6 Do's & Don'ts of Making Smoothies
If you've been making smoothies at home because they're the perfect meal-replacement or a simple snack option, then this guide can help you level up your beverage blending skills in a snap.
Homemade smoothies are one of the fastest and easiest recipes you can make. Plus, they have the potential to be healthy and satisfy several fruit and vegetable requirements, too! But the reality is, not all smoothies are created equal. From added sugars to unnecessary ingredients, several smoothie recipe faux pas keep people from blending concoctions that could be ultimately as healthy as you want. So it's time to set the record straight.
To help you create the perfect smoothie every time, we asked experts to weigh in on six of the most important do's and don'ts when it comes to whipping up your own smoothies at home.
DO: Think beyond fruit-only smoothies.
Using ingredients from many different food groups makes your smoothie a more comprehensive meal replacement option, giving you the vitamins and nutrients you need for a well-balanced diet.
"One easy way to boost a smoothie's nutrition is to make sure there's a good source of protein in there," recommends Jenna Helwig, author of Smoothie-licious and Food Director at both Parents and Health magazines. "Often, if you're blending only a non-dairy milk, ice, and fruit, the drink won't have much staying power."
To combat this, "Try to include at least one protein-rich food — like cow's milk, Greek yogurt, or a nut butter," Helwig suggests.
Erin Levine, a nutritionist at Organic Traditions, adds: "There are lots of theories on smoothie formulas, but generally speaking, I stick to this combination: a liquid base, fruit, vegetables, protein, fat, and a super food or two. For example: 2 cups cashew milk, 1/2 frozen banana, a handful of spinach, a scoop of plant-based protein powder, 1/2 an avocado, 1/2 tsp maca, and 1/4 tsp ashwagandha."
DON'T: Use ice.
"Skip the ice!" says Helwig, who hates using ice in her homemade smoothies. "Unless you have a super-powerful blender, there are always unappealing ice chunks in the drink. Plus, ice also waters it down, she explains. "Instead, opt for frozen fruit or even veggies — like cauliflower or butternut squash," she recommends. "You’ll get extra flavor, more nutrition, and a better texture. It’s a win-win-win!"
DO: Make the quality of your smoothie ingredients a priority.
From added sugars to pesticides and other chemicals, focusing on the quality of ingredients you start with is essential. "With homemade smoothie creations, we get to control the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of ingredients. This is important if you are looking to avoid preservatives, additives, binders, and GMOs," explains Levine. So check the labels of your frozen or pre-packaged ingredients before using them so you know exactly what's in them, and opt for fresh, organic options whenever possible, too.
DON'T: Toss random ingredients together in your blender.
"Don't just throw things in the blender willy-nilly hoping they’ll taste good," Helwig cautions. Giving your flavor combinations some thought before you start blending can help you enjoy your homemade smoothie experience even more. That's why she recommends starting with one main ingredient and then asking yourself, "What would taste good with this?"
When starting with a juicy pear, for example, "I might land on almond butter and cardamom," says Helwig, "because pears, almonds, and cardamom are lovely together! Or, if I have avocado, I might go in a tropical direction with frozen pineapple and coconut milk."
DO: Switch up your smoothie ingredients regularly.
"Variety is a foundational pillar to optimal health, so it's best to switch up flavors and ingredients regularly," explains Levine. "This helps with nutrient potential, digestion, elimination, certain detoxification pathways, and of course keeps things interesting."
Levine recommends rotating your ingredient choices based on colors to ensure you're getting a good mix of nutrients and flavors on a regular basis: She usually rotates between green (spinach, kale, spirulina), purple (berries), yellow ("when I feel tropical and want mango or pineapple," she says), orange (stone fruit season), and of course chocolate (cacao and cacao nibs).
DON'T: Rely on fruit juices for your smoothie base.
This might sound counter-intuitive at first, but when it comes to homemade smoothies, you don't actually need any fruit juice at all.
"You do need some sort of liquid base to get things moving," says Helwig, "but I rarely use juice unless I'm looking for a very specific flavor or color, like pomegranate. I find juice too sugary and prefer to use non-dairy milk or cow's milk for creaminess and protein instead," she explains. "Sometimes, if I want a brighter color and lighter flavor, I'll even use coconut water."