We all know that Mom said to eat our vegetables and fruits. But what if you're not crazy about any part of that plan … yet you know that you should eat well for the sake of your health? Or the flab hanging off your body? The good news is that one way to eat well, without actually eating, is to drink healthy smoothies. You can spend a few minutes making smoothies and get all the phytochemicals you need and you don't have to eat a blessed thing.
What Is A Smoothie, Anyway?
A smoothie is simple and quick to make because it is merely a blended drink of (usually) healthy ingredients. You mix fruit and/or veggies and liquid. That's the basics but there can be many more add-ons like flavorings, yogurt, sweetener, etc. But one thing is for sure: if you experiment and find some recipes you like (one of my favorites, for instance, is a pina colada smoothie), you won't feel dread at the thought of getting your nutrients every day.
How Much 'Live Stuff' Should I Eat?
Depending on who you're reading or listening to, the prescription for produce consumption is anywhere from 2-6 fruit servings each day and 3-6 servings of vegetables. All of these are more nutritious if eaten live, meaning not cooked or canned. A serving of fruit is about half a cup or a small apple or peach or two apricots. A half cup is usually the amount of veggies for a serving.
What Do I Need To Make A Healthy Smoothie?
To make a smoothie, you need:
A really strong blender – or even better, a Vitamix
Vegetables or fruits
Optional ingredients (mentioned in parts 2 and 3 of our smoothie series)
Vegetable Smoothie Drinks
There are smoothies that call for green veggies or green veggie powder. I've tried several of them and I will tell you honestly that I DO NOT LIKE THEM! Yes, they make extremely healthy drinks but greens are bitter. They don't taste good in a smoothie drink and it doesn't matter if they're brimming with nutrition (and they probably are!) because if we hate it, we won't drink it. I've mentioned that wheat grass is the most terrible tasting food I've ever eaten.
So what do I do? I take greens in capsule form, plus I love greens in salads, etc. I'll be the first to admit that capsules aren't as healthy as the 'real thing' but it's better than nothing.
Having said that, there are vegetables that are much milder and don't taste bad. My absolute, #1 favorite is pumpkin. A pumpkin smoothie with cinnamon and nutmeg is scrumptious. But there are others that are mild like some squashes, carrots or sweet potatoes. Some folks like cauliflower and although I love this veggie, I don't like it in smoothies.
Another choice to make: cooked veggies are much easier to blend and they're usually a bit more bland. Raw veggies, though, are healthier. Since I have a Vitamix, which will grind up a car engine (OK, I might be exaggerating just a bit :-), I use fresh ones so your equipment will help to make that decision.
Healthy Fruit Smoothies
Fruit is much easier to incorporate into smoothies because of its natural sweetness, a taste we all love. You can use any fruit at all and make something delicious. My favorite fruit is cherries, but any berries are good. I even love and adore blackberries although at least one seed always seems to lodge in my teeth. Peaches, apricots, bananas, apples and any melon are great, along with one of my favorites – pineapple. Naturally, you will want to remove skin on fruits with thick skin like oranges or tangerines and remove seeds and cores. My Vitamix will blend a whole orange or tangerine – but that inner skin is bitter in a smoothie. Many people peel some fruits, like apples, but I like the whole skin in my fresh fruit smoothies. Again, the power of your machine is key because big slices of skin would be very unappealing.
When you make smoothie drinks, cut your fruits and veggies into pieces before blending.
Liquids In A Healthy Smoothie
I "eyeball" my smoothies, but generally you will need about 1 ½ – 2 cups of liquid. Some use regular milks but I choose almond milk. It's healthier and lower in calories and has become easily available in most regular markets like Publix and Kroger – meaning it's not a specialty health food. Soymilk is also popular but most of my reading convinces me that older women might best avoid too much soy.
Of course, fruit juice is another possible addition but keep in mind that most juices are loaded with sugar.
Water is another choice as part of the liquid. One idea is to toss in a few ice cubes which will make your smoothie frothy and cold.
How will you know what you like? There's only one way – EXPERIMENT. And when you're first trying healthy smoothie recipes only make small amounts. That way you will waste less if you despise it. Also, you might want to take a few notes. I've started a smoothie and thrown in "a bit of this and a bit of that" – then I can't remember what I did. Bummer! So get creative and try a few healthy smoothies and see what you like. How cool is it to drink your nutrition? [In part 2 of our series on smoothie drinks we will talk about what else you can toss in your blender.]