Friday, July 11, 2008

Melsky's Guide to Fantastic and Healthy Smoothies

smoothie ingredients, originally uploaded by Melsky.

I was born and raised in California, and I grew up eating smoothies.

What is a smoothie anyway? In many restaurants they are merely a fruit milkshake, no healthier than having an ice cream sundae with strawberry topping. To me a smoothie is a healthy food, made from yogurt, milk, frozen fruit and sweetener. They are an important part of my diet. I love starting summer mornings with a delicious sweet and creamy treat that is healthy and low in calories.

Here's how I make smoothies.

First of all, it's important to have a good blender. I bought this one about eight years ago and it's still going strong.

I gather together all my ingredients. I use milk and plain yogurt, either non-fat or low fat. I use frozen fruit, which I usually buy frozen. I use flavorings like cinnamon and vanilla, and I use a sweetener, usually splenda. In this case, I'll be making one of my favorites which is a peach and cinnamon flavor.

I don't have set amounts of ingredients that I use. I just eyeball them. First add the frozen fruit, then a few serving spoons full of yogurt, then the milk, sweetener and flavoring. Blend! You may need to add a little more milk if your smoothie is hard to blend.

For this smoothie I used the following (amounts are approximate)

3/4 cup frozen peaches – 50 calories
½ cup nonfat yogurt – 55 calories
1 cup 1% milk – 110 calories

That adds up to just 215 calories!

Some people use ice in their smoothies, I do not. If you use ice make sure that you have a very powerful blender.

Sometimes I add cereal to my smoothie. After it's done I pour it into a bowl instead of a glass and I top it with grape nuts and eat it with a spoon.

Another thing I add sometimes is bran or psyllium to get extra fiber. It's pretty hard to tell if psyllium fiber is added. The bran definitely adds texture to it and takes away from the creamy deliciousness of it. I usually only do this if I will be eating it with cereal, in which case I don't notice the bran at all.

Many people add dates to smoothies; in fact my parents did this. I don't like dates in general and I don't like the texture they give smoothies but if you like dates that is something to try.

There are a wide variety of fruit combinations to use in smoothies. Almost any type of berry makes a great one, especially strawberries. You can get bags of blends of fruits, usually tropical blend or a mix of berries.

I find that a little vanilla, the same bottled kind that is used for baking, really enhances my smoothies. On some fruits like peaches and pumpkin, cinnamon adds a great flavor.

Pumpkin smoothies are unexpectedly good. I freeze canned pumpkin in plastic bags. Just make sure to freeze it in small enough chunks that it can be blended. Pumpkin pie spice is great with this, or just use cinnamon.

I’ve been meaning to try this with butternut squash too.

Bananas are one fruit that you never find frozen, but it’s quite easy to freeze them yourself. Just peel them, break into chunks, pop them into a plastic bag and freeze. This is good to do with over-ripe bananas. I frequently freeze and use in smoothies bananas that I would never eat by themselves. Bananas are great with tropical fruits or strawberries.

Smoothies are quick to make in the morning when you have all of the ingredients on hand. You can even have one on the way to work, just put it in a travel mug. That is a lot healthier than stopping for a donut.

They are not just for breakfast either. Sometimes I like to eat one as a desert.

If you have any great smoothie recipes, hints or suggestions please leave them in the comments, I would love to hear about them.

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