If you’ve thought about introducing smoothies into your daily routine, there’s never been a better time than right now! It’s easy to eat clean with fruits and veggies, milk, protein, immune-boosting yogurt and other nutritious ingredients, especially when it’s all blended into a convenient, tasty package. Plus, it’s a great way to keep whole foods in your diet, even if they’re excavated from the back of the freezer.
One affordable way to stock up is to ask the vendors at your local farmers market if they have any “seconds” to sell, which are fruit and veggies that are bruised, banged up, or just a little too ripe to sell at full cost. Often, this produce will be discounted, and if you prep and freeze it right away when you get home, it makes perfect smoothie fixings!
Step Up Your Smoothie Game
Our general rule of thumb is to combine 2 parts fruit and 1 part veggie. This helps to maintain nutritional balance while keeping those natural sugars in check. We also suggest using a blender — traditional blenders or immersion blends both work well, though the motors on immersion blenders aren’t usually as powerful.
The basic method:
- Add the liquid to your blender before adding the fruit. This will prevent the blade from getting damaged. One cup of liquid is a good start.
- Add a scoop of yogurt, if desired.
- Add 2 parts of fruit to start.
- Add 1 part of greens/vegetables.
- Add any extras, including chia seeds or protein powder.
- Blend it up and check the consistency and sweetness.
How to fix common smoothie problems:
- Too thick: Add small amounts of water, milk or juice.
- Too thin: Use or add frozen fruits and vegetables (especially bananas), add more ice or add frozen yogurt.
- Too bitter: Try adding pineapple, oranges, bananas or strawberries. You could also try adding a bit of vanilla extract, agave or unsweetened cocoa powder. Flavored protein powders will also mask the taste of bitter greens.
- Too sweet: Add a touch of lemon juice or frozen lemonade concentrate. Fruits add their own natural sweetness, so use a balance of sweet and citrus fruits and reduce or eliminate other sweeteners like honey or agave.
- Not sweet enough: Add honey, agave, maple syrup, Stevia, dates, grapes or even a little sugar. Using watermelon in place of water will sweeten a smoothie. A little sweetener goes a long way, so add small amounts at a time.
- Not creamy enough: Avocado is ideal for adding creaminess to smoothies. Its mild flavor disguises its nutritional wallop. After removing its skin and pit, you can add a whole avocado to your smoothie, or save some for the next day.
- Smoothies need a good blend of liquid ingredients and solid ingredients to achieve just the right texture. Don’t be afraid to play around and experiment with what you have.
Our Favorite Fruit & Veggies (Frozen for Best Results)
* = produce that can be found locally-grown in Pennsylvania!
Avocado: Packed with vitamins K, C, E, B5, B6, folate and more potassium than a banana, plus healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, this is a powerhouse smoothie ingredient.
Pro tip: Sneak a bit into kids’ smoothies and they’ll never know!
Bananas: High in fiber and potassium, calcium, manganese, magnesium, iron, folate, niacin, riboflavin and B6. Support digestion and help in building up metabolism. Due to the high iron content in bananas, they are great for those suffering from anemia.
Pro tip: Freeze slices of banana to add amazing creaminess to smoothies.
*Blueberries: Pair perfectly with spinach, a little almond butter and some cocoa powder. With a nice dose of antioxidants, vitamin C and fiber, they’re one of the best fruits you could choose for your smoothies.
Pro tip: Wild frozen blueberries are a great alternative when fresh berries aren’t in season.
*Blackberries: Higher in antioxidants than blueberries, high in fiber and vitamin C and low in sugar, blackberries bring a rich purple hue to your smoothies.
Pro tip: Not a great choice if you don’t like seeds in your smoothies.
*Cauliflower: Yes, really! Turn to cauliflower for a creamy smoothie boost with the added benefits of vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Plus, unlike a frozen banana (a common go-to smoothie addition) cauliflower adds heft to your smoothie without adding much sugar.
Pro tip: Make sure you steam your cauliflower before you freeze it!
*Cucumbers: Frozen cucumbers add a nice fresh taste yet give your smoothies the consistency of frozen bananas with much less sugar.
Pro tip: No need to peel these! Cucumber skins contain extra nutrients.
*Greens: Try working up to bitter greens by combining small amounts of them with the spinach in your smoothie. Then gradually adjust the ratio as your taste buds adapt.
- Fresh spinach: The go-to green for many smoothies, organic spinach is affordable and virtually tasteless when combined with fruits.
- Frozen kale: Slightly less bitter than fresh kale, it’s great to use in your smoothies. You can use the fresh kale for all those awesome kale salads you’re making instead of tossing it in the blender where it often ends up watered down and gritty. Frozen kale is also affordable, like spinach, and lasts a long time in the freezer.
Pro-tip: Baby greens are generally milder than mature greens.
Mango: Impressive amounts of vitamins C and A and flavonoids like beta carotene, alpha carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, mangoes help to provide a healthy immune function, normal blood pressure, good vision and strong bones.
*Peaches: Loaded with calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorous, zinc and copper, these fuzzy fruits are low in calories, contain no saturated fat or cholesterol, and peaches are a good source of dietary fiber.
Pro tip: Leave peaches on the counter top, or place in a paper bag with a banana, to speed up the ripening process.
*Peas: The sweet taste of frozen green peas helps to deliver a nice, sweet, thick smoothie. Plus it’s an easy way to get in your veggies. Parents, take note!
*Raspberries: Raspberries pair well with most any leafy green. They also pair with fun superfoods, like cacao, maca and chia seeds. Plus, frozen raspberries are very low in sugar yet high in fiber, so they’re awesome for your blood sugar levels and helping to maintain your weight.
*Strawberries: Frozen strawberries aren’t only tasty but they also give your smoothies a huge dose of vitamin C and have very little sugar content per cup.
*Sweet Potato: An excellent source of vitamin A, sweet potatoes are also a very good source of vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6, potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamins B1 and B2 and phosphorus.
Pro tip: Like cauliflower, it’s best to steam your sweet potatoes before you freeze them for the ultimate creamy smoothie.
*Zucchini: High in vitamin A, magnesium, folate, potassium, copper and phosphorus, zucchini are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, niacin and protein, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin B2 and calcium.
Celtic Sea Salt: Add a pinch of alkalizing, mineral-rich Celtic sea salt to smoothies to boost the natural flavor of fruits and veggies; temper the acidity of sweet fruits and sweeteners; stimulate the lymphatic system; replenish electrolytes; aid digestion; and help the body access energy.
Probiotic Powder: Add a 1/2 teaspoon of probiotic powder to smoothies to replenish healthy bacteria for immunity, aid in digestion and detox, and to balance the acidic effects of high-sugar fruits and other sweeteners.
*Bee Pollen: Add a teaspoon of bee pollen for an energy boost, to strengthen your immune system, reduce stress, improve digestion, and help support your cardiovascular system.
Flax Seed: High in fiber but low in carbs, flax seed is high in omega-3 fatty acid, helps improve skin and hair, and helps lower cholesterol. It’s also high in antioxidants and supports digestive health.
Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants and they provide fiber, iron, and calcium.
No matter how you blend it, smoothies packed with local produce are a great way to add an extra boost of tasty nutrition to your diet. What are your go-to smoothie recipes?
- Feature photo: Jenny Pakradooni for Dish Works
- Blueberry and blackberry smoothies photos: Pexels