By Kelly Turner
Photo at right: Homemade smoothies make healthy eating extra sweet. Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography, www.pinksherbet.com
Smoothies are often graced with a health halo: the undeserved reputation for being a healthy food. (Granola is another big one.) While smoothies can be one of the healthiest things you could ever have the pleasure of consuming, most people rely on smoothie shops to make their blended treats for them.
And, we all should know by now, when you hand the preparation of your food over to someone you don’t know, who doesn’t care what you put in your body and has nothing on their mind but how many more minutes until their shift ends, what you are left with is little more than a fruit flavored milkshake.
My first real job was actually at a chain smoothie store, and while I will admit they were healthier than most, the “fruit juice” was a thick sludge of concentrate that was dispensed from a machine and the delightfully light sounding “fro-yo” was actually just ice cream. (Most 24-ounce smoothies contained up to three scoops.) And, the average calorie count? Around 500. Some don’t even contain a trace of real fruit.
Here are some tricks of the trade I learned back in my day to making the perfect healthy smoothie at home.
1. Get the right ratio: Add the solid ingredients first, like your fruit and ice. Then pour in your liquid, just to the top of the solid ingredients. If it’s too watery, add more solids. If it’s too tough to blend, you need more liquid. If you’re still having trouble, you probably have an air bubble. Take the blender off the base and tap the bottom edge at an angle a few times to bring the bubble to the top.
2. Keep your cool: If your fruit is frozen, you probably won’t need ice. If there are no frozen ingredients, add ice at the end to control the consistency.
3. All about consistency: For a creamy smoothie, use milk, yogurt or soymilk. For a slushier smoothie, use 100 percent real fruit juices—there should only be one ingredient on the label, or better yet, no label ’cause you made it yourself. The sweeter the better— OJ and carrot juice are always a good bet.
4. Don’t fear veggies: There are plenty of veggies that are big on nutrients without being big on flavor, so you can blend them into your sweet drink without tasting them. Spinach is great. Kale blends well, too, but gives your smoothie a chunkier texture. Go nuts—you can even toss your left-over squash or sweet potato on in. They blend up smooth and add even more sweetness.
5. Just say “no” to fruit skins and rinds: So, no apples unless they are peeled (and even then, they get a little gritty) and no oranges. Even the best peeler leaves a little pith which makes your smoothie bitter. Banana is an instant sweetener and an instant creamer if you’re avoiding dairy. I’ve found there is no smoothie that cannot be made better by the addition of a banana.
6. Mind your energy intake: Protein powder has become a smoothie staple, but make sure you actually need the extra energy before you add a good 80 –120 calories to your smoothie.
7. Try these healthy extras: Peanut butter, chia seeds, ground flax, iced coffee, yogurt, coconut water or almond milk.
8. Pour like a pro: When pouring, hold the blender at a steady angle and tap the side—this technique eliminates the risk that the whole smoothie will come out in one bulky avalanche.
Kelly Turner is a Seattle-based ACE certified personal trainer and fitness writer. You can contact her at KellyTurnerFitness@gmail.com. Twitter: @KellyTurnerFit Instagram: KellyTurner26. Miss a column? Log onto www.OutdoorsNW.com and search Health Nut.