. Some of these additions are healthy and some are not: if you make a smoothie with frozen yogurt, store-bought juice, and a bit of fruit, it’s honestly not terribly good for you. A smoothie like that is super high in sugar without a lot of nutrients.

So let’s focus on how to make a truly healthy smoothie.

As I mentioned above, to make a healthy smoothie, you need a blender. I’ve been making smoothies for years and after breaking several cheaper models, I finally invested in a high speed blender a while back. A high speed blender allows you to incorporate healthy frozen fruits and ice into your smoothies and lets you blend them with ease, creating smoothies with a pleasing, creamy consistency. A high speed blender is also good if you’re adding greens to your smoothies, because it breaks them down and blends them into your smoothie completely. I have a Blendtec; I’ve also heard good things about the Vitamix.

You will be happy with either one, and though they are expensive, you will definitely get your money’s worth with these blenders because they last for years. And you won’t just use them to make smoothies- they are great for making all sorts of healthy recipes, from soups to nut butters. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t use my Blendtec blender. But if you’re not ready to invest in one of these, no worries. A regular blender can also work just fine for smoothies, especially if you only drink them on occasion.

So once you’ve got your blender, the next thing you’ll need for a healthy smoothie is some fruit (you can make a smoothie in a high speed blender out of veggies only, but I think of those more as blended juices, not smoothies). If you are making a smoothie for 1-2 people, you will need anywhere from 1-2 cups of fruit.

Some ideas for fruits to use are: banana, berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc.), peaches, mango, papaya, and pineapple. You can use fresh or frozen fruit. Frozen fruit is very convenient because you can keep it stored in your freezer at all times; it also makes a creamier smoothie than fresh fruit. Feel free to use a combination of fruits, some fresh and some frozen.

I recommend buying bags of all different fruits next time you are at the store. That way you can start to experiment and come up with your own favorite healthy smoothie recipes.

In my freezer, I try to keep large bags of frozen blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, mango, peaches, etc. on hand at all times. I also buy large bunches of bananas, peel and cut them in half, then store them in plastic bags in the freezer. Keep your eyes peeled for deals on overripe bananas because they’re perfect for freezing to use in smoothies.

Organic varieties of fruits are preferred, but organic fruit can be very expensive, especially in the winter. Load up on organic fruit when it’s on sale, if possible, and freeze your own fruit when it’s in season and locally available.

Once you’ve decided on your fruits, you might want to consider adding some greens. Leafy greens are low in carbohydrates and are very high in vitamins and minerals: they balance out what can be a lot of natural sugar if you’re making a smoothie just with fruit. Good choices for mild greens that you probably won’t taste in your smoothie include some chopped romaine lettuce, a small head of baby bok choy, or a few handfuls of baby spinach or arugula. Again, one of the advantages of using a high speed blender is that it will blend these in completely. Kale is incredibly nutritious and is a wonderful addition to a green smoothie; it has a stronger flavor, though, and it’s taste probably will not go unnoticed.

Something else to consider is the addition of protein to your smoothie. Adding a protein component is optional, but protein helps balance your blood sugar and makes your smoothie more of a “meal”. I personally do not do well with fruit-only smoothies, and always need to add some sort of protein.

I am not a big fan of most protein powders, but they do work well for adding protein to smoothies. I believe you should stick to those that are whey or rice-based (those made from sprouted rice are particularly good). I don’t recommend soy protein powder- in fact, for optimal health, I believe you should stay away from all but the fermented soy foods. Hemp-based protein powders are also good…but honestly I don’t use protein powders much, so if you have one you like, feel free to let me know about it in the comments section.

Another protein option is raw egg yolks- but only from very fresh, local, free-range eggs! Raw eggs yolks from these trusted sources are high in omega 3′s and the risk of salmonella is very very, very low. Eggs whites, however, are best not consumed raw, even if they’re from very high quality eggs.

Plain organic yogurt, kefir, good quality milk (raw or organic/grass-fed), and/or nuts/seeds (or nut/seed butters or nut/seed “milks”) are other ingredients you can add to increase the protein content of your smoothie.

