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One of my favorite breakfast options on hurried weekday mornings is a fresh, delicious green smoothie. I’m a bit of a slacker when it comes to eating my proper servings of vegetables each day, so I like to knock out as many servings of produce as I can first thing in the morning to set the stage for a super awesome day, at least from a nutrition standpoint. Smoothies are quick, easy, filling, and provide me with a great deal of energy to kick start my day.
I decided I’d share my process with you today in case you have been a little intimidated to try your hand at green smoothies. Just give it a shot and see how easy it can be. If the first one doesn’t come out perfect, tweak it a little for next time, and you’ll be on your way to smoothie heaven in no time.
First things first, you need some kind of blending machine to turn your produce into smoothie deliciousness. All of the fancy pants people will tell you that you need a Vitamix or a Blendtec blender. These suckers can blend concrete. By all means, buy one of those if you feel so inclined. I hear they even make your smoothie taste better. I wouldn’t know because I don’t have that kind of money just laying around to spend on blending concrete, but if you do, please buy one and let me know what I’m missing out on.
I currently have three smoothie making contraptions. A regular old standard blender which I use if I’m making smoothies for the whole family, it’s big and holds a lot so we can all get our fair smoothie share. My son refuses to eat anything green, even green candy at times, but the kid absolutely loves to drink my green smoothies. If you have picky eaters, green smoothies can be a fantastic way to sneak in all the veggies (and fruit) they need.
I also have a Magic Bullet. This used to be my go to option for single serve smoothies and it still works just fine. However, I’ve found it often leaves fruit chunks if I don’t blend for long enough, so I’ve found a better machine and just use my Magic Bullet when the new one is dirty.
My husband won this Black and Decker Personal Blender from his work and it is perfectly wonderful for smoothie making. It is able to blend smoothies extra smooth and even so I rarely have those annoying random fruit chunks sneaking out at me. It is similar to the Magic Bullet in that it creates a single serve smoothie, but it comes with screw on lids that can be snapped close to make it easy to bring on the go for the morning commute without worrying about spilling as I juggle two kids and four bags on our way out the door.
The Green Leafies
Next up, you need some greens, this is a green smoothie you are making after all. The majority of the time I alternate between kale and spinach. I’d love to expand into other green leafery, but so far, I stick with the only greens I know and love. It is good to mix things up a bit with your nutrition, so try to find at least two types of greens that you can alternate.
Take your greens and stuff them in your blender. When using the single serve blenders I just cram as many greens in the cup as I can fit. Some will tell you 1-2 cups, I say eyeball the amount you would use if making yourself a decent salad. The point here is to start your day with a strong boost of vitamins and nutrients and to tick off at least a serving or two of veggies for the day. You may want to experiment a little and slowly build up to adding more leafy greens as your taste buds get used to them. My husband has mentioned that some of my smoothies taste “extra green” when I get a little excited about the greens. He still drinks it, so tasting extra green can’t be too bad.
The Liquid Decision
After you’ve added plenty of greens to your container, you’ll want to add some fluid to help your blender start smoothing things out. I’m big on eye-balling things so I don’t use specific measurements, but I add water (over the leafy greens) until the cup is about 1/3-1/4 full of water.
I highly recommend using water instead of other fluids. Why add extra calories and sugars to your smoothie when you are trying to start your day healthy? If you feel you must use some juice for the extra sweetness, I’d suggest using part juice/part water and gradually decrease the amount of juice you use. You will be adding fruit to your smoothie for sweetness, so there’s really no reason to use juice when you have whole fruits going in.
It will surprise many people who know me to hear that I rarely use milk in my smoothies. I have a slight milk obsession. But I’ve decided that I’m making a smoothie, not a milk shake, so I see no need to add milk or milk substitutes. Feel free to disagree, it’s your smoothie. I just prefer starting my day with 100% produce and water. I get plenty of milk (and protein) later in my day, my mornings are reserved for fruits and veggies.
At this point you want to start blending. If you stuff everything in at once, your blender will have a tough time catching up (I’ve even heard this advice for the fancy pants blenders). Blend your greens and water together for a few seconds until they are mostly smooth. If it’s taking your blender a long time to blend these together, you need more fluid.
Do you need more veggies?
Now you can get fancy and add more veggies if you want. I often add cucumbers for a refreshing twist and sometimes even add some carrots (not too many or the texture gets really grainy). Add what you want, if you want it, and blend some more.
Sweet, creamy deliciousness
My favorite ingredient for every smoothie is a banana. Bananas will mask any bitter flavors from your greens and provide a good amount of sweetness. Another important part of the banana is to add some creaminess to your smoothie. This is why I don’t feel yogurt or milk are necessary. Drop in your banana and blend again. If bananas aren’t your thing, you can add an avocado for added creaminess instead, which will also provide a lot of healthy fats to start your brain on the right track for the morning.
Top it off with some fruit
At this point you hopefully only have about ⅓ -¼ of your cup left to fill. Now is when you add fruit (other than the banana). Most of the time I use frozen fruit because it’s cheaper (at least this time of year) and easier (it’s all cut up and washed already), and it adds the cold/slushy factor that makes smoothies so good. Warm smoothies are not that great, so if you use fresh produce be sure to add ice or something cold at some point in the process.
When using frozen fruit, just keep an eye on the ingredients to make sure your bag only has fruit in it. Do not buy “smoothie mixes” that add gobs of sugar and other random ingredients, none of this is necessary and ruins the health of your smoothie.
Ultimately you want slightly more vegetables than fruits (in my opinion) so be sure you’re only adding a handful of fruit at this point. Fruits have lots of (natural and good) sugars in them, so you want to balance those sugars out with lots of vegetables. Also, I’ll hazard a guess that it is much easier for you to get your daily servings of fruit in a day, but much harder to keep up with your daily vegetable intake. Packing them into your morning smoothie will help you start your day on the right track and make good progress toward your vegetable intake goals with your first meal of the day. Choose any fruits you like, it really doesn’t matter. I regularly use peaches, pears, berries (all kinds), kiwi, oranges, cherries, grapes, pineapple, mango, or anything else that sounds good for the day.
Fill the cup until its mostly full with your fruit of choice and blend until completely smooth, adding additional water as needed to get the right consistency.
Drink up and enjoy!
Wait, you want a little extra kick?
You may also consider a few add-ins depending on your personal preferences and your health goals. Some of the things I’ve added to my smoothies include:
- chia seeds (careful, these will thicken up your smoothie fast and you may have to eat it with a spoon if you let it sit too long)
- flax seeds
- peanut butter or other nut butters (for a little protein and flavor boost)
- protein powder
- electrolyte drink powder
- oatmeal (for a little grain power to keep you fuller longer)
- energy drink mix
- raw, local honey (to sweeten and/or add health benefits)
- avocado (particularly if bananas aren’t your thing and you still want creamy)
- unsweetened cocoa (I’ve never added this, but if you want something chocolaty I hear this is a good idea)
Overall, just play around and experiment with a variety of different things. Don’t try to stick with the same ingredients everyday. Your body needs a mix of food and nutrients to have balanced nutrition and you don’t want to get bored.
Into advanced prep?
I’ve found that making a green smoothie takes 10 minutes or less each morning and I don’t do anything to prep ahead of time. If 10 minutes still feels like too long for you in the morning, you can easily prep smoothie bags on the weekends to make it easier. Fill ziplock bags with your already washed and cut up fruit and vegetable choices and pop them in the fridge or freezer for the week. In the morning grab a bag and gradually add the contents of your bag with your fluids and blend as you go. Your smoothie should be ready in just a couple minutes this way.
Always, always, always rinse off your blade, lids, and cups as soon as you finish making or drinking your smoothie. Dried on smoothie is a beast to scrub off when doing the dishes and even the best dishwashers will struggle. A quick rinse while it’s still fresh and wet makes cleanup a breeze.
Do you drink green smoothies? What are your favorite things to add to your smoothies?