July 25, 2011

Healthy Smoothie Recipes: From Foofy to Fierce

Photo: echo0101

Admittedly, not everyone has joined the Cult of the Smoothie. Some people prefer not to drink their calories, some folks don't have a blender yet, and still others just don't see the point of tossing a bunch of perfectly good whole food items together and pulverizing them into an unrecognizable viscous substance that may vary in hue from a pretty pink to a repellant grayish brown.

But, for the rest of us: aren't smoothies awesome? You can drink 'em for breakfast or have one as a snack and, if made properly, they allow you to consume a bunch of virtuous healthy stuff without gagging! Or conversely, you can enjoy a tasty beverage that resembles a milkshake without feeling too guilty about it.

Funny thing, though: some folks may start innocently sipping milkshake-like fruity concoctions. But then concerns about sugar/fructose content, or the desire to snag potential health benefits from more adventurous ingredients, can lead to an obsessive quest for the healthiest smoothie possible that is still actually drinkable without holding one's nose.

Are you looking to start easing your way into the Smoothosphere with some sweet, creamy, pretty foofy smoothies? Or are you already well down that road and are now looking to create a fierce blender beverage that will shock family and friends with its outrageous healthiness and seemingly unappetizing combination of disease-fighting ingredients? Or maybe you've perfected your own smoothie recipe and wouldn't mind sharing some tips?

Well, let's get crackin'! Here are some tips for healthy smoothies, along with recipes and resources.

Smoothie Tips:

1. Buy a blender. Much more convenient than a sledgehammer or a wood-chipper for pulverizing produce.

2. If you're new to smoothies, start Foofy. It's more important that you LOVE your smoothie; if you start off with a recipe that calls for rutabagas, seaweed, and raw eggs you may incorrectly come to the conclusion that smoothies are not for you. Frozen fruit + reasonably healthy liquid and you're good to go. Don't have frozen fruit on hand? Fresh fruit + ice + liquid works too.

3. Other typical "starter" ingredients for smoothie newbies besides fruit are things like milk (cow/goat/almond/soy/rice etc), yogurt, fruit juice, coconut water, peanut or almond butter, sweeteners (sugar/honey/stevia etc.), vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, mint, cocoa powder, or whatever you can think of that isn't outright unhealthy but might make the smoothie more of a treat.

4. Proportions? Well, this depends on whether you like 'em icy or just cool, thick or thin, sweet or not so sweet... check out the recipe links below for suggestions, but really, when it comes to smoothies, it's best to experiment with your own favorite ingredients until you find the right consistency and flavor.

5. Found a smoothie you like? Now add protein! If you're one of those meat-loving primal folks, then sure, go ahead and throw in a rack of lamb. But for many, the idea is to have the protein part be unobtrusive. You can use dairy products like milk or yogurt (greek yogurt in particular is high in protein). But there are alternatives too, like pasteurized egg whites (flavorless and undetectable) or protein powders. There can be drawbacks to protein powders: some are expensive, some have a grainy texture, some taste gross, and some are surprisingly high in sugar and calories. I shied away for ages, but after reading a bunch of research about the health benefits of whey protein, I finally succumbed. My favorite is the vanilla whey protein at Whole Foods, the house brand called "365." It's cheaper than most, and sweetened with stevia (which may be good or bad depending on your Stevia views).

6. Go green! The next step is adding veggies. Same advice as above: go slowly and let the fruit dominate until you start acclimating to the vegetable taste. (Weirdly enough, you do get used to it, and even start to enjoy a little bit of veggie complexity poking its head out of the fruity sweetness). It helps to start with a little bit of something mild, like romaine lettuce or spinach, or something sweet, like carrots. Then gradually add more; when it tastes yucky, back off or you'll suddenly find yourself craving poptarts for breakfast and your healthy smoothies ritual may become a thing of the past.

7. Optimize and exoticize! See how many healthy things you can sneak into your smoothie without rendering it too disgusting to drink. Antioxidant powerhouses like blueberries, cruciferous veggies,  arugula or cabbage, green tea, healthy herbs, probiotics, spices, eye of newt... (Oh wait, wrong potion recipe.  Skip the eye of newt unless you're trying to turn your boss into a cockroach).

