I've been on and off the smoothie train for the better part of two decades. In the 90s, I was so down with frozen yogurt, syrups and maybe some actual frozen fruit (so healthy, right? PS let's call those "smoothies" what they really are: ice cream). These days, I try to pack as many nutrients into my glass as possible. Usually frozen fruit, a big handful of spinach, some cold-pressed juice, and a few less common ingredients. Here's how I gussy up my drink.
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No, I'm not talking about LSD (thought that would probably take your day in a very interesting direction). I mean citrus fruits. I like to think of citrus as the fruit version of salt-- a generous squeeze of juice enhances flavors and brightens up everything. Since I often use tropical fruits in my smoothies, my normal go-to is juice from half a lime (unless your lime isn't yielding much juice. Then go nuts and use both halves). But lemons, oranges and even grapefruit work well, too.
The only reason I don't put fresh herbs in my morning smoothie is because I'm out. Mint is a go-to lately. I think it tastes great with berries, tropical fruits, and even a banana/nut butter smoothie. Think about where you see mint normally-- juleps, mojitos (super-refreshing drinks, right?) and rich, chocolate-y desserts. It's a versatile herb and trust me, you'll love it all blended up for breakfast. I usually add four or five springs to my drink, stems removed.
A tablespoon of nut butter adds a rich, full flavor to literally any smoothie. Even if you're like... hmm, I'm not sure nut butter goes with this, trust me. It does. My favorite is almond butter, but sun butter (made with sunflower seeds) also works. So does peanut butter, but I try to avoid it as there's some evidence that peanut butter isn't really that good for you, and so if I'm going to eat it, it's going to be in a Reeses peanut butter cup.
This is a new ingredient for me, and I am loving it. I'm currently doing an eat well challenge with my gym, and we're avoiding dairy... which means whey protein powder is out. Hemp seeds (Whole30 approved, if you give a crap about stuff like that) are rich in omega-3, omega-6 and offer 10g of protein per serving. I don't personally notice a huge difference in the flavor or texture of my smoothies, but my hubby says they add a bit of a nutty flavor. Either way, a tablespoon or two does the trick.
Either you're a cilantro person or you're not. If not, move along to the next ingredient. If you like it, you still might be wondering why in the hell you'd add it to a smoothie. Here's where we hold hands and take an imaginary trip to Thailand. Cilantro is a stand-out ingredient in that tropical cuisine, and it pairs so well with pineapple, mango and banana. Add a tablespoon of nut butter, a squeeze of lime and it's like all the good parts of pad thai with some awesome fruit mixed in. I'll take six or seven sprigs, remove most of the stems and toss the leaves in the blender.
Before you get all ewwwww on me, let's talk about how avocado is eaten everywhere except north america. We certainly love our guac, and there's few things I enjoy more than pimping out a BLT with avocado, but in many places around the world, avocados are reserved for sweet, not savory purposes. I'm talking ice cream, shakes, pudding... you name it! And it makes sense. The stuff is creamy, rich and basically should just be called vegan butter. Add half an avocado to your smoothie for a boost of good fats, fiber and loads of vitamins.
I'm not going to get all preachy about why I prefer almond milk over cow's milk in my morning smoothie... especially since I still eat cheese on occasion and drink coffee with half-and-half because it's delicious. But almond milk is my go-to choice most of the time. It's got more calcium than milk (no matter what you want us to believe, Got Milk? campaign!), and doesn't make you fart all day long. My favorite brand BY FAR is the unsweetened version from Califia Farms (or as I like to call it, Wiz Khalifa Farms)-- this one doesn't have any sugar, which is quite notable once you start reading your ingredients. Guys, just because it sounds healthy doesn't mean it necessarily is.
Hey! More fresh herbs! There's no better way to make your berry smoothie more delicious than by adding basil. And nut butter. Do you see a pattern here?
Stainless Steel Straws
Not an ingredient, but I bought these over seven years ago and I still use them all the time. Drinking a smoothie out of a straw is way more enjoyable than gulping it straight from the glass. However, plastic straws are pretty darn wasteful (not to mention they're flimsy AF). These stainless steel ones elevate your smoothie experience from basic to awesome. Worth the very small investment.
*** Super Important Smoothie Tip ***
Since I already have your attention (maybe, unless you quit reading after I my fart comment earlier), I'd like to draw your attention to a conversation that happened between me, my mom and mother-in-law over Christmas. My mom said her last teeth cleaning took forever, and my MIL (who runs a dental office) asked if she drinks a lot of smoothies. Bingo.
As it turns out, if you don't brush your teeth right after finishing your freshly pressed juice, smoothie or lemon water, your teeth get a nice coating of film that takes lot of elbow grease to remove. It also can wreak havoc on your enamel (especially for you lemon water drinkers!). My MIL's professional advice: Brush your teeth with water after ever smoothie or juice you drink. When it comes to tooth enamel, there are no backsies. And while smoothies are delicious, you don't want a liquid diet to one day be your only option. The MIL said she's seen a crazy amount of young people with enamel issues already, and think this may be the culprit.
So now you know.
What's your favorite smoothie ingredient? The weirder the better (actually, just plain delicious is good for me, too). Share in the comments!
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Looking for more healthy eating tips? Great, I got a few (though I am no nutrition coach, I am a lover of delicious food). Here's how doing a Whole30 will actually make you feel, plus my before and after Whole30 pics. Oh also! A bunch of healthy-ish cookie recipes.
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