If you like, you can also add some organic coconut milk (a creamy alternative to dairy milks that’s high in good fats), coconut oil (a healthy fat that may aid in weight loss) or coconut flour (a good source of fiber- thickens a smoothie nicely, but don’t use too much unless you want it more like a pudding), raw organic cacao powder or cacao nibs (high in minerals including magnesium), Maca powder (said to be good for improving stamina), Goji berry powder (high in antioxidants), ground flax seeds (good source of fiber and essential fatty acids), local bee pollen (can help to strengthen your immunity), spirulina or other greens powder (cleansing and nourishing), and herbs including fresh mint, cinnamon and ginger. Raw organic oats can also be blended into a smoothie- this increases the fiber content, and oats contain B-vitamins that help to combat stress.

Adding a sweetener to your smoothie is probably not necessary but a small amount of raw honey, maple syrup, or stevia powder may be added if you don’t find your smoothie to be sweet enough. You could also use some soaked dried dates or figs to sweeten your smoothie naturally; ripe avocado adds a little sweetness and is a way to give smoothies a naturally creamy consistency, as well.

This banana date smoothie is one of my favorites. Whereas smoothies made only with fruit cause me to feel very chilly (and, to be honest, often leave me still feeling hungry), the combination of healthy carbs, fat, and protein here helps me feel full and very grounded. Please let me know about your favorite(s) in the comments section!

banana date smoothie

Banana Date Coconut Smoothie

Ingredients:

*1 organic banana, previously peeled, cut into chunks, and frozen
*2-3 organic, pitted dates, preferably soaked in water for 10-15 minutes to soften
*½ cup organic coconut milk plus 1 cup water or 1 cup yogurt or kefir plus ½ cup water
*2 raw egg yolks from a trusted source (I use those from my own chickens) or 1 serving vanilla protein power- optional: if you want your smoothie to contain some protein
*1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Add water/ice as necessary to produce desired consistency.

More great looking smoothies:

Green Smoothie from Two Peas and Their Pod
Pear and Ginger Smoothie from Guilty Kitchen
Classic Green Monster from Oh She Glows
Healthy Limeade Smoothie from With Style and Grace
Healthy Smoothies from A Food Centric Life

 

28 Comments

  1. 1

    Michele Mercogliano — April 6, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

    I personally like to sweeten with agave!

  2. 2

    Rabekah — April 6, 2012 @ 7:36 pm

    Thanks for this!

    My daily breakfast smoothie recipe, added to blender in this order:
    1/4 C frozen pineapple
    1/4 C frozen blueberries
    1/2 banana
    3 Tbsp soaked chia seeds
    1 Tbsp almond butter
    1 Tbsp Vitamineral Green Powder
    1/4 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp cardamom
    1/4 tsp ginger powder
    2 C spinach
    1 C sugar free coconut milk beverage
    Start blending and then add 1 Tbsp of melted coconut oil.
    Voila!

    I use as much organic as possible.
    It keeps me full for hours, gives me tons of fiber, greens, antioxidants, and blood sugar balancing spices. Enjoy!

  3. 3

    Diana@Spain In Iowa — April 6, 2012 @ 8:05 pm

    I loved this post Winnie! We have smoothies often. Our preferred blend is bananas, fresh mango, frozen strawberries, raw egg yolks, and homemade plain yogurt. So yummy!! Your recipe above sounds amazing. I’d like to try it. I’ve honestly never bought coconut milk. Do you have a brand you can recommend? I’d like to make your smoothie recipe next week. Thanks!!

  4. 4

    Mallory — April 6, 2012 @ 8:36 pm

    This one is my personal favorite at the moment. I have it with breakfast, and I feel really good and full until lunch! Sometimes if I wake up super hungry (still a nursing mom) I have some wheat toast and peanut butter with it.

    One organic banana (or two if they are small)
    1/2 c cherries
    1/2 c strawberries
    3 or 4 nice big organic green leaf lettuce leaves (or spinach)
    One or two stalks of organic celery stalks depending on size
    8 oz of organic almond milk

    I’m definitely going to try this one, I love bananas in my smoothies! Thanks!!

  5. 5

    Amy — April 6, 2012 @ 8:43 pm

    I usually use some sort of leafy green ie swiss chard, kale and apple, pear, banana, berries, and avocado

  6. 6

    LiztheChef — April 6, 2012 @ 8:59 pm

    This is my green smoothie, but if it isn’t appropriate to link to my site, please don’t post. I’m too pooped to write it out! http://lizthechefblog.com/2012/01/26/my-morning-green-smoothie/

  7. 7

    Jeanette — April 6, 2012 @ 10:00 pm

    Nice post on smoothies. My personal favorite is mango, banana and pineapple. My kids love strawberry and banana or peach and banana. I add some yogurt sometimes and have also made smoothies with spinach for green smoothies. The color throws my kids off a bit, but they are good sports.