Hmm, not bad--just needs a tad more mouse.
Photo credit: Malingering

8. So what's in my smoothie these days? Let's see, this morning it was: frozen blueberries, a few stalks of asparagus, a little arugula, a whole crap-load of fresh spinach, some carrot juice, coconut water, egg whites, ice, and a scoop of the above-described stevia-sweetened vanilla whey protein powder.  Sure, it may look like a toxic oil spill. And sadly, house guests tend to flee the kitchen if they catch me concocting one, fearful that I may offer them a sample. But I swear, it tastes great (to me!)

Recipes and Resources

For new smoothie enthusiasts, who are looking for lightweight type smoothies, here are some Foofy ideas:

There's an Orange Creamsicle smoothie, and tons more recipes at Smoothieweb.

Oprah's magazine unearthed a pair of smoothie-making twins and among their recipes you'll find the Watermelon Agua Fresca Smoothie.

There are a whole bunch of foofy smoothie recipes in Good Housekeeping too, a magazine which probably contains all kinds of good stuff but has that problematic title--at least for those of us who are Stubbornly Bad Housekeepers.

And if you like audio/visual aids, Allrecipes.com has a video on how to make smoothies. (Did I watch it? Um, no. So if half-way through it turns into an infomercial for cuticle cream or a zombie movie or something, sorry about that).

And Fitness Magazine also has some healthy yet user-friendly smoothie recipes, including one for a Honeydew-Kiwifruit Smoothie.

For the more hardcore smoothie fan, here are your Advanced, Death-defying smoothie recipes:

Raw Family not only has recipes and videos but they even have a free green smoothie App for your iPhone or Droid or whatever. Their smoothies contain ingredients like dandelion greens, aloe vera, and stinging nettles, so you know they mean business!

Blisstree and That's Fit, two well-respected health blogs (which, since I've come back from hiatus now seem be sleeping together or something, it's a little confusing), featured the same smoothie article full of suggestions for healthy power ingredients that will boost your metabolism.

And of course I have to mention Vitamix, which is a company that makes high-end blenders and is a great source of green smoothie recipes.   Oh, and should some vitamix PR rep be searching the web for  health bloggers who drink smoothies to review one of those babies?  YES, PLEASE, CRABBY IS YOUR GAL! YOU HAVE FOUND THE RIGHT PLACE!

So, do you guys have any good recipes or links? Do you even drink smoothies or do you prefer your produce some other way? Are you Foofy or Fierce when it comes to making smoothies or other healthy concoctions?


  1. I've made the occasional blender concoction over the years. While they're fine 'n' all, the blender still has to be cleaned. That's where it breaks down for me.

  2. I like smoothies, but I'm a reformed sugar-holic. So i'm at a loss right now in the smoothie world. A little whey protein and unsweetened chocolate almond milk. I'm not sure my regular blender what have what it takes to make a green smoothie. Have you tried a regular blender with leefy greens?

  3. I go through stages with smoothies. Mainly because I hate cleaning the blender parts. I've actually made a "smoothie" using protein powder & frozen blueberries (stirred with a spoon)but fyi: the protein powder sticks to the frozen bb's and you then need the spoon to eat it. It was still yummy and I didn't have to clean the blender. #Win

  4. Mary, I had good luck with a fairly ancient blender, then bad luck with a new one, then good luck with a fancier model... perhaps getting a new one with the idea of returning it if it won't do the job? They almost all advertise being super powerful, even the ones that start screaming if you throw anything in the least bit controversial, so I think you'd be well within your rights to return a wimpy one.

  5. Joyce & Leah,

    Wait, you're supposed to clean the blender between uses?


  6. My favorite:
    frozen spinach
    frozen blueberries
    frozen strawberries
    1/2 banana
    flax seed meal
    protein powder

    The best part? You can't taste the spinach, but you get the nutrients.

  7. If you're one of those meat-loving primal folks, then sure, go ahead and throw in a rack of lamb.


    My only concern is the part about people who get into Smoothies being part of a cult. Does that mean I'm supposed to wear my Snuggie/cult-robe while sipping my smoothie?

