Thursday, February 6, 2014

going green.

Confession time: I love a green smoothie. I drink one almost every single day. We invested in a juicer last year, but the luster wore off of that sucker fairly quickly, what with having no fewer than seven pieces to clean after each and every use, as well as the fact that to get the most nutrients, it's preferable to down that juice immediately after you process it... which doesn't allow for much night-before prep for this never-been-a-morning girl. So the alternative was to resort to smoothies, which has been a welcome shift. When we juiced, I was always a little concerned with the wasted fiber that was lost with the tossed out pulp. I loved investigating what nutrients we were consuming with the juice, but often it was at a high calorie rate, with low fiber and thus, NOT feeling full. Conundrum! Smoothies are every bit of everything thrown together, the satisfaction of feeling like you've had a meal, and not just the sugary, calorie-laden liquid.

So I moseyed on over to the blender and never looked back. I tend to stick with the same formula, but I've branching out a little here and there (no pun intended). While I don't consider myself a nutritionist or a chef by any stretch, I've done this long enough to know what works for me (as well as ST and a picky 12-year-old boy), so I thought I'd pass it along.

Every smoothie I make has a banana in it. No doubt, you know potassium is the biggest perk of a banana, but you may not know that a medium-sized banana contains over 100 calories. That being said, when I typically make a smoothie, it'll yield enough liquid for two servings, so I tend to make one in the morning for myself and save the second half for ST. That way, I'm getting the nutrients, but not downing 400+ calories in liquid, first thing in the morning. Also, regarding bananas, they provide that frothy thickness that I like in a smoothie. They're also known for lowering blood pressure and stress level, strengthening your immune system and protecting against heart attack and stroke. So go eat one. Or a bunch.

The next element of your smoothie are your greens. I tend to use spinach often because it's virtually tasteless, inexpensive and easy to find in bulk amounts (kale is a different story in my neighborhood). Lately with my ramping up of Trader Joe's visits, I've been buying a lot more kale, and therefore mixing about a (large) handful of spinach mixed with a (large) handful of kale. While spinach is (in my opinion) indistinguishable in taste in a smoothie, kale is NOT. We'll get to that.

Spinach is super high in vitamins K (essential for bone health) and A (great for your skin and immune system). It's packed with iron (vital to healthy blood) and manganese (bone health, vitamin absorption, regulating metabolism). Kale sings a similar story, and boasts higher levels of folate and manganese. You've got other potential choices too (romaine, bok choy, collards), but I'd stick with spinach or kale for the assured overabundance of goodness.

Next is your liquid. Most people do water (roughly a cup-and-a-half to two cups, depending on what thickness you desire), but you have lots of options. I've recently started using unsweetened green tea as my liquid, which has calories whereas water obviously doesn't, but instead of fitting in the tea sipping sometime throughout the day, I can throw in the perks of green tea (antioxidants! lowering stress! speeding up metabolism!) in my liquid breakfast. I've also used almond, coconut and just regular ol' milk (when I have a more dairy-ish or protein powder based shake).

Now the fun part... your fruit. This is where you get to really experiment. Here's my advice: when you're using kale, pair it with a fruit that's very flavorful. For example, pineapple and mango are phenomenal when paired with banana, kale, spinach and water/green tea. Something like blueberries? While they taste awesome alone, they just don't pack enough punch to outweigh the bitterness of kale. Also, don't use apples (despite what you see in recipes) unless you want the gritty, fibrous aftertaste. Learned that the hard way. Also, blackberries are one of my absolute favorite fruits ever, and are so, so good for you, but unless you want to be chewing on seeds all morning, don't toss them in your smoothie.

My list of go to fruits are as follows: mangoes, pineapple, peaches, strawberries, raspberries. Also, I tend to buy fresh strawberries and bananas, and pick up big frozen bags of anything else. Trader Joe's is a great place to pick up individual fruits, and I tend to flock to Target and Publix for the larger mixed bags (tropical medley is a win). Frozen fruit gives you a thicker shake while fresh fruit tends to give you more of a liquid (I never use ice--the frozen fruit gives me enough thickness).

Lastly, a lot of recipes will suggest smoothing your liquid and greens in round one of blending, and then following it up with round two of fruit. However, our blender is more of the industrial badass variety, so we can just basically pile it in with no rhyme or reason. So, learn what your blender is capable of.

Also, if you're rushing around in the morning like I usually am, it's helpful to prep your ingredients the night (or weekend) before. Throw all of your ingredients in a ziplock or tupperware and in the morning, toss them in your blender and top them off with your chosen liquid.

I prefer a colder, thicker smoothie, so that usually means more frozen fruit and less liquid. On occasion, I'll stray from the fruity path and go with something a little more substantial... which usually looks like:

  • 1/2 cup of almond milk
  • 1/2 cup of dry oats
  • a heaping teaspoon of organic peanut butter
  • (sometimes) a scoop of protein powder
  • a banana
  • some spinach (again, you can't taste it!). 

I found a delicious recipe last week on pinterest, but once I crunched the calories, I realized it was near 500 calories... thanks to the HALF CUP of peanut butter. That being said, realize what you're putting into your smoothies, and what you want from it. Modify it to meet your needs, if you want. There's no wrong way to do this, it's all relative. If you're downing an almond-butter-protein-powder-peanut-butter situation before a workout, that's probably a decent route. While it filled me up, I just felt too full. And I feel green smoothies are a fab breakfast option.

And before I forget, here's the smoothie I made tonight that was sublime:
  • 1 banana
  • huge handful of spinach
  • huge handful of kale
  • ~ cup of green tea
  • ~ 1/2 cup of frozen pineapple
  • ~ 1/2 cup of frozen mango
Oh my gosh. I literally slurped it down in one extended stream--it was that good.

Coconut water and chia seeds are two things I haven't tried yet, but want to... the last two times I've been to Trader Joe's, they've been sold out of chia seeds, so they're clearly a hit among the hippie Nashville crowd. In case you didn't know, chia seeds are a fabulous source of omega-3s and are very satiating. Coconut water is known for being chock-full of potassium, aiding in digestion and boosting hydration. So, obviously a lot more nutritious than water. Lots of recipes call for Greek yogurt, but I'm not a huge fan and I don't buy it regularly, so I haven't tried any with that yet. I also steer clear of using juice as my liquid since it's so calorie heavy, and usually tends to be high in sugar.

I hope that's helpful for you smoothie virgins! I plan to pop in from time to time to share new recipes with you. In the meantime, go dig through pinterest and find something that works for you. And if it's really good, you have to tell me all about it!



  1. I have NEVER thought to use green tea in my smoothies!!! I am big on coconut water or almond milk (been using both recently). I also love putting avocado in since it's gives the same creamy consistency a banana would give and it's Healthy Fats as they say. I made one this morning with fresh blackberries my mom left at my apartment.... meh. Seeds. SO many seeds. I'm big on pineapple and mango also, plus throwing in a little chunk of fresh ginger - very detoxifying!

    1. girl, do the green tea. trader joe's has a bottled version that is unsweetened and inexpensive, and way easier than brewing your own. I've always wanted to do the avocado, ginger too! need to make my 3rd smoothie-related-grocery run this week now--THANKS. ;)

  2. sarah---so sorry, I accidentally deleted your comment!! we use a blendtec that is super similar to this (http://www.casa.com/p/blendtec-home-tb-621-20-1-560-watt-total-blender-237641?site=CA&utm_source=Google&utm_medium=cpc_C&utm_term=ZPV-1979&utm_campaign=GoogleAW&CAWELAID=1309138399&utm_content=pla&adtype=pla&cagpspn=pla), although we have a refurb, so it wasn't quite as pricey. and I'll have to definitely try the coconut water!


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