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 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