Simple, Healthy, and Delicious Treats
-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian
Dig out the blender! (Don’t worry, nothing high-tech.) Throw in a few simple, nutritious ingredients, give it a whirl and you’ve got a super-quick breakfast, snack, or mini-meal. Who can resist these icy cold, frothy concoctions, fondly known as “smoothies”? Kids as well as adults love them! Follow these simple guidelines and blend up your own batch today.
For the Calorie Conscious
To help keep calories under control, avoid smoothies made with high-fat and high-calorie ingredients like ice cream, whole milk, and cream. Instead use low fat items such as skim milk, low fat yogurt, fat-free frozen vanilla yogurt, frozen ice milk, fruit juice, silken tofu, soymilk, soy yogurt, and rice milk. When a recipe calls for peanut butter, use it in moderation. (Although high in protein and the healthy monounsaturated fat, the calories can add up quickly, due to the total fat content.) And be careful with the portion size—one cup (8 ounces) is the standard, not the entire contents of the blender.
The very best smoothie is creamy and thick, NOT watered-down or icy. A great trick for adding thickness to your smoothie—without adding additional calories—is to freeze the fruit before making the smoothie (or buy frozen fruit). Start in the fresh produce section of the grocery. Select berries, bananas, pineapple, kiwi, watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, pears, plums, mango, anything. Grab the familiar as well as the unusual. When fresh stuff is unavailable or too pricey, check out the fruit choices in the freezer section. Canned fruit can also be used as a nutritious, tasty alternative, without the extra expense. Once you arrive home:
- Immediately place frozen fruit in the freezer.
- Open canned fruit and rinse off syrup.
- Lightly rinse the fresh fruit.
- Peel and remove the skin if necessary (banana, kiwi, melon, etc.).
- Cut larger fruit into (ice-cube size) chunks.
- Lightly spray a cookie sheet with a baking spray and arrange fruit in a single layer.
- Place cookie sheet in freezer.
- Once frozen, remove fruit from sheet, place in freezer bags, and return to freezer until ready to use.
If your smoothie doesn’t contain fruit, you may want to freeze the liquid ingredients to add thickness and creaminess, preventing a watery consistency. All liquids work well, including juice, milk, and coffee. Freeze the liquid in ice cube trays. Once frozen, you can store the cubes in freezer bags until ready to use. <pagebreak>
Many smoothie recipes use yogurt as a main ingredient. Yogurt adds body and creaminess, as well as protein and calcium. Since yogurt is a cultured product it also contains live, active, friendly bacterial cultures such as L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, and L. Acidophilus. These help to keep the stomach and intestinal tract healthy and the immune system strong.
Perhaps you prefer the non-dairy route when creating your smoothie. Soy products add creaminess and protein while also helping to lower blood cholesterol levels, decrease the risk of heart disease and some cancers, improve bone health, and help with menopausal effects. Try using soymilk, soy yogurt, and soft silken tofu.
Because of healthy ingredients (milk, fruit, juice, etc.) most smoothies are naturally nutrient-dense. However, if you feel you need to boost the nutritional value even further, you can add protein, soy, or non-fat dry milk powders to your smoothie. Smoothies are also perfect ways to sneak in some ground flaxseed or wheat germ too.
If you find the smoothie to be a tad on the tart side, then add a little sweetness of your choosing: sugar, maple syrup, fruit spreads, or artificial sweeteners all work well.
Spicing It Up
Spices and flavorings give your smoothie zest without adding a lot of extra calories. Try adding vanilla, almond, coconut, or lemon extracts. Sprinkle in some nutmeg, cinnamon, malt powder, coffee (instant or brewed), coconut, or cocoa powder.
Leftovers for Later
You don’t have to toss leftovers down the drain. Simply pour the smoothie mixture into Popsicle molds and freeze. Watch your children come running for this special, after-school treat. You’ll find them refreshing too!
Ready, Set, Go!
To get you started, try one of the following recipes:
Blueberry Orange Smoothie: A frosty treat that's low in fat.
Tropical Smoothie: You don't have to go on vacation for a taste of the tropics!
Strawberry Soy Smoothie: This dairy-free smoothie packs protein and calcium into one tasty package.
Then move onto other SparkPeople smoothie recipes. Check your local library for recipe books dedicated to the creation of smoothies. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun by adding different fruit combinations and coming up with your own fabulous concoctions! Have you found that blender yet?