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