I am a smoothie addict. I first fell in love with smoothies when I was injured and had to take a break from running. Experimenting in the kitchen was one of my ways to distract myself from how miserable I was feeling and to find a way to manage my weight given that exercising was pretty much out of the question.
Smoothies are now a staple in my diet. They are a great way to up your fruit and veggie intake and have something delicious, which only takes a couple of minutes to make. I tend to make smoothies when I want a lighter meal or simply have a smoothie for breakfast instead of porridge. I also like to have a smoothie after a tougher workout or run if the next meal is a very long time away, to help with my recovery.
Enjoying a water melon smoothie during our honeymoon in Bali
I have personally never been keen on shop-bought, pre-made smoothies as they tend to be a nutritional disaster due to their high sugar content, calorie density and unrealistic serving sizes. So I have put together some tips about how you can make your own smoothie – believe me, it is not rocket science!
Best appliance for making a smoothie
Firstly, you will need a strong and durable blender. When it comes to blenders, you always get what you pay for so think of it as a long term investment which you will hopefully be using quite often (and not only for making smoothies but also for making salad dressings, soups etc.). My current favourite brand is Kenwood, it has served me faithfully for about 2 years now, and I swear by it!
Getting ingredients for your smoothie
Secondly, scout out where you can buy the ingredients the cheapest. Your best bet is probably your local market where you can buy fresh fruit and veggies in season. If you go nearer closing time, chances are that the sellers will beg you to take their last remaining produce at a fraction of the original price. If you sign up for loyalty schemes in health food stores such as Holland & Barrett, you can collect points and earn rewards that enable you to get discounts and even free product!
My winning smoothie formula
Here are the secrets of my ‘smoothie-lab’ to make some tastebud tantalising concoctions:-
In terms of adding liquid, I would only omit this step if you are making some nice-cream or a smoothie bowl – or simply prefer a more dense smoothie.
By adding some protein, you can make your smoothies more filling so they turn into an excellent meal-replacement. The extra protein will also aid your recovery after a tougher workout session. If you are using protein powders, always read the ingredients list first to make sure there are no artificial nasties added and also check the portion size you need- a good protein powder has at least 20 grams of protein in one scoop and very little carb content. Flavours can vary – I find some products to be sickeningly sweet, so if you are like me, you may want to go for a non-flavoured powder such as soy instead. The brands I can recommend are PhD Nutrition (although they can be quite sweet), Miss Fits, Pulsin and Zaggora – they all use natural ingredients and offer vegan varieties as well. If you are vegan, I suggest that you go with hemp or soy because these two are the only ones that are full protein sources so have a higher nutritional value than pea or rice protein for example.
I tend to buy some of my veggies and fruits frozen so that they keep longer and sometimes come in easy portion sizes (such as spinach balls).
One or two thumbs of fat is usually enough for adding even more flavour to complement the fruits/veggies in your smoothie. When you choose a nut butter, do make sure you read the ingredients list carefully, because unfortunately, some manufacturers often pump a lot of sugar and preservatives into the product – in my opinion, completely unnecessarily and to the detriment of the pure natural flavours. The only ingredient you should see on the label is just the nut itself! The brands that I recommend and trust are Pip & Nut and Meridian.
When it comes to using sweeteners, I would use these in moderation as most fruits already taste very sweet and have naturally high sugar content. My favourite sweetener is Stevia because it is 100% plant based with virtually 0 calories. When I buy maple syrup, I always go for the 100% natural variety – unfortunately, there are lots of fake ones with lots of artificial sugars added to make up for the flavour in a cheaply sourced product. The best affordable vanilla paste I have found is by Nielsen Massey. Medjool dates can be bought either very expensive in a fancy box in places such as the Grape Tree, or very cheap in Tesco’s.
I tend to use fresh herbs and spices whenever I can, rather than the powdery stuff. I usually pick my herbs and spices using meal dish inspirations – for example, cinnamon goes well with apples (think about the apple crumble!), allspice goes well with carrots (think about carrot cake!), coconut flakes go well with pineapple (think about Pina Colada!) and so on.
I always add at least one type of superfood to my smoothies to make them even healthier. The ones I have listed on the infographic are ones I regularly use and can recommend you to try. Some of these are not cheap, however, they last quite long as you only need small quantities, so don’t be alarmed by the price! If you buy them in bigger quantities, you are likely to get them cheaper.
Cacao powder – not to be mistaken by cocoa, raw cacao is made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans. The process keeps the living enzymes in the cocoa and removes the fat and preserves the goodness in it. High in magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese, and antioxidants.
Baobab powder – A tangy fruit with a citrusy/pear-like flavour. It offers six times more vitamin C than oranges, more potassium than bananas, more antioxidants than blueberries/acai etc. and more than twice the calcium level of milk – in fact, it is the planet’s highest plant source of calcium. It is also high in iron and magnesium, is stuffed with fibre and has prebiotic qualities that can stimulate your gut’s “good bacteria”.
Chia seeds – These tiny black seeds from the plant Salvia Hispanica, which is related to the mint. Contains omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, decent amount of protein, antioxidants, minerals (esp. bone nutrients suchs as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium), are gluten free and easy to digest.
Wheatgerm – Excellent source of vegetable proteins, along with fiber and healthy fats. It’s also a good source of magnesium, zinc, thiamin, folate, potassium, and phosphorus. Wheat germ is also high in vitamin E, an essential nutrient with antioxidant properties.
Flax seed & Goji berry mix (Linwood’s) – A good source of antioxidants and vitamins with Omega 3, Fibre, Zinc and Iron.
Basic smoothie templates
So now that you understand the key ingredients for making a great tasting and healthy smoothie, it is time to mix the flavours. I have come across a very good website called Back to Her Roots where the author teaches you some basic, staple smoothies which you can make as a starting point for fancier versions. It is always good to stick to a basic template, in order to avoid any smoothie disasters! The basic smoothies you can make fall into one the following categories:-
- Classic green smoothie
- Citrus-y smoothies
- Chocolate-y smoothie
- Classic banana-peanut butter protein smoothie
- Berry based sweet smoothies
- Coffee based smoothie
A final word of advice I would give is that even though smoothies are super-healthy, portion control is still important. When measuring out and adding the ingredients, imagine how much of that you would eat on a normal plate if it was not going to be blended into a drink. So think before you drink – would you for example chomp down ‘1 whole cucumber’ in one sitting or consume a 3+ type of fruit in one go?
Finally, how about an example?
Let me share my current favourite smoothie with you which I sometimes have for breakfast. To check out my other favourite smoothies, visit my Pinterest page.
Mint Chocolate Delight Smoothie
1 ripe banana
Handful of spinach
Half of a ripe avocado
1 tbsp of raw cacao powder
Handful of chopped mint leaves
2 medjool dates
A splash of unsweetened almond milk
Blend all ingredients together, until smooth. Drink it up and pat yourself on the shoulder for getting more nutrients in than most people get in one week!
What’s your favourite smoothie?
Picture credits for the icon: freepik.com and flaticon.com