  8. Yes, Leah's my sister. When they make a self-cleaning blender, I'll be a smoothie fan.
    I made plenty of them when I worked in the deli more than twenty years ago. My boss was a fan of the chia. I learned to get the consistency different to suit different customers.
    What will get me to clean the blender, though, is gazpacho. Keep adding vegetables and removing fruits and you'll be at the gazpacho end of the blender ruler. The best cold breakfast in the world. I won't add protein powder, though, I'll just eat a chunk of cheese or a spoonful of peanut butter.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  9. (Oh, and Mary? My blender was a seldom-used gift to my parents in the sixties: harvest gold with little veggie drawings. I use it almost weekly to shred potatoes for latkes, not to mention the bell pepper and zucchini I put in my gazpacho all summer, and it's still going fine after about forty-five years. It also liquified pumpkin for a guest-cook to make pumpkin pie last Thanksgiving.)

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  10. Thanks for the blender tips. I will give it a try. I like the recipe that Scott has. Hmmmmmm, then I'll have to clean the damn thing.

  11. I have a stick blender that I still don't like to clean. It has mixed a few things up for me though, but usually, I just use a fork and my arm. Sadly that gets used too much ;)

  12. I've never gotten into the smoothie thing...unless it's for desert. And I think technically that's just called a shake. Does malt powder count for anything?

  13. A book from Raw Family taught me smoothies, so my very favorite is frozen banana, a bit of water, spinach, and celery. Yum!

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Every work day...six ice cubes, chocolate protein powder, peanut butter, cocoa powder, a banana, milk, and sweetener. YES!!!

    My other favourite...a mix of berries, an orange, vanilla yogurt and ice cubes all blended.

    I did the green monsters for awhile with pomegranate juice and a mix of berries.

    I am big fan and could possibly drink a few a day and eliminate the need for food.

  16. I want what the cat is having & I need a Vitamix too! My blender broke! I have been drinking smoothies since my 30's & bodybuilding but less now but I can use that Vitamix for much more than smoothies!

  17. I will often have a smoothie after a run on a hot summer day. I don't have a specific recipe as far as measurments or ingredients go. I'll start my smoothies with crushed ice, add orange juice, a banana, blueberries and carrots. I consider these my staple ingredients. After that I may add whey protein, flax seeds or a green powder for an extra boost. Smoothies are a great way to get the recommended fruits and veggies. Thanks for posting the links to all those great recipes.

  18. Recent favorite smoothies:

    "Carrot cake batter": 1 cooked carrot (so it's soft enough to blend), 1 frozen banana, plain cereal (yes, like Fiber One), some almond milk, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and nutmeg.

    "Pina colada": 1 frozen banana, almond milk + coconut extract or just coconut milk, vanilla extract.

    Coconut Chai: 1 frozen banana (noticing a theme here?), almond milk + coconut extract or just coconut milk, cinnamon, cardamom, TOUCH of cloves, vanilla extract. Sometimes cold brewed iced tea as well.

    And I add protein powder to any/all of them depending on what else I'm eating that day.

  19. I'm loving all these suggestions, recipes, and of course the complaints too, this being Cranky Fitness and all. Am definitely going to try some of these out, thanks guys!

  20. Smoothies are all about practicality for me. I don't enjoy even the foofy ones so I just cram all the good stuff into my blender and drink the vile mixture. But then I eat a lot of gross food so...hmm...

  21. smoothies are a healthy way to complete your diets, also you have the benefits of the fruits, seeds, everything you mix I use to substitute my lunch for a smooth, specially during the summer. Great post

  22. For those who have complained about blender cleanup and/or blender stamina, I'd recommend the Magic Bullet, which is a perfect smoothie machine, and the bonus is, you make your smoothie in the same cup you drink it from. The only cleanup is rinsing the blade-base thingy, which takes 10 seconds. Another bonus -- it has a very small footprint so takes up minimal counter space.

  23. Great post with awesome tips! Loved the picture of the cat too!

  24. Bullet blender cleaned out with a baby bottle brush - only 2 parts - very easy to clean. Before I got this, rarely smoothed, just shook protein in water bottle filled w funnel! Been looking for recipes and very glad to find this site.

  25. Great tips, I especially like #8 it sounds strange but I am sure it is super healthy. You know it's good if it makes your house guests flee! Ha Ha


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