  8. 8

    Leanna — April 7, 2012 @ 1:54 am

    Yum! These all sound so good! My favorite is a sweet potato smoothie – vanilla yogurt, about a cup of cooked sweet potato, a little vanilla, and a banana. I usually also add a handful of frozen blueberries, since my son loves them. Tastes great, plus a great way of sneaking in a veggie he normally won’t eat!

  9. 9

    Eve — April 7, 2012 @ 7:03 am

    Yummy! We make a smoothie every day for our little boy (he’s a picky eater so we view it as our opportunity to get some nutrients and calories into him). We use banana and some frozen fruit (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries or mango, typically), organic whole milk yogurt (since we’re going for calories with him…), a rice protein powder, a small scoop of organic baby oat cereal for fiber and a dash of maple syrup since we want to ensure he’ll drink it. He loves it!

  10. 10

    Hilary — April 7, 2012 @ 11:38 am

    Great post as always!

    This is my all time favorite smoothie:
    1 cup frozen blueberries
    1 banana
    1 handful spinach
    1-2 tbsp of almond butter
    1/4 cup or so of plain greek yogurt
    1 scoop of vanilla whey protein powder
    spoonful of ground flax seed
    enough good quality O.J. to loosen it all up (a couple splashes)

    these are things that are always in my pantry and is sooo delicious and healthy

    also I have some hemp protein powder, it is great for you but is not great in smoothies it is very ‘green’ tasting and a little gritty. not my favorite but I do use it for baking!

  11. 11

    Paula — April 7, 2012 @ 11:41 am

    I don’t make a lot of smoothies but when I do it is always with fresh fruit. I never thought to add dates and I love dates! Thanks for this lovely smoothie recipe.

  12. 12

    emb — April 7, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

    I eat a green smoothie daily. I usually add oatmeal for extra fiber and peanut butter for protein.

  13. 13

    dramatic pancake — April 8, 2012 @ 8:50 pm

    I juice fairly often but don’t make as many smoothies as I’d like. I love how simple and naturally sweet this one sounds! Might have to sneak in a bit of protein powder as well, and maybe some chia seeds like Rabekah suggested! Yum!

  14. 14

    Cathy — April 9, 2012 @ 11:57 am

    I use a protein powder called gold standard whey, I love the vanilla ice cream. I think I would like to the shake with kale too now after reading the responses.

  15. 15

    Ryan — April 10, 2012 @ 9:44 am

    Excellent article on healthy smoothies. I make one for breakfast everyday and sometimes after working out. I also find the inclusion of a good fat goes a long way…avocado and coconut oil being my two favorites. My smoothie this morning:

    2 cups kefir
    1/2 avocado
    1 tablespoon maca
    1 tablespoon cacao
    1 serving Sun Warrior chocolate protein powder
    1 serving Sun Warrior Ormus Supergreens powder
    A dash of Celtic sea salt
    A dash of cinnamon

    Cheers!

  16. 16

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  17. 17

    Jennifer — April 10, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

    I’ve been dropping by your blog lately and I was excited to see this post because I’ve recently started having smoothies for lunch every day! I love combining frozen blueberries, a banana, plain Greek yogurt, soy milk, a little honey, and 1/2 to 1 tsp of matcha powder. It’s so tasty and much better for me than a sandwich and chips!

  18. 18

    Julia — April 10, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

    I loved both your juicing and smoothie posts. I don’t give away my juicer, just forget that I own one! So, I’ve been juicing the past week, and I love it again. I hope I don’t stop. I also do smoothies pretty much every day, but I want to make them a bit healthier (standard frozen banana, yogurt variations are what we generally do). I love the addition of softened dates, and all the other great info you give. Also, the other suggestions in the comments are very helpful!

  19. 19

    shauna — May 9, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

    you have got to try garden of life protein powder! AMAZING…. you can get it on amazon!!!

  20. 20

    shauna — May 9, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

    oh ya it’s made from raw and sprouted ingredients :)

  21. 21

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  22. 22

    Cristina H — August 5, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

    When you say stay away from all but the fermented soy foods, does that include soy milk? Why?
    Love your blog, thanks!

  23. 23

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