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Just How Did Smoothies Take Over the World?

When I was growing up, the blender was for making milkshakes. My mom might have had some other uses for it, but to me, it was the magical machine that made creamy, frosty milkshakes. Maybe that's why Mom didn't use it much. Just putting it on the counter created a hopeful crowd of kids, milling around like cats who hear a can opener.

That pleasurable association may be why I fell so completely for smoothies. I wasn't an early adopter. Unlike my mom, I got a blender and used it for pureed soups, salad dressings and tofu cheesecake recipes. There were some memorable experiments with piña coladas and margaritas in there, too.

Then, suddenly, smoothies were everywhere. This hippie drink, a new version of the kinds of fruity drinks made in tropical countries for years, was christened "smoothie" in the 1960's. The smoothie grew to include healthy add-ins, boosting it from a snack, to a meal, and began to inch into the healthy mainstream. Your co-op might well have helped bring the smoothie to your town. Sometime in the early 2000's, entire books were dedicated to the smoothie. Coffee shops and healthy restaurants started offering them. Beautiful people made them on TV.

It was a green smoothie that convinced me. Spinach, mixed with antioxidant-rich berries and a frozen banana, tasted just like a delicious milkshake! Overnight, a smoothie for breakfast became a part of my routine.

If  you are new to making smoothies, there are a few practical things to know. One is about building your smoothie in the blender. I have a high-powered blender, so I can buzz through most anything. But even in a standard blender, you can easily make smoothies with frozen fruit and whatever your heart desires, as long as you load them properly.

So, always put the hard chunks, like frozen fruit, in first, and any leafy greens in with them. Add any powdery ingredients next, and then pour the wet ingredients in last, making sure that they make it down the sides, too. The order is important, just to keep you from having to scrape down and re-blend more than necessary. If you put in powder first, it clumps under the blade. If you put spinach on top, it floats around the top and doesn't get pureed until you push it down with a spatula.

Tip: freeze very ripe bananas for your smoothies. Peel them, break them into chunks and store them in a freezer bag or container.

Invent your own smoothie!

Here’s a basic recipe to use as a starting point. Amounts are approximations and may vary depending on your combinations.

  1. 1 1/2 cups liquid:  fruit juice, milk (dairy, almond, soy, coconut, hemp, etc.), yogurt
  2. 1/2 cup frozen banana or cooked sweet potato
  3. 1 1/2 cups other fruits and/or vegetables, chopped, fresh or frozen: bananas, berries, stone fruits, leafy greens (spinach, kale), carrots, etc.
  4. Nutritional add-ins (optional)
  5. Ice (optional)

With blender loading mastered, it's time for the fun to begin. Want a pure fruit drink to make you feel like you are on the beach? Puree mangos and papayas, and add some coconut milk or coconut water. Looking for a post-workout muscle builder? Pick a smoothie with protein in it, like the tofu (Mixed Berry and Oat Smoothie with Granola) or nut butter (Creamy Cocoa Banana Smoothie) enhanced recipes.

Check out these sensational smoothies as starting points. Each one is completely delicious and simple. Depending on your goals and the time of day, you might want to play with some add-ins (see the list of suggestion, below). Just remember, start small. The Dark Cherry Smoothie is a creamy and delicious treat, and has enough flavor to carry a couple of tablespoons of chia or hemp, or a couple of cups of spinach. If you start throwing in too many add-ins, you can end up with something that might be amazingly healthy, but with a flavor that leaves something to be desired.

As you add dry ingredients, you will need more liquids. So, if you put in a scoop of protein powder or a few tablespoons of oats, add a splash of your milk of choice, juice, or even a few ice cubes.

So get that blender out on the counter, and start enjoying the meal that eats like a shake.

Explore Add-Ins

Chia

  • Chia is an ancient "superfood" eaten by Aztec warriors. Adding Chia adds healthy Omega 3 fats, protein, fiber, calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus.
  • 1 ounce: 137 calories, 11 g fiber, 4 g protein, 18% calcium

Whole flax seeds

  • Flax seeds are packed with Omega 3 fats, cholesterol lowering fiber as well as plant estrogens.
  • 1 tablespoon: 55 calories, 4 g fat, 3 g fiber, 2 g protein, 3% calcium, 3% iron, 2338 mg Omega 3, 606 mg Omega 6

Hemp

  • Hemp seeds are very concentrated sources of protein, with Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats, fiber and antioxidants.
  • 3 tablespoons: 170 calories, 14 g fat, 1 g fiber, 11 g protein, 15% iron, 50% magnesium, 50% phosphorus, 25% Zinc 7.5 g Omega 6 LA, 3 g Omega 3 ALA

Sprirulina

  • Spirulina is a microscopic algae, very concentrated with protein, chlorophyll, iron, B vitamins and antioxidants.
  • 1 tablespoon: 20 calories, 4 g protein, 1% vitamin A, 1% calcium, 1% vitamin C, 11% iron

Nutritional yeast

  • Nutritional yeast is a vegan form of B12, and very high in protein. It also adds a "dairy-like" flavor to foods.
  • 2 tablespoons: 45 calories, 5 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 8 g protein, 4 % iron, 130% B12, 480% B6, 280% niacin, 570% riboflavin, , 640% thiamin

Protein powders

  • About 20-30 g protein per serving, depending on the type.

Matcha powder

  • Matcha is a potent form of green tea, which contains caffeine and antioxidants in abundance.

Peanut butter

  • Nut butters add protein, healthy fats and fiber, and have been found to promote satiety, keeping you full longer after meals. Try other nut butters, too.
  • 2 tablespoons: 188 calories, 16 g fat, 7 g fiber, 8 g protein, 1% calcium, 3% iron

Oats

  • Oats are a whole grain fiber containing iron, fiber, magnesium and B vitamins.
  • 1/4 cup: 77 calories, 1 g fat, 14 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 3 g protein, 1% calcium, 5% iron

Spinach

  • Spinach ranks high in nutritional value in the vegetable world and is high antioxidants.
  • 2 cups: 14 calories, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein, 112% vitamin A, 28% vitamin C, 6% calcium, 10% iron

 

Tags: diy, smoothies