Photo: Blending a juice smoothie

by Sabra Leomo, RD

Summer is here!  As the temperatures rise, break out the blender to cool yourself off!

Smoothies can make quick, healthy meals or snacks, and they can keep you cool when the sun is blazing. Summer is also a busy time and portable, healthy meals and snacks are in demand for all members of your family. Unfortunately, when you are out and about picking up a conventional smoothie can be a sugar and calorie-filled disappointment. Learn how to beat the heat and create your own healthy smoothies with these 5 tips:

  • The BASE-ics - Start your smoothie off right with a healthy base. A little liquid is required to blend ingredients. Water is a great sugar and calorie-free option but if you are looking for a liquid that adds to the flavor of the smoothie, non-dairy milk can be a tasty alternative. Whatever type of non-dairy milk you pick, just make sure that it is an “unsweetened” variety. You can still choose flavored non-dairy milk, such as vanilla, but without the added sugar. This can save you several unnecessary teaspoons of added sugar in your smoothie. Make sure to add liquid to your blender first. More liquid makes a thinner smoothie and less liquid results in a thicker smoothie.
     
  • Veg it Up - Fruit smoothies are usually what we think of when we imagine a cold, creamy smoothie. However, veggies can add a nutritional punch to smoothies and you won’t even notice the flavor. Spinach is a great vegetable to start with. Try adding a couple handfuls to your smoothie and you won’t even know it is there. The flavor is easily covered by the fruits, and by other additions like pure vanilla extract. Kale is another great option but it may add more flavor to your smoothie compared to spinach. Don’t stop at leafy greens. Pureed pumpkin is a fun addition that adds fiber and antioxidants to your smoothies. It has a mild flavor and mixes well with ingredients like banana, unsweetened almond milk, and cinnamon.
     
  • Creamy can be Healthy - Creamy, decadent smoothies don’t have to be unhealthy. Bananas, avocado, smooth nut-butters, and soft-silken tofu are healthy ingredients to make your smoothie incredibly creamy.
  1. If you have bananas that are getting over-ripe simply peel and slice them, lay them flat on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper, and freeze for easy and creamy smoothies.
  2.  Avocado is another addition that makes amazingly creamy smoothies. Use ½ of a ripe avocado in addition to your usual smoothie ingredients.
  3. Creamy nut butter is packed with healthy fat and contains protein. Add 1 tablespoon to your smoothie for a creamy addition. Almond butter has a milder flavor than peanut butter so pick a nut-butter that complements your smoothie ingredients.
  4. Soft-silken tofu isn’t talked about enough when it comes to smoothies! Silken tofu makes incredibly rich smoothies and its mild flavor mixes with anything. Silken tofu is a great source of protein and many brands contain calcium. Shelf-stable silken tofu is a great ingredient to keep in your pantry for spontaneous smoothie days.
  • Got Grains? - Adding oatmeal to your smoothie makes it extra thick and also helps keep you full longer because of the fiber in oatmeal. Depending on how powerful your blender is you can either add uncooked old-fashioned oats directly to your smoothie or grind the oats in your blender beforehand for easier blending. Start with ¼ cup of oatmeal and increase the amount for thicker smoothies.
     
  • Smart Additions- Make smart additions to your smoothies to boost the nutritional value. Chia and ground flaxseed provide a source of omega-3 fatty acids. Need a little pick-me-up? Matcha powder provides caffeine and a healthy dose of antioxidants to your smoothies (plus the beautiful green color is delightful!).
     
  • (Bonus) Easy Clean-Up - Part of the appeal of smoothies is they are quick, easy, and don’t heat up your house to prepare. Make clean-up quick and easy with these simple steps:
  1. After you pour your smoothie from the blender pitcher, quickly rinse it in warm running water.
  2. Add a few drops of liquid dish detergent (be careful not to add too much!) and warm water to the blender pitcher.
  3. Place the blender pitcher back on the base with the lid on and cover it with a clean towel over the top. Then let it run for about 20 seconds.
  4. Rinse with clean water and your blender is ready for the next smoothie!
    Be sure to do a deep clean every week to remove any build up.

Summer just got a lot cooler by following these 5 tips for building a healthier smoothie. Check out the recipe section of downtoearth.org for delicious smoothie inspiration this summer.