Now the weather’s getting warmer, I’ve started drinking more smoothies. I find its a great way to pack some fruit into my diet, but it lasts a bit longer than a munch on an apple.
There are so many ways to tweak and alter a smoothie to suit your taste buds and dietary requirements. If you’re looking to count calories/ sugar/ fat etc, you will need alter which ingredients you use, such as choosing water over juice, or leaving out honey and other sweeteners. I follow a paleo diet due to health reasons (so no need to calorie count), but if you’re paleo (especially if its due to health problems) you need to be aware that some fruits are high in sugar (fructose) and this can effect certain conditions, especially gastric problems (E.g those who follow Auto Immune Protocol AIP or have leaky gut). Berries are generally lower in fruit sugars but be aware coconut milk counts as a fructose too!
Add Some Oomph
A lot of my smoothie recipes come from experimenting with flavours as well as finding a creative way to take supplements without having to drink lots of water (I already drink plenty with other medication drinks that I have) so when I make a smoothie, I generally try to pack in as many nutrients as possible. I often add gelatine power or MCT oil (usually both). Medium Chain Triglycerides (often shortened to MCT) oil is known to give you energy (which I need as I suffer from ME) and I’m taking a gelatine powder to help with hair regrowth after suffering hair loss linked to a thyroid problem.
Now If you don’t have any of these ingredients, then its fine to leave them out. If you don’t suffer health problems, then you will likely be getting all the nutrients you need. However if like me, you want to add some extra nutrients to your smoothie (due to health or even if you’re a gym bunny and need to make up for the energy just burnt off in a session) there are other alternatives you could use such as protein powder, hemp seeds, coconut oil, aloe vera juice or some ground chai seeds. It all depends on your needs and what you are trying to achieve.
Word of Warning
If you do decide to add (for e.g.) a protein powder to your drink, be careful of what you use. Some ‘healthy’ protein powders contain more sugars than a serving of junk food. Always read the ingredients and do a bit of research.
If you want to sweeten your smoothie I would recommend adding a teaspoon of stevia, it’s calorie free and you only need a small amount. If that’s not enough or you don’t have any you could try honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar or maple syrup. As obvious as it is, I have to point out that some of these will be a no-no for those calorie counting. If that’s the case then I would recommend going without. Eventually your palette will adjust to the lack of sweetener and you will be able to taste the natural sweetness of the fruits.
Another good sweetening technique is to use really (and i mean really) ripe bananas. I personally don’t like the taste of them, but can tolerate them frozen. I usually buy bananas and when they are really ripe, cut them up into chunks and freeze them. When you need it, just fetch out of the freezer and add to the blender/ smoothie maker.
Adding in some spices/ flavouring can not just add to the taste but can be good for you too. Cinnamon has a number of health benefits (click here to find out). You may need to play around with which ones you use, as it depends on what fruit you are using as well as your taste preferences. In general I use the following principles:-
- Cinnamon (ground) – goes well with apple, like apple pie is made with apples and cinnamon
- Nutmeg (ground) an ‘all spice’ goes great with pumpkin, like when you make pumpkin pie
- Vanilla (powder, bean paste, essence)- goes with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries/ most berries, most cake or muffin recipes will have vanilla in.
- Almond (essence) goes really well with cherries, like when you have Bakewell tart
I use ground vanilla bean in all my smoothies, purely because I like the taste of vanilla, but if you don’t want to add any spice at all, then don’t! It’s entirely up to you.
Coconut milk – Word of Caution
I follow a paleo diet so don’t count calories or points etc, but if you were to make this smoothie on a calorie controlled diet, it may come out quite high. Coconut milk comes from the coconut, which is a fruit, so be aware that it contains fructose and some people can be sensitive to fructose
- dairy or goats milk*
- almond milk
- hemp milk
- oat milk
- soya milk*
- pressed juice
* These are not Paleo/ AIP friendly!
Yoghurt/ dairy/ milk alternatives will give some added nutrients to the mixture as well as a smooth and creamy taste/ texture. You don’t have to use any if you don’t want to.
If you want to thin the mixture out but without added calories, use water (preferably filtered or bottled). Fruit juice works better as it adds to the flavours, however, I only ever use a small amount just to help when blending.
When adding water you only need about a cup of liquid to help thin your smoothie down.
Fruit: Fresh or Frozen?
I always use frozen fruit because I prefer the taste and creamy texture it gives. If you don’t want to use frozen, fresh fruit will also give a great taste. However when using frozen fruit you may need to add liquid to thin the mixture out as the frozen fruit clumps together when blending. If you make your smoothie from fresh (from the fridge) ingredients, you may be able to use as little as a quarter of the liquid you need if using frozen.
These are a great way to thicken your smoothie and make it more filling.
You can use veg in smoothies and I did try a few out last year. I tried lettuce and spinach and they were very yummy. I’ve since lost the recipe so I am on the hunt for more smoothies with vegetables as they can be a great way to get your 5 a day if you don’t like eating them (a smoothie can hide the taste!)
If you use fresh ingredients, you can always add ice cubes to give it that frozen texture and to give it a chill.
You can serve straight away, alternatively if you want to save some (or half) you can freeze it. I usually pour half into a plastic sports cup, cover the top with cling film and freeze for another day.
If your mixture is too thick or not properly blended you will find it difficult to drink through a straw (fruit lumps will get stuck in the straw). Much like when you get a McDonald’s milkshake that’s super frozen and you have to suck the straw until you turn blue… if this is the case, just add a little more liquid.
1 cup Blueberries
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla bean powder
1 tbsp of agave nectar or stevia
1/2 cup of raspberries
1/2 cup of cherries
1 cup of coconut milk
1 tbsp gelatine powder (optional)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp of agave nectar (or stevia)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 banana (frozen)
1 tbsp all spice
1 cup of coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp gelatine powder
1 tbsp stevia or 4-8 drops of liquid stevia
So, there you have it, three great recipes to get you started. Let me know what you think, good or bad, I always welcome feedback!