I wrote this ages ago for another site long gone. Someone recently asked me about it, so here it is:
Smoothies, a blended fruit or vegetable beverage, can help anyone to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diet, make an easy on-the-go meal, and can often entice picky toddlers to eat foods they otherwise wouldn't.
There are hundreds of of smoothie recipes available, but learning the basic categories of ingredients and approximate proportions can unleash the creative household smoothie chef.
Incorporate Leafy Greens into Any Diet with Smoothies
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends everyone eat at least 3 cups of leafy green vegetables per week. Greens are high in iron, vitamin C, and vitamin K and are linked to lower risk for numerous health conditions and diseases. While it’s tough to get the average kid to sit down to a salad, mix that same salad with some sweet fruits and serve it as a smoothie and good-for-you food becomes great for kids.
Fresh spinach may be the easiest green to incorporate into a smoothie because of its mild flavor, making it likely accepted by children. Kale is extremely easy to grow in a home garden but imparts a distinctly leafy green flavor. Greens such as kale, arugula mustard, or others may be successfully included but their sharper flavor must be considered. Using smaller quantities of sharper greens or masking their flavor with strongly flavored fruits or flavored sweeteners can also work.
Green Leafy Options: spinach, kale, arugula, mustard, tatsoi, swiss chard, and more
Use Proteins to Make Smoothies into a Complete Meal
Sources of protein like yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, or tofu both thicken and bulk up the nutritional component of a smoothie. These ingredients can be a key to satisfying hunger. Smooth and soft tofu works best and is easiest to blend. Peanut butter and other seed and nut butters thicken while adding flavor.
For dairy eaters, there’s the old classic: yogurt, but cottage cheese also whips up into a very nice smoothie base. Kefir is another, less thick, alternative, but the flavor can be distinctive and overwhelm mild fruits. Sweetened yogurt can eliminated the need for additional sweeteners.
Protein/Thickener Options: yogurt, tofu, kefir, cottage cheese, peanut butter, and more
Fruit Makes the Smoothie Fun
High in vitamins and natural sweetness, flavor combination possibilities are endless when incorporating fruit into smoothies.
Frozen fruit gives smoothies nice ice cream consistency and can be used instead of ice to make smoothies cold. Using frozen fruit also makes incorporating exotic or out-of-season fruits easier.
Be wary of seeds and textures when adding fruit. Skins on pears or peaches and seeds in blackberries or raspberries are not necessarily bad, but they do affect the texture and may not pass through all straws or sippy cups used by children.
Generally, juicier fruits are a better choice than fruits like apples. Bananas work well as an alternative to thickening smoothies with proteins. Pumpkin puree (add cinnamin and ginger for a fun pie-flavored drink) can be another fun alternative.
Warning: Very fibrous fruits can clog blenders and make for a fibrous smoothie.
Fruit Options: bananas, strawberries, mangoes, peaches, blueberries, papaya, pumpkin, or other favorite fruits
Smoothie Liquids Ease Blending
No need to get fancy with liquids. Water works just fine. Juices can be used in place of or in addition to other sweeteners. Milk or soymilk provide added protein. Alternative milk beverages add flavor.
Liquid Options: water, juice, soymilk, ricemilk, almond milk, hemp milk, cow's milk.
A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Smoothie Go Down
But, don’t use granulated sugar, it does not dissolve well in cold liquids. Liquid sweeteners like honey, agave syrup, or even maple syrup work great.
Sweetener options: honey, agave syrup, brown rice syrup, maple syrup.
Extras Can Boost Nutritional Value and Flavor
The list of possible extras at the average smoothie restaurant is quite long but vitamin powders and protein powders are common. Vitamin powers like Emergen-C come in a variety of flavors that can help mask a sharp or strong green. Protein powders from whey or soy are available in most natural food stores.
Universal Smoothie Recipe
This simple formula for making smoothies will free the smoothie enthusiast from the recipe books forever. Makes two servings (all measures are approximate)
- Up to 2 cups leafy green vegetables
- ½ cup protein/thickener
- Up to 3 cups of fresh or frozen fruits
- 2 cups liquid (divided)
- 1 tablespoon of sweetener, or more to taste
- Optional: ice, extras
Smoothie Making Instructions
Add ingredients to blender in order presented, holding back at least half the liquid. Add additional liquid as needed to ease blending or reach desired consistency. Pour. Enjoy.