Smoothies are almost always a well-disguised excuse to drink a milkshake for breakfast. Go to any number of smoothie cafes and you'll see concoctions that look more like desserts or fruity frappes than anything resembling a healthy meal or snack. I'm here to show you how to make reliably delicious and easy smoothies that won't throw off your goals or your blood sugar.
There are a few key factors to take into account when you're making a great smoothie: texture, flavor, and macronutrient balance are my big three.
A truly great smoothie is cold and creamy. I don't want to drink a lukewarm smoothie or a glass of icy fruit fragments -- give me cool and silky smooth, straight out of the blender
On Monday I shared my recipe for homemade coconut milk, which has proven to be a reliable foundation for all of my smoothie creations lately. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor and, the most important part, a texture that is creamy without being heavy. Other creamy textural elements to include are frozen bananas or full-fat fermented dairy products like whole milk yogurt or kefir.
This is a no-brainer consideration when you're making anything in the kitchen, but it's especially important to remember when you're including vegetables in your smoothies. I like to add fresh raw greens to most smoothies, and every once in a while I'll throw in a cooked-then-chilled veggie like a sweet potato or a beet. However, when using ingredients with strong flavors of their own, remember to consider how they'll marry with the other flavors in the smoothie. For example, a favorite addition to my basic smoothie recipe is baby kale - on its own, it provides a potent flavor that is distinctly green. But, if I take care to combine it with some sweet-tart berries and creamy coconut milk, the strength of the kale is tempered and the smoothie is enjoyable.
Note: if adding raw greens to smoothies, be sure to switch up the variety regularly and enjoy cooked vegetables, too. For example, use baby bok choy one week, fresh spinach for another smoothie, and spring mix the following week.
Drinking smoothies regularly isn't right for everyone. Too often, they offer too much sugar in an easily assimilated form, which means blood sugar spikes and crashes later. Depending on your goals, adding smoothies to your diet may or may not be appropriate, so please consider that. However, if you're looking to increase your fruit and veggie intake, or if you want a healthy option on the go, or if you're an active individual who needs quick calories to supplement a whole foods diet, making a smoothie with a good balance of protein, carbohydrate and fat will be helpful. There are countless options to add all three macronutrients to your smoothies, from grass-fed whey protein powders to chia seeds and nut butters. Experiment and have fun, with an eye toward balance.
Note: neither my husband nor I consider smoothies alone to be a significant breakfast. If a smoothie is a part of our morning meal, we always combine it with some hard-boiled eggs or other protein-rich options for more staying power.
Let's get down to the nitty gritty. When I'm making a smoothie for my husband's on-the-go breakfast, I follow a basic template:
8 oz. liquid + 2 c. greens + 1 c. frozen berries + 1 small frozen banana
This yields a single-serving smoothie that is hearty but not so thick that it is undrinkable. Sometimes I'll add a tablespoon of nut butter or chia seeds, and often I'll throw in a scoop of unsweetened protein powder. Often, when making a smoothie for myself, I will omit the banana as I find it to be too sweet. I've come up with some pretty delicious combinations, often adding ground turmeric or ground ginger to frozen blueberry smoothies to make the flavors sing. Regardless of the flavors within, I've found the formula above to be extraordinarily reliable.
Now it's your turn! Are you a smoothie-drinker? Do you follow a formula? What are your favorite flavor combinations?