I’ve officially jumped on the green smoothie bandwagon.
They’re very “in,” you know, and I have trouble resisting a food trend.
I’m a big believer in signs — and when something’s suddenly in your face everywhere you look, you have to pay attention. Such as it was with green smoothies. My friend Natasha told me about a cleanse she went on, supplemented with smoothies. And, bam!, they were everywhere. In magazines and blogs. On Pinterest. On television. In news articles.
It was 100 Days of Real Food, that finally did it. After reading through all the benefits there and on the Simple Green Smoothies site, my interest was piqued. Plus, I realized I already had most of the ingredients in my refrigerator. I’ll try anything if I don’t have to leave my house to do it.
So, I pulled out my relic Cuisinart blender. I’m not a milkshake or blended soup person, so it doesn’t see much action. Until now.
The truth? Green smoothies are delicious. They’re very green and frothy, but they don’t taste like vegetables. Using this recipe, they have a slight, pleasant sweetness. Quite refreshing, especially as of late on hot summer mornings. And they’re totally customizable. Throw in anything you can think of — which is also a great way to use up the soon-to-decay fruit and veg lingering in the back of your fridge.
I confess that on green smoothie Day One, I felt a little woozy and had to take to my bed in the evening. I learned (via Google) that those symptoms can be a reaction to “the detoxing” or just the new influx of concentrated vitamins. I’m not sure I believe that, but here’s the lesson learned: if you have an ingrained caffeine addiction, do not go cold turkey on the coffee. Now I drink a smoothie and chase it with my morning coffee. No more headaches, no more woozy.
After several weeks smoothie drinking, I actually feel great! I sleep better and people tell me my skin looks radiant. I’ve always been bad about eating breakfast, so this gives me some fuel to get through the morning. I’m not intentionally using a smoothie as a meal replacement, as some diets/cleanses/food plans would recommend. Rather, it’s a supplement of vegetables in my normal routine, where I just happen to replace the breakfast I was never going to eat anyway.
I’m a big fan.
The starter recipe I follow:
- 1 cup almond milk or coconut water
- 1 cup (large handful) organic baby spinach
- 1 frozen banana, cut into thin-ish slices
- 1/2 cup frozen mango cubes
- 1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks (*use fresh)
Every morning I follow these general guidelines. I start with the liquid (coconut water or almond milk) and spinach and blend those until the spinach is fully liquefied. That ensures you can drink it and won’t have to chew chunks or little bits of spinach later.
LIQUIDS TIP: I have trained myself to drink coconut water straight, so I don’t mind the taste anymore. But if you’re hesitant, don’t worry — you won’t be able to taste it at all. Plus, I need the hydration in the morning. Alternately I use almond milk, which adds an undercurrent of creaminess. If you don’t like either, use regular milk or just water.
GREENS TIP: You don’t have to limit yourself just to spinach. I haven’t been brave or organized enough to venture into other greens, but you could sub in kale, chard, romaine or others.
To the liquid spinach, I add the frozen banana, mango and pineapple. It’s just easier for me to keep all of these in the freezer rather than worry about them spoiling. Plus, I don’t have to add ice.
BANANA TIP: There is a very, very short window of time — like 3 hours, 17 minutes — in which bananas have the perfect texture. If too green, they’re starchy and hard. If too ripe, they’re spotty, mushy and pungent. So, to combat the banana issue, I buy bunches, peel them and freeze them whole in a plastic bag. That way, I capture them at the ideal time and they’re always on hand for a smoothie — and for healthy banana “ice cream”!
MANGO TIP: I found frozen mango chunks in the freezer section of Whole Foods. Otherwise, they were hard to locate by themselves. Harris Teeter had them in a “smoothie” blend with pineapple and strawberries, but I’m a rebel and a purist. I want to choose my own adventure, and not have to pick through a frozen medley to do it. Now that mangoes are on sale, I will grab a few and freeze them myself. But know that Whole Foods will rescue you in a pinch. Like always.
PINEAPPLE TIP: I’m sure somebody will say that canned pineapple is acceptable in these circumstances. But it’s not. Buy fresh. Cut it yourself and freeze it. There’s no comparison.
OTHER IDEAS: I usually stick to this routine, but occasionally I’ve added shredded carrots, cucumber, a few slices of peeled apple, a squeeze of lemon. Once even a quarter of an avocado, which was good but definitely undercut the sweet and gave a more savory note. My one caveat is that I don’t do berries. Blueberries and raspberries just ended up being a little “seedy” for my taste. For more ideas, and a handy chart, check out Simple Green Smoothies. The possibilities are endless, so you’ll really never get bored.
ADD-INS: Feel free to throw in any boosters like protein powder, chia/hemp seeds or almond/peanut butter. I have friends who even blend in raw cashews or almonds for a burst of protein. I haven’t tried those myself, but I will someday. Note — only add the chia seeds if you’re consuming your smoothie immediately. If you add them ahead, you’ll have less of a smoothie and more chia pudding. (Which is still delicious.)
If your blender is from the wrong side of the tracks like mine (read: not a fancy Vitamix/Ninja/Nutribullet), then your blender is going to hate you. Mine screams at me every morning when I ask it to purify frozen chunks of creamy fruit, and then it threatens to smoke. But, so far so good. It takes a few minutes of serious pureeing, but the result is pretty thick and frothy. This recipe is for one but it makes a lot, so I put it in a large travel cup with a lid and straw, and it’s easy for me to sip on the way to work.
Green smoothies are probably best made and consumed within a short time, but I have made them the night before and stored in the refrigerator. Just shake them up in the morning and go. I wouldn’t go further out than the night before, though, in case that depletes the nutrition. You want bang for your buck!
If this sounds interesting to you, make your own green smoothies and let me know how it goes! Or, if you’re already an enthusiastic disciple, send my your recipe! I’d love to hear other tips and tricks.