Written by KS contributing writer Debra of Worth Cooking
It is official, everyone in our household is a smoothie drinker. Our 14 month old just recently began drinking them (with minimal help). An important milestone indeed. Ok, so maybe not that important. But, smoothies are a big deal around here.
While I have always had, and enjoyed, smoothies, last summer when I needed to cut out nuts, eggs, and dairy in pretty quick succession, I appreciated the humble smoothie all the more.
I reached for them for easy sources of protein (beyond the meat and beans). I even got some protein powder, but that just did not sit right with me. The pretty natural stuff did not taste good, and the yummy stuff had kind of scary ingredients. So, I began to to try and figure out natural ways of adding protein to my smoothies.
But why stop at the colorful array of fruit and some natural protein? Why not supercharge those smoothies with foods for energy, vegetables, and supplements I had trouble taking otherwise.
6 Ways To Supercharge Your Smoothie
Switch Up The Fruits
Different fruits have different benefits, so vary it up. Make smoothies with blueberries for those antioxidants, bananas for potassium, fresh orange juice for vitamin c, beta carotene rich mangos etc. etc. Enjoy the rainbow of colors you can make, and the associated health benefits of different fruits.
Add Natural Protein
There are many ways to add protein to smoothies without the powders. They might not be as incredibly high in protein, but that is because they are whole natural sources. The proteins naturally come with other macro nutrients as well.
- Hemp Seeds– This is my go to for adding protein to my smoothie as they blend so easily into smoothies. Plus, 3 tablespoons of hemp provides 10 grams of protein. Not bad at all. Because they do take longer to blend than fruits I usually blend some with water (or milk) first and than add the rest of my ingredients. Usually just banana and ice.
- Nut or Seed Butters – These blend in easily too. Just make sure they are not salted! Salty smoothies just aren’t tasty.
- Soaked Nuts or Seeds – If you soak a nut or seed until soft it can easily be blended into smoothies. It can be done overnight in the fridge, or pour on hot water and let sit for 30 minutes or so. Blend with the liquid first then add the rest of the ingredients.
- Collagen Hydrolysate – Though this sounds kind of scary, it is basically that has been treated a little differently so it won’t gel in liquids. I personally have not tried it, but hear it is good.
- Eggs – If you know where your eggs are coming from and if you are comfortable with the raw egg thing, throw in one + some extra yolks if desired. Combined with ice it can make an incredibly creamy and frothy smoothie that has healthy proteins.
- Chia Seeds – These have the added benefit of being energizing. Not a bad deal for moms, right? You can add about 1 tablespoon per cup of smoothie without it getting overly thick.
My friend Tiffany wrote an excellent eBook all about adding natural protein to smoothies. Make sure you check out High Protein, No Powder for her great ideas. -Katie
Supplement with Herbs & Spices
I am far from an expert here, but my basic process is this- I figure out what herbs or spices I should be taking for a specific thing I am having trouble with then I try to add it to my foods in some way. If it is a “sweet” herb or spice I add some to my smoothie. If not I will go ahead and add it elsewhere.
The ones I routinely add are basil and mint as they both taste really good, and I find that they help me feel more energized and clear headed. It is not what those herbs are known for, but that is what I find they do for me.
Add Some Vegetables
Smoothies aren’t exactly the most efficient way to get your veggies, but since I am already having them and I want to eat vegetables (even for breakfast) in they go.
- A handful of greens (I usually do spinach). To get the smoothest smoothie either use a really awesome blender (which I do not have) or load the greens with liquid and blend till smooth BEFORE adding the rest of the ingredients.
- 1/4 of an avocado per serving (any more than that and I feel like I need to add honey or maple syrup)
- Squash, or other low flavored vegetable purees – I prefer to use frozen ice cubes of squash, but will also just use pureed squash and add ice as well. I find that I need to add a bit of additional sweetener (beyond fruit) when using squash, so usually blend in a medjool date too.
Looking for a way to take your smoothie on the go? Check out Squooshi for a variety of sizes and designs. There are fun animals for the kids and new large sizes with geometric designs for the older crowd. We love these at our house and are pleased to have Squooshi as a sponsor. -Katie
Get Your Probiotics
Chances are you are already doing this, as yogurt is a very common smoothie ingredient but if you are dairy free (which we are) it can be a little harder. Here are a some things you can add to smoothies to make them probiotic rich:
An Easier Way to take (some) Supplements & Tinctures
‘Hmm… they really liked that mint smoothie. I wonder if I should tell them it has fermented cod liver oil in it?’
This is a pretty broad idea. If being in a smoothie does not negatively effect a supplement, I say go for it. The only thing I would caution against is don’t add supplements that have a very strong (unpleasant) flavor, because then you will just have more to drink.
Other than the sneaky cod liver oil I have done an herbal multivitamin (which I made in vinegar instead of glycerin), apple cider vinegar, blackstrap molasses for it’s iron, and I want try adding some maca root after reading this article about its vitalizing affect.
Naturally Sweetening Smoothies
The last thing you want to do after taking the time to supercharge a smoothie is add a bunch of sugar. Right?
Because of that I figured I could hardly finish this post without talking about natural sweeteners for those supercharged smoothies. I usually find fruit enough to sweeten my smoothies, but every so often I decide to go a bit sweeter.
- Ripe Bananas – These add great sweetness, and are often what I use.
- Vanilla – I always reach for this first because while maple syrup and honey are healthy sweeteners I don’t exactly need to worry about getting more of them. It gives a dessert like quality to smoothies, and in general is just really good. Vanilla is also said to be a mood lifter, which I can often use.
- Stevia – A few drops of liquid stevia can add sweetness to your smoothies without the sugar.
- Dates – Medjool dates blend surprisingly well so if need be I throw in one or two of those. Just make sure they are pitted!
- Honey – Honey is a natural sweetener, and my family’s sweetener of choice. I try to not add honey to my smoothies because I do not feel like I need to take steps to get more of it.
- Maple Syrup – Yum! My budget is not as fond of this natural sweetener, but occasionally I will add a bit anyway.