Summer is just about here and with it comes a bounty of luscious, garden fresh produce. The warmer weather also means that you might be looking for meals and snacks that are not only quick and easy to make, but also take advantage of the colorful produce that is increasingly available and affordable. If you are hunting for the ideal summer meal that is light, refreshing and nutritious, turn to your blender and discover exactly what you are looking for in the form of the perfect smoothie.
Smoothies have a reputation for being a breakfast food, and when constructed with the right ingredients, they can be one of the best ways to start your day. However, there are so many potential combinations of ingredients and flavors, that a smoothie can become the perfect light meal or snack any time of the day.
Not all smoothies are created equal, however. When made with less than wholesome ingredients, some smoothies can be high in sugar and calories and relatively low in nutritional value. This can be especially true if you head out to your local café or smoothie shop to get your daily fix. Some smoothie establishments use a base that is high in sugar, fat and calories while including little actual produce. This results in a product that is little more than a glorified milkshake. If you have a favorite smoothie shop that you frequent, inquire about the ingredients that they use and ask to see their nutritional information. Of course, there is a simple way to avoid that hassle altogether, and that is making your own delicious smoothies at home.
I admit that the process of making smoothies can become addictive. Soon, you will not only be blending up your favorites on a regular basis, but searching out adventurous new combinations to try as well. Not that you really need any encouragement to enjoy a luscious smoothie on a regular basis, but it is worth noting that a smoothie is a great way to pack serious nutrition into just one meal or snack. Here are just a few of the reasons that delicious smoothies are among some of the best power meals imaginable.
- First, everyone loves a smoothie. Even the pickiest eater in your house will likely succumb to the sweetness of a fresh smoothie. It is the perfect way to round out a diet that might otherwise be lacking in fresh fruit, vegetables and nutrients.
- Smoothies are just about the easiest and quickest meal to make. If you have five minutes, you have time to make a smoothie, even on the busiest of mornings.
- Smoothies help you get in all of those servings of fruits and vegetables that you know you should be eating to look and feel your best. No matter how healthy your diet, somedays it can be difficult to squeeze in all your servings of fruits and vegetables while still getting a sufficient amount of protein. One large smoothie can contain as many as two, or even three, servings of produce and with the right add-ins, your smoothie can pack a powerful protein punch as well.
- Contrary to some beliefs, smoothies can help you lose weight rather than gain it. You can craft your homemade smoothie to contain all of the essential elements that you need to feel satisfied, renew your energy, boost your metabolism and fight off cravings for sugar-laden junk food.
- Smoothies are a “gut friendly” food. The ingredients that go into making a healthy smoothie are often packed with fiber, which is something that our modern diets are typically very low in. The added fiber in your diet will help to keep your digestive system running smoothly. Also, if you use yogurt or kefir as part of your base, you get the added benefit of adding extra important probiotics into your body.
- Smoothies are packed with antioxidants. Popular smoothie ingredients such as berries, spinach and green tea rank high on the antioxidant charts. Antioxidants help to keep you healthy by stopping free radicals from damaging your cells. Regularly consuming ample amounts of antioxidants will keep you in glowing health, both inside and out.
- Smoothies make for the perfect post-workout snack or light meal. The liquid form of smoothies makes the nutrients more accessible and easier for your body to assimilate than if you were eating a regular meal or filling snack.
- Smoothies lift the brain fog. A good smoothie provides just the mental boost that you need to lift the brain fog and refuel your energy to get you through the rest of your day.
While there really isn’t any magical formula to making smoothies, there is a process that is almost always failproof. To make the perfect, creamy smoothie, you will need the following components:
Fruits and vegetables: Approximately one to one and half cups of chopped produce is sufficient for one smoothie.
Frozen component: This should equal approximately ½ to one full cup. You can use ice, but you can also use frozen fruit, frozen tea, for even frozen yogurt for a more decadent option.
Liquid: The liquid will help to break apart the other ingredients and smooth out the texture. A common mistake is to add to much liquid. All you need is about ½ cup per smoothie. Use any type of liquid that you prefer including milk, milk alternatives such as soy or almond milk, tea, juice or even coffee.
Protein: While protein isn’t an essential ingredient, adding a little will turn your smoothie into more of a complete meal, and it will help to satisfy your appetite. You can use whey or protein powders, or you can go even more natural and choose avocados, nuts, nut butters or tofu.
Blender: There are plenty of fancy, expensive blenders on the market that are designed to make smoothie blending a snap. However, an old school blender can still do the trick. If you find your blender is a little weak in the power department, or the blades a little dull, choose softer ingredients such as fresh fruit over frozen fruit. If you are using ice, try breaking it up a little with a hammer beforehand and then add it a little at a time. Or forgo the ice altogether and use juice popsicles or a little fruit sorbet instead. (Just watch the sugar!)
A Few Tips for Perfect Smoothies
Smoothies are fast and easy. You can simply throw it all in a blender and go. Even with this simplicity, there are a few tips that will help make your smoothie making adventures even more enjoyable.
- If you have a newer model blender that easily swirls ingredients into smoothie heaven, then the order that you put the ingredients into the blender won’t matter so much. However, if your blender needs a little help, you can start by adding the liquid first, then produce, your frozen component and finally, any dry ingredients last.
- Keep plenty of cut up produce on hand. That way all you need to do is grab a few handfuls and blend. If you know your morning is going to be especially rushed, simply place all of your ingredients, except for the ice component, in the blender and keep it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, just add some ice, blend and pour. A nutritious breakfast couldn’t be easier.
- Don’t be shy about adding vegetables. Cucumbers, greens, beets and carrots are just a few vegetables that blend beautifully in smoothies. You can even go for an all-vegetable smoothie and use tea or vegetable juice as your liquid. If you need a little more sweetness, simply add a little honey or agave nectar to your vegetable blends.
- Try adding a healthy fats. Avocado and coconut oil make for great, creamy smoothies.
- Try seeds and nuts. A spoonful of chia seeds, flax meal or chopped nut will increase the nutritional quality of your smoothie.
- If your smoothie is too thick, add a tablespoon of liquid at a time until the desired consistency is reached.
- If your smoothie is too thin, try adding some frozen fruit or yogurt.
- If you are making a smoothie with lots of greens, such as spinach or kale, fruits such as banana, pineapple and oranges will help neutralize the bitterness and add a sweeter flavor profile.
When it comes to smoothies, the possibilities are endless. The best advice is to just take some of your favorite ingredients, blend and go. However, if you are looking for a little inspiration, here are a couple of delicious smoothie recipes that are perfect for any beautiful summer day.
Orange Creamsicle Smoothie
- 1 cup frozen peach slices
- ½ cup peeled orange wedges
- ½ frozen banana
- ½ cup low fat vanilla Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 2 teaspoons chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon vanilla whey powder
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
Add all of the ingredients to a blender, and puree until smooth.
Blueberry Energizer Smoothie
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- ½ cup fresh spinach
- ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- ¼ cup coconut water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.
Green Beast Smoothie
- 1 cup swiss chard, torn
- ½ cup kale, torn
- 1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
- ¼ cup kiwi
- ½ cup avocado, cubed
- ½ cup green tea
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- ½ cup ice
Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
As the lazy days of summer approach, resist the temptation to reach for your favorite ice cream treat and reach instead for a fresh, cold smoothie, bursting with the ripe, luscious flavors of summer. This is the season when we really get to enjoy the full flavor of garden fresh fruits and vegetables. Everything from juicy ripe peaches to emerald colored greens are waiting to make their way into your most delicious creations. Grab an icy glass, and a nice thick straw and then sit back, sip and enjoy the healthy, flavors of the season.