I love veggies and try to eat them with every meal. I usually make a big salad for lunch and have smaller portions with other meals. However, lately I just haven't been in a salad kick. But to be sure that I still have my greens, I've been making a green smoothie every morning.
Many people automatically think about smoothies as health foods. Well, there is some truth to it, but not every smoothie is super healthy for you. If it's packed with sweet fruit purees and and juices, it means that it probably has a crazy amount of sugar in it. That's the case with many store bought “health” drinks.
Homemade Green Smoothie is Better
If you take a look at what's in one Jamba Juice or Starbucks smoothie, you see that it's not all that awesome. There is insanely much sugar in them. Same goes for “healthy” juices that you can get from many coffee shops and “health bars”.
Jamba Juice smoothies consist of only fruits, leaving out all veggies, plus, they have a load of sugar in them. I get it, making them sweet is a way to get people buy something that they think is super healthy. And it it probably is, if you compare this smoothie to a fast food meal.
What's bad about it? Aren't fruits supposed to be good for you?
Fruits are really high in sugar and they spike your blood sugar quickly.
For example, here's what goes into Jamba Juice Strawberry Symphony Smoothie: Water, strawberry puree, pear juice concentrate, banana puree, grape juice concentrate, lemon juice concentrate. 16 oz comes with 48 grams of sugar.
And even if you think that you made an awesome choice by getting a green smoothie from Starbucks, then know that their Evolution Fresh Sweet Greens Smoothie has 52 grams of sugar in it. It has kale, parsley and all the other healthy stuff in it, but all the real taste of greens is covered by mango puree, apple juice and banana puree.
Of course, you could order even a bigger sugar bomb next time when you are at Starbucks: Mango and carrot smoothie has 63 grams of sugar. Did you know that it's more than three times than in two pieces of their Salted Caramel Square with Pecans?
Ok, that's not really what the smoothie is supposed to be…
Choose Veggies over Fruit
Of course, when you are out and about, a store bought smoothie can be better option than many other foods. Besides, I am not a fan of obsessing over food, because that's what I've waisted too much of my own life on.
I just want you to know that what's labelled as “healthy” may not be that healthy at all, and I want to encourage you to make your own green smoothies at home.
Here are things that you should think about when you are making it.
- First, be sure that your smoothie is not only fruit based. People like fruit because it makes the drink sweeter. I see that it may make things easier to someone who is just starting out with having fruits and veggies altogether, but fruit sugar is still sugar. It will spike your blood sugar levels and have them dropping back down shortly, leaving you hungry and craving you more of this sweet flavor.
- When you make your smoothie veggie based, the end result is not that sweet, but it's actually way healthier for you. You don't have to go all out and make your smoothie with only kale and cucumber – we want it to taste good after all! If you are just starting out, 50:50 fruit and veggie ratio is okay, but eventually you want to aim for at least 75% veggies and 25 % fruits.
- Avoid fruit juices. Use water, almond milk or coconut water or coconut milk to get your ingredients moving. You can even experiment with cold tea or coffee!
- Add some fat. To make your smoothie more substantial, add some fat like avocado, chia seeds, cashews or even coconut oil.
- A bit of sweetener is okay. Just greens may not taste that great and a small packet or couple of drops of Stevia or honey may make the smoothie taste better.
What's In a Real Green Smoothie
For an awesome green smoothie that is actually great for your health, you need a little different ingredients than sugary fruit purees, fruit concentrates and syrups. In a green smoothie that is actually good for you, dominate veggies and not fruits. There is just a little bit of sugar or sugar substitute and there is definitely no way any syrup or juice concentrate in it.
Green smoothie is not meant to taste like a dessert, but it doesn't mean that it can't be good. You may not enjoy the flavor from the very beginning, but when you give your taste buds some time, they will learn to appreciate it. Later you don't even care about all that super sweet fruit.
Here's one example of what I made my green smoothie yesterday:
Leafy greens should make the bulk of your smoothie. There are so many choices out there, so go ahead and try different things. My favorites are spinach and collard greens. When you buy red beets, save the leaves and add them into your smoothie. You can also use kale, but be sure to remove stems, because they may ruin your health drink with bitterness.
Another ingredient that you can use to increase the volume of your smoothie is cucumber. I have used one about 4-inch long cucumber per 16 oz glass of smoothie.
To ensure that smoothie actually satiates you for some time, add some fat to it. I like to add quarter or half of an avocado. Also a small handful of natural unsalted cashews is a good idea, as it makes the smoothie rich and creamy.
Also, ice cubes make smoothies thicker. In general, I don't like too cold drinks, so I add just 2-3 ice cubes to my smoothie before the final blending.
Blending Order Matters
To make sure that your ingredients mix and blend as fast as possible, don't tuck all of them into your blender at once. Instead, start with adding one handful of leafy greens and your choice of liquid and blend them together.
When it has all mixed and blended well, add another handful of spinach or other greens. You don't want pieces of spinach in your smoothie, so blend them up right in the beginning.
If it's hard to get everything moving, add a bit of water, but be careful with adding too much of it. If you are like me, you want your smoothie to have a little bit thicker texture.
Next, add in your veggies and / or fruits. Do it step by step: I usually add avocado and thinly sliced ginger, then blend; then sliced cucumbers and blend, and then fruits and blend again. It doesn't have to be that order, but the point is to add ingredients step by step, so that they actually blend well.
Then check the consistency. If your smoothie needs more liquid, add it. If it's too runny, try to thicken it greens or veggies. Again, if possible, try not adding too much fruit, because you want to keep the veggies as the base, not fruit.
Then taste it and if you think you need some sweetener, add it. Do it in the end, because you may be surprised how sweet fruits actually are. You may not need any sweetener at all.
Finally, if you want your drink chilled or you need to thicken the consistency, add couple of ice cubes.
I suggest to use prunes, dates or raisins for a sweetener. There are studies that show even the natural sweeteners like stevia encourage fat cells to store food. Eat food that will rot!
Kersten Kimura says
That’s a good advice, leila. I think if you are very moderate with stevia, it’s safe. But in general, I agree with the “eat what will rot” approach!