8 Tips for a Better Smoothie

I have been interested in making and drinking more smoothies lately, especially as the temperatures start to heat up outside. I don’t have much experience in making my own, and I needed some creative tips along with basic advice for smoothie-making.  I asked nutrition guru Andy Bellatti for his tips.  The following is his guest post:

I’m an equal-opportunity smoothie drinker.  Whether the temperature outside my apartment calls for a T-shirt and shorts or layers upon layers of warm clothes, I’m always game for a cold, nutritious breakfast — or snack — beverage.
Alas, as winter temperatures begin to give way to Springtime’s tempting warmth, here are some smoothie guidelines to have handy for those of you who don’t break out the blender until well after Daylight Savings.

1. Get out of the “smoothie base = orange juice” boring framework.  Leave that for the folks at Jamba Juice.  Experiment with different — preferably unsweetened — non-dairy milks (almond, soy, hemp, rice, oat), each of which yields a unique flavor profile.  Coconut water also makes for a refreshing base.  Those of you who can’t get past the flavor of plain coconut water should still give it a try; when blended with fruits, it’s love-it-or-hate-it flavor is toned down.  For a probiotic boost, make a kefir-based smoothie.  Vegan?  Try So Delicious’ coconut milk kefir.

2. I own a Vitamix blender, and recommend fellow smoothie enthusiasts do as well.  Prior to owning one, I didn’t get “the big deal”, but two days after owning it, I was hooked.  Believe me — it is well worth the price.  The Vitamix allows you to add dark leafy greens like kale or chard to a smoothie and not have a single solid strand or chunk floating around.

3. Like thicker smoothies?  Forget conventional ice cubes (all that achieves is a watered-down beverage) and use frozen fruit instead.  I always have a container of banana slices in my freezer ready to go for a smoothie.  My freezer is also never short of frozen strawberries, frozen mango, frozen blueberries, frozen raspberries, and frozen pineapple.

4. Don’t forget the visual — and tasty — effects of flavor-layering.  For example: make a simple base smoothie consisting of some frozen banana slices, the milk (dairy or non-dairy) of your choice, some unsweetened cocoa powder, and a dash of vanilla extract.  Blend and pour into a glass, leaving approximately a third of a cup in the blender.  Next, add some frozen raspberries into the blender.  Blend again, and pour this new mixture into the glass, focusing on the the inner borders (this makes for easier layering).  You now have a two-layered drink — raspberry covered chocolate!

5. Psyllium husks are not only a nice way to add soluble fiber to smoothies; they also  help turn a kind-of-satiating beverage into one that can fill you up for hours.  Other good high-fiber (both soluble and insoluble) options: oat bran, ground flax, chia seeds, wheat germ.

6. In the summer, a smoothie can make for a great meal.  The key is to have fat, fiber, and protein, and keep added sugars low (nonexistent, if possible).  For example, (base liquid of choice) + 1 cup sliced bannas + frozen blueberries + protein powder + almond butter + oat bran!

7. In the same way that baked goods require some sodium (whether in the form of salt, baking soda, and/or baking powder) to bring out sweet flavors, the same goes for smoothies.  Always thrown in a pinch of salt before blending for optimal taste.

8. Spices in smoothies?  You bet!  A standard chocolate smoothie can take on Aztec inspirations with some cayenne pepper and cinnamon. A mango and kefir treat becomes unforgettable with a pinch of cardamom.

For new flavor profiles, visit your local health food store (or click on over to the Navitas Naturals website — http://www.navitasnaturals.com) for maca, lucuma, and mesquite.  You can read about the health properties of these three South American ingredients in a guest blog I recently wrote for Robyn Webb’s Fabulous Food Finds (http://www.robynwebb.com/fabulousfoodfinds/?p=2054).  Maca goes great with cinnamon, lucuma goes well with sweet fruits, and mesquite gives chocolate-flavored smoothies a wonderful caramel-like flavor boost.

Andy Bellatti, MS, is a Seattle-based nutritionist, writer, and speaker, and is the creator of the Small Bites blog He also provides customized nutrition-based services (www.andybellatti.com/services.html).  He expects to take his Registered Dietitian exam this Summer. His work has been featured in Oxygen, Today’s Dietitian, AOL Health, and MSNBC.com.  You can follow him on Twitter @andybellatti.

  • Amber M March 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Smoothies are no joke one of my absolute favor things ever… A drink and food all in one big glass!

    I always add a scoop of protein powder to make it more hardy and it really works!

    I left a little award for you over on my blog because I love what you're doing so much!

  • Julie @ Honey B. March 23, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    I love some of these ideas!! I make smoothies every day so will experiment. Love the spices and the layering ideas! It's such a great way to get in your greens. And I so agree it makes a great meal in the summer!

  • Lauren March 24, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Very good tips, I'm a smoothie-holic myself. Was talked into the Vitamix by Andy. I also add a protein powder (hemp or brown rice or whey) to smoothies and love fresh herbs in mine (basil or mint) as well.

  • stephanie kuhn March 25, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    great post! thanks for the insight!

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