I love my Vitamix. I feel so fortunate that we decided to “bite the bullet” and buy one when my husband was diagnosed with cancer some years back. It’s been worth every dime (or dollar…or hundreds of dollars…but whatever). As long as we have a little fruit in the house, some greens, and maybe yogurt or kefir, we can make great smoothies almost everyday. I would say we do the smoothie thing about 4-5 days a week. I love handing #5 (Annie) a smoothie as she heads out the door. She’s 17 and drives so she has access to junk food if she wants it. I feel good about loading her up with a tall glass of greens and fruit, knowing at least she has started the day right. The rest of my younger kids stay home for school, and smoothies are a quick way to start the day (clean-up is another topic altogether).
Regardless of whether you have a Vitamix or a blender or a juicer, there are a ton of ways to make a smoothie (or juice). Here are a few tips to remember when you blend or juice fruits and vegetables. For more great info, visit Foodbabe.com (a Charlotte blogger with a huge following).
1. Always Start with Greens
If we start with greens and use them as our base for a smoothie, we know we are starting with the most important ingredients. We can build a great smoothie with mostly greens. Add an apple, a little yogurt or some nuts for protein, and you have a well-rounded drink. Some greens to consider are: kale, spinach, collards, arugula, etc. Believe it or not, greens do not necessarily create a sharp flavor. Baby spinach, for instance, can have a sweet flavor, especially when you add a teaspoon of honey or another natural sweetener.
2. Alternate Greens
It’s easy to get into a rut. When we find something we like, we don’t want to change it. When it comes to greens, however, change is good. Varying your choice of greens is important not just to liven your taste buds. According to a recent article at FoodBabe.com, rotating greens is the healthy thing to do…”Remember to rotate the greens (kale, chard, spinach, mustard greens, collards, dandelion, arugula, etc.) in your juice each week to prevent build up of oxalic acid (which can affect the thyroid gland) and provide a balanced amount of different vitamins and minerals for your body”.
3. Use sweet fruits sparingly
When I came down to the kitchen this morning, #9 was greeting me. “Can you make a red smoothie today?” Red smoothies are the ones that are dominated by the berry fruit group. My kids would like me to make those everyday. I actually only make them about once a week. Today’s consisted of frozen berries, bananas, yogurt, and baby spinach. Those are all healthy ingredients so I never feel bad about my kids eating them, but I know there are healthier ways to make a smoothie. Many of my smoothies contain only an apple or a banana as the source of fruit. A typical one is made of kale, apple, kefir (or greek yogurt), and basil. They still can taste good. And my kids still like them. Just not as much as the “red” ones…
4. Drink your juice or your smoothie on an empty stomach
Twenty years ago I read the book Fit For Life. In it the authors suggested only eating or drinking fruit in the morning. In fact, they suggested you wait until lunch time to eat your first non-fruit food. The theory behind this was that fruit is quickly absorbed (greens are too), but other kinds of foods take longer and so disturb the digestive process. According to FOODBABE.com, “Drinking juice on an empty stomach allows the vitamins and minerals in the juice to go straight to your bloodstream. Having fiber or a meal already in your stomach prevents your body from quickly absorbing the nutrients from the juice.” This was the gist of the theory I read about 20 years ago. It’s always made sense to me. I usually don’t wait till lunch to eat non-fruit or greens, but I do wait an hour or two. FOODBABE.com says a general rule of thumb is to wait 2 hours after a meal for a green smoothie (or other type) or to wait 20-30 minutes after drinking a smoothie before consuming a meal.
I remember a few years ago, my friend Alice came to my back door with a box of bananas. I’m talking the crate kind of box. There had to be 30 lbs. of bananas. She had picked them up for $1 at the local grocery store because they were getting ready to throw them away (I still don’t know how she was able to get those). I quickly got my kids involved in peeling the bananas and putting them on a tray (with just a little space in between each one so as not to freeze together). Placing a few in ziplock bags also works and you can grab one bag per smoothie easily from the fridge. I usually try to use bananas fresh, but we can actually freeze all kinds of fresh fruit. April is strawberry season in North Carolina and we have a strawberry farm 5 minutes from our home. I will be taking my kids (and some nieces too) in the next week or so to pick buckets of berries. What we don’t eat right away I will freeze in ziplock bags in the freezer for quick use in smoothies.
6. Add fresh fruit last
According to happyhealthylife.com the following is a good order to follow when making fruit smoothies: liquid, frozen fruit, powders/add-ins, ice, and add fresh fruit LAST- even after pre-blending your frozen ingredients first.
7. Make coconut water cubes
Freeze coconut water in ice cube makers and use these instead of regular ice. This will add nutrients including potassium, magnesium and other electrolytes, and the smoothie flavors will not be greatly changed.
Flax, hemp, and chia seeds are perfect for boosting the nutrition of your smoothies. Try soaking your chia seeds in a little water to make a gel that gives your smoothie a nice smooth consistency. A little of these ingredients goes a long way. Adding too much flax, for instance, will totally change the flavor of the smoothie. You shouldn’t really be able to taste seeds…just seeing them and knowing they are there is good (I recently put too much flax seed in a huge smoothie I had created for the whole family – I could hardly get anyone to take more than a few sips and had to throw a lot away…) Don’t forget your herbs…some of my favorite add-ins are basil and mint!
9. Enjoy your smoothie
All things can get old. If you find there isn’t as much joy in the creation or even the drinking of a smoothie, take a break. I promise you and your family will miss them. But like anything too much of a good thing can spoil the fun. And get your family involved in creating smoothies. When we first got our Vitamix, my older kids became competitive (surprise, surprise) with smoothie making and everyone wanted to make the best tasting, healthiest one. Even young children can peel bananas or drop in apple chunks!