As any smoothie drinker knows, not all smoothies are created equal. Some days, you just whip up what you have on hand for something quick and nutritious when you don’t want (or have time for) a solid, sit-down meal. Other times, your blender creations are closer to a culinary work of art than an on-the-go beverage, with fresh fruit, leafy greens, nut butters, protein powder and chia seeds coming together to make the perfect nourishing and replenishing drink. Either way, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure that what you sip will never make you snooze.
1. Invest in a good blender
If you’re making smoothies often, it’s worth it to purchase a high-quality blender. They’re better able to process chunky and textured ingredients, like fruits and vegetables, as well as ice. Inexpensive blenders are more likely to burn out or break, and you’ll just have to keep replacing them.
2. Begin with liquids
Start your smoothie by pouring in liquids first. A great way to enhance the flavor of your drink and boost nutrition is to replace plain water with coconut water, green tea, almond milk, coconut milk, pomegranate juice or acai juice. You only need a little—just fill to the top of the blender blades.
3. Go fresh with fruit
Frozen fruit is fine during the winter months; however, using fresh fruits whenever possible can make such a difference in the flavor of your morning protein shake.Take advantage of what’s available in your area during a given season by shopping at farmers’ markets, and vary your add-ins often for best nutrition benefits. The possibilities are endless for summer: watermelon, peaches, strawberries, cherries, blueberries and pineapple are just a few options.
4. Try adding cheese
Adding a half-cup of cottage cheese to a smoothie instantly increases the protein content by about 14 grams. It has a fairly neutral taste, so it mixes well with other flavors. Cottage cheese can also help create a nice, creamy texture.
5. Mix in wheat germ
Wheat germ? Yes. This seemingly old-school add-in is actually a superfood worth getting reacquainted with! It contains B vitamins, fiber, protein, minerals, omega 3s and other fatty acids. Avoid it, though, if you have a sensitivity to gluten.
6. Veg out
Everyone’s heard of green drinks, but what are the best greens to use when making your own? Spinach and kale are the most popular, but try cucumber, too. They're very high in water content, which makes them refreshing and good for hydrating the body post workout. Cucumbers also contain minerals, fiber and antioxidants, and they’re low in calories. If combining cucumber with fruit in a smoothie, choose a fruit with a lower water content for best results.
7. Learn how to layer
The formula is quite simple:
- Start with liquid
- Add fruits
- Add fillers (cottage cheese, wheat germ, etc.)
- Sprinkle in protein powder (Note: For texture, choose whey for light, casein for thick and pea for fluffy)
- Add veggies
- Add ice
- Blend on high for 30 seconds
Here’s a simple smoothie recipe to try:
¾ cup coconut water
1 cup chopped peaches
1/2 cup sliced banana
1/2 cup cottage cheese
2 Tbsp. wheat germ
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1/2 cup sliced cucumber
2 cups spinach
Blend all ingredients 30 seconds or until smooth.