We try to make things simple here. Eating healthy doesn't have to be overwhelming. Start with the basics and add new habits. Don't compare yourself to the gorgeous vegan who meditates and exercises every day, projecting a perfect lifestyle on their 700K Instagram account. Baby steps.
To me, healthy eating is defined by prioritising vegetables and fruits. And I've yet to find a more convenient way to do that than blending smoothies. Everyone can take four minutes out of their morning routine.
Once you've got a blender, then zero in on these 10 ingredients. You can add fancy South American superfoods down the track, but let's set up the basics.
The 10 Best Ingredients For Smoothies
1. Frozen Blueberries
I always, always have frozen blueberries in my freezer. All time favourite smoothie ingredient.
Not only are they cold and creamy, creating the perfect texture, but they're unbelievably nutritious. They protect you against oxidative stress (ie. cancer) and make you mentally sharper. Blueberries protect your brain from deteriorating as you get older, even keeping your memory intact. Plus you get the fibre and vitamin C hit found in most fruits.
Your number one priority with a smoothie is to expose your body to nutritious foods that you don't eat enough of. Namely, greens. Go hard.
Spinach is my favourite green leaf as it has more absorbable micronutrients than anything your pharmacy sells. The list is huge. And it's got almost no flavour in a smoothie. A spinach smoothie becomes a gateway to more greens.
3. Frozen banana
Every smoothie I make either has frozen blueberries or banana. Again, it's for the texture. No one wants a thin, tasteless smoothie.
Creamy banana is not only sweet but it's rich in fibre, potassium, vitamin C and B6.
Wait until your bananas get really ripe then peel them and cut into thirds or quarters. Stack up a container and put it in the freezer. You'll only ever put unpeeled bananas in the freezer once.
4. Rolled Oats
Dirt cheap, easy to store, tasty and grossly underated. Rolled oats are seriously healthy. Their full of protein and fibre and their mineral profile reads like it's kale. I urge you so open that previous hyperlink and look at just how healthy oats are. In fact, I'll insert it again here.
The only knock on oats is that they're not gluten free in Australia. That's because they get processed in the same facility as make wheat products. So it's not gluten free on a technicality. Unless your coeliac, eat oats every day!
5. Coconut Water
Your smoothie needs a liquid and coconut water is my favourite. More on that in a second. Let's first look at her competitors; non-dairy milks.
I'm getting really bitter about the nut milk options at my supermarket. They're manufactured by huge companies and packaged in tetra packs, sitting on a dry shelf for months. Which means they have absolutely no nutrition. And worse, they're often sweetened with dodgy brown rice syrup. I could insist you make your own almond milk every week. But I don't even do that. If you have a real almond milk product at your local grocery store (one that's sold in the fridge and is only fresh for a week), then go for it, but I prefer coconut water.
Coconut water tastes better in smoothies than it does straight up. Sweet and delicious. It's also full of hydrating potassium. I actually source mine from the Asian grocery store. Those aluminium cans are apparently a better storage method than the well branded tetra packs from companies that charge twice as much. Regardless, 100% coconut water is 100% coconut water. You don't need to overthink that product category.
Lemons have to be the most nutritious fruit don't they? Their vitamin C content fights colds and disease, helps your liver and makes your skin clearer.
Whenever I'm feeling run down the first thing I do is through a whole, peeled lemon in a blender with spinach and coconut water. Ginger if I've got it. Nothing better.
Similarly, I have lemon smoothies once or twice a week to keep the immune system strong. You can make something sweet and sour with a little honey, maple or a good protein powder.
I don't like smoothie recipes that recommend vegetables, half a piece of fruit and a cup of water. They might read better on a website from a calorie point of view but whoever makes that smoothie isn't making it again without feeling like they're on a restrictive diet. Smoothies need to taste amazing. They're so healthy, when done right, that you don't need to skinny them down. It's not a diet item that you should struggle through.
So I think a smoothie needs a natural sweetener. I've gone with dates here but could have easily made a case for raw honey or maple.
Dates are delicious and full of fibre. I use the pitted dried dates rather than the fancy medjool variety. Why? Because I'm a Tight Ass Tim. Little difference between a $30/kg medjool and a $2/kg dry date.
8. Pumpkin Seeds
Smoothies need protein. it will keep you full and out of the pantry as the day goes on. Healthy protein consumption is also associated with boosting your metabolism, weight loss and balancing hormones.
The best protein sources for your blender are nuts and seeds (and rolled oats). You can choose any variety you like as they're all uniquely nutritious. What makes pumpkin seeds distinguishable for me, beyond the protein, is the magnesium content. A gross majority of us are deficient in this essential mineral. Which means our musculature and nervous systems don't operate as well. Increasing your magnesium consumption is a brilliant way to sleep better too.
9. Nut Butter
Another brilliant protein source is nut butter. I'm a peanut butter man myself but you can go cashew, almond, ABC etc. Similar to the pumpkin seed suggestion above, nut butter just makes it easier on your blender. The nuts have already been processed.
Make sure your nut butter choice doesn't contain any sugars or preservatives. Just add a tablespoon to any recipe and enjoy the delicious satiation.
If you want a delicious chocolate smoothie, just add cacao powder with dates. Want a choc chip smoothie instead? Then go with cacao nibs and dates.
Cacao, or raw chocolate, is a serious antioxidant and one of the best sources of magnesium on the planet. It's shown to reduce blood pressure and is even used an anti-depressant because it releases feel good endorphins. Drink chocolate, get happy.
One ingredient that would have made this list six months ago is plant-based protein powder. Sweet, easy to use and protein dense. It makes sense. However, I'm finding it harder and harder to recommend as part of a healthy diet. The ingredient lists of some of these products are 20 deep. The questionable ones are often down the bottom; stabilisers, flavours and sweeteners. Here's an except of one of the most popular vegan proteins:
"natural chocolate flavour, natural peanut flavour (dextrose), cocoa powder, guar gum, sodium chloride, stevia, glycine, silica"
How's that healthy? Stick with the 10 above. All you protein fiends, go hard on nuts, nut butters, oats and seeds.
image cred: gimmesomeoven.com / thekitchn.com /