Being the mother of four small children can be challenging when it comes to preparing healthy food that they will enjoy. That’s why I’m thrilled when I find something healthy that the entire family loves that I can easily make myself. Enter smoothies.
Smoothies are a huge hit in our household. They are extremely flexible, allowing you to throw in a number of different ingredients. And they are a great way to incorporate more nutrients into your meals.
Smoothies don’t take long to prepare and the only piece of equipment you need is a good blender. After you take care of that, the combinations are limitless and can include the following:
Smoothie staples: the usual suspects
Juice – Orange juice is the main staple in our house, though smoothies taste great with any number of juices. Apple, pomegranate, carrot, pineapple or juice blends can all be used with great success.
Creaminess – It’s nice to add something creamy that will complement your other ingredients. I only put a small amount of juice in smoothies to avoid a bunch of empty calories. That makes something creamy essential so that there’s enough liquid.
In my house, that used to be vanilla yogurt or strawberry kefir, but then I discovered that my body doesn’t like dairy very much. Smoothies are great in that regard because you can easily substitute one component with something else, like almond, coconut or another non-dairy milk.
Fruit – Most people like to throw some fresh fruit into their smoothies. Bananas are really popular in our house as I buy them ripe at a huge discount. Use ripe fruit that’s in season to add a delicious, inexpensive burst of flavor.
Berries – This is where I differ from a lot of people I know. I really don’t like adding ice to my smoothies. Probably because I’ve had one-too-many smoothies that weren’t blended all the way. You too? Don’t worry – you don’t have to use ice. You can use frozen berries instead.
They are usually small enough that they blend easily and add some delicious flavor to your drink. Berries are a must in our smoothies because they change the color from a green my kids won’t touch to a delicious purple that they can’t get enough of.
Sweetener – This is totally optional and I have only done it once or twice. If you’re using fruit that isn’t very sweet or you just like a sweet smoothie, you can always add in a little bit of honey or maple syrup to get the taste where you like it. (Find natural unrefined sweeteners here.)
Smoothie extras: not-so-common ingredients
Smoothies are a great way to increase the nutrients in your diet. I love that they mask flavors that my children would normally not like. That’s why I use smoothies to get more veggies into our diet. Yes, veggies.
Leafy greens – Spinach, kale, lettuce. All of these can be added into your smoothie to boost the vitamins and minerals available. If there are any picky eaters in your household (yourself included) start off with a small amount and throw in some berries. This masks the flavor and color of the greens. Usually trying it once is enough to convert the most skeptical eaters.
Other veggies – Greens aren’t the only veggie you can to a smoothie. Carrots are wonderful for their nutrients and sweetness. Broccoli and cucumber also blend well into a smoothie.
Protein powder – This is common for those who want to add a boost of protein to their smoothie. Protein takes longer to burn than carbs, helping you to sustain your energy level longer. There are different powders available – like whey and hemp. Just be sure to add a small amount. Too much can cause a strange, chalky aftertaste.
Nut butters – These are another excellent source of protein and more and more people are telling me about their smoothie recipes that call for peanut or almond butter. I haven’t experimented with these much but have heard they go well with vanilla yogurt and bananas.
Now, how about a recipe to give you an idea of the quantities to use? This is the recipe I use most frequently for breakfast smoothies. I use the markings on my blender to measure and have a six-cup blender.
Adjust the recipe if yours is smaller. Otherwise it will explode onto your counter. Don’t ask me how I know…
Fruit Breakfast Smoothie
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 cup almond milk
- 2 carrots, rinsed and diced. Leave the tops on.
- 2 bananas, peeled and diced
- 1 handful baby spinach
- 1 handful frozen strawberries
- 1 handful mixed berries
Put the orange juice, almond milk, carrots, bananas and spinach in the blender and blend them well. This makes more room for the berries and is easier on your blender. Add the berries and blend well. Serve and enjoy.
What are your favorite smoothie ingredients and recipes?