I’m a green smoothie lovin’ machine, especially green smoothie variations, and for good reason: Smoothies are a great way to sneak extra vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and nutrients into your diet. Not to mention, they’re pretty darn tasty! However, it pays to be picky when it comes to your smoothie. Most store-bought smoothies (the kind you might find pre-packaged at the supermarket, or at Smoothie King, for example) are brimming with refined sugars, excess sodium, and weird additives. Oftentimes, your so-called “fruit” smoothie isn’t even made with real fruit. No bueno.
The good news? Making smoothies at home is an easy, inexpensive, and nutritious alternative to those pricy, sugary store bought smoothies. All you need is a blender and some fresh produce, and you’re on your way to smoothie heaven. Not quite sure where to start? Fear not! To get your creative juices flowing, I’ve compiled a list of all-star smoothie ingredients as well as some general tips for making the perfect at-home smoothie.
Greens and other veggies: kale greens, spinach, romaine, celery, swiss chard, mustard greens, dandelion greens, cucumber, wheatgrass
Herbs: mint, cilantro, parsley, and basil, etc.
Fruits: bananas, apples, green apples, pears, kiwi, pineapple, peaches, mango, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, papaya, lemons, limes, grapefruit, orange, blood orange, figs, dates, plums, acai, etc.
Proteins: plant-based protein powders (brown rice, pea, sunwarrior, vega, organic grass fed whey protein, etc.), hemp seeds, chia seeds, nut butters, etc.
Healthy fats: chia seeds, avocados, coconut oil, hemp seeds, nuts/seeds
Superfoods: bee pollen, maca powder, lucuma, cocoa nibs, spirulina, chlorella, cinnamon, cayenne, young coconut meat, unsweetened shredded coconut, coconut water, avocado, chia seeds, hemp seeds, matcha tea powder, nut milks, sprouted buckwheat groats, raw gluten free oats, etc. If some of these “superfoods” are new to you, head over to my pantry page on Nutrition Stripped, where I share detailed descriptions to find out if it’s right for you.
Sweetener of choice: Stevia extract (homemade or store bought) is a great way to keep the sweetness in the smoothie without relying heavily on simple sugars from fruit if you’re watching your carbohydrate intake.
The key to making a great smoothie depends on 1) your taste buds, 2) your health goals, and 3) flavor combinations you enjoy. For example, if you’d like to start with green smoothies, I recommend using spinach as the first green to use as it’s lighter in texture (i.e., blends best in traditional blenders) and it has a naturally sweet flavor to it, in comparison to kale, which is grittier in texture and more bitter in taste. If you’re looking to manage your weight, lose weight, or simply watch the sugar/carbohydrates in your diet, you can easily use add-ons such as stevia instead of using a lot of fruit to maintain the sweetness in the smoothie. For general health, I recommend adding in the most nutrient-dense veggies and fruits you can (think berries, dark leafy greens, and healthy fats).
Here’s a good rule of thumb:
Smoothie = 1-2 parts greens, 1 part fruit, 1 part protein, and 1 part healthy fat + additional goodies (see superfood ideas).
Ready to start blending? Good! Below is a quick, crowd-pleasing recipe starring classic flavor combinations.
Simply Strawberry Banana
What you’ll need:
·1½ cup frozen organic strawberries
·1 frozen banana
·1 cup of greens such as spinach, celery, cucumber
·½ cup of unsweetened almond milk (adjust to your desired thickness)
·1 scoop of your favorite vanilla protein powder (Vanilla Vega Sport Performance Protein or Sunwarrior are some of my personal favorites)
·a dash of cinnamon
What you’ll do:
Simply add to a high speed blender and blend until smooth. Drink immediately or if you’re storing, store in the fridge in an airtight mason jar or container for up to 2 days and re-blend before drinking. Best when made and served at the same time.
McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and owner of plant-based food blog Nutrition Stripped. Nutrition Stripped makes healthy eating deliciously simple with plant-based, gluten free, and whole food recipes. Connect with McKel on Nutrition Stripped or contact her for one-on-one nutrition coaching services. Nutrition Stripped on Instagram, Facebook,and Pinterest.