This post was written by the Rebecca McConville. She is one of the registered dietitians for the the NFL team Kansas City Chiefs. You can follow her Pinterest page on "Nutritious yet Delicious (Drinks and Smoothies)" as well.
Smoothies are an easy way to get in many nutrients with minimal prep work. Smoothies can “hide” many fruits and veggies making it a good option for children, those crunched for time or as a way to ensure you are getting those 4-5 servings of fruits and veggies each daily. Smoothies are a go to favorite with our Chiefs for a recovery beverage when their appetite is diminished after practice.
Below is an outline of how you can become your own “Smoothie King” and create these delish beverages for your own enjoyment.
You should start off with between 1-2 cups of liquid. This goes into the blender first as it needs to be surrounding the blade in order for the blending process to start properly.
- Milk including: Dairy, Soy, Almond or Coconut milk. Try to go with unflavored if wanting it to have a neutral and smooth taste. You want the add-ins and fruits/veggies to set the tone of the taste.
- Fruit Juices can be used to increase the nutrient content of the smoothie, but beware of added sugar, as this will increase the calories. For those trying to gain “healthy” weight this is a suitable option. Also keep in mind the density of the smoothie may change as well as the flavor may intensify.
- Tea & coffee add a source of caffeine and additional antioxidants. Green tea & black tea not only increase the antioxidants but also provide a flavor enhancement.
- Yogurt and Kefir Milk are great options to provide probiotics for gut health.
- Water makes a top choice, as it is inexpensive, convenient, and calorie free!
¼ fruit & ¼ veggies or can add more fruit
The more frozen fruits/vegetables you use, the less ice you will need. Likewise, the more juices the fruits/vegetables have, the less liquid you will need to add.
- Bananas are a popular choice as they help to thicken the smoothie and provide a neutral taste that goes well with most everything
- Leafy greens (such as spinach, kale and romaine lettuce) blend easily into fruit smoothies, but they do not add a strong vegetable taste.
- Cucumbers add thickness and moisture to smoothies without adding much flavor.
- Carrots are a sweet vegetable that are almost undetectable when added to a smoothie. Consider investing in a high-speed blender before adding carrots to smoothies. Weaker blenders may leave your smoothie with an unpleasant, chunky texture.
- Avocados are a source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Their creamy texture makes them a natural addition to smoothies.
¼ protein & other add ins
- Protein Powder (half to whole scoop) will nutritionally balance the smoothie similar to that of a meal. Try to look for a powder with the least amount of ingredients. Whey protein isolate still stands as a gold standard unless only consuming plant-based products. There are many different flavors and vanilla blends right in with the taste of most fruits.
- Greek yogurt or any yogurt will provide a source of protein and increase Calcium.
- Wheat & Barley Grass Powders are powerful sources of chlorophyll (which is known for balancing blood pH levels) and are known as a "complete food source", containing vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, and antioxidants.
- Chlorella & Spirulina are amazing sources of almost every vitamin and are 70% protein by weight; they will also turn your smoothie green!
- Seasonings common in cooking or baking such as cinnamon, honey, brown sugar, nutmeg, and vanilla extract will all add sweet complexities to the flavor.
- Peanut Butter as well as any nut butter can add protein and a thicker texture. Try mixing in PB2 powder for those trying to limit calories without compromising taste.
- Chia & Flax Seeds are both good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and are nutrient rich.
- Oats help lower cholesterol and provide long lasting energy.
Here are some recipe ideas:
- Try adding coffee to make a smoothie Frappucino.
- Blend together 1 cup of soy milk with half of a frozen banana, 1 cup of frozen strawberries and 1 cup of raw baby spinach or trying add kale to a smoothie made with orange juice, yogurt and bananas.
- Try a ripe avocado with pineapple, coconut water, agave nectar, lime juice and vanilla extract to create a healthier version of a Pina colada.
- Blend a raw, chopped carrot into a mixture of green grapes, lime juice, half of a banana, half of an apple and orange juice.
- Bend cucumbers together with tomatoes, lemon juice, garlic and fresh basil to create a gazpacho-like savory smoothie with vitamins A and C and the mineral potassium.
Image by By Vanessa p. from near Savannah, GA (Strawberry Lemon Smoothie